June 26, 2012

Thompson captures international recognition

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Documentary work on the Bataan Death March by an associate professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale earned international recognition this month.

A five-piece radio companion series to Jan Thompson's 2011 documentary, "The Tragedy of Bataan," earned one of the three gold medals in the history category at the 2012 New York Festivals International Radio Program and Promotions Awards on June 18.

"It is very encouraging to see that your work can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with entries from around the world," said Thompson, a faculty member in the Department of Radio-Television.

The first-person documentary features accounts of more than 20 Bataan Death March survivors, archival photos, and never-before-seen Japanese propaganda film footage. Between 5,000 and 15,000 of the more than 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners did not survive the march in spring 1942.

A three-time Emmy-award winning documentary producer and writer, Thompson began working on the project 20 years ago; her father was a POW who surrendered on Corregidor, but was not in the Bataan Death March. Actor Alec Baldwin provides narration.

The radio series and documentary also earned several awards in the Broadcast Education Association's (BEA) Festival of Media Arts this spring, including "Best in Show," signifying that Thompson's entry was the best of the 174 faculty entries in the entire Festival of Media Arts competition.  Thompson also earned "Best of Festival" honors in the Faculty Audio division.

Other BEA awards for the documentary were "Award of Excellence" in the Short Form category, and "Best of Competition" in the Interactive Media Documentary/Promotional/Informational category. Thompson has also earned an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Mid-America Regional Chapter for an earlier version of the documentary that aired in spring 2010.

"Professor Thompson's multiple works on Bataan for television and radio continue to win significant recognition and demonstrate her talent as a multi-platform producer," said Gary P. Kolb, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts. "We offer our heartiest congratulations to her on these achievements."

Thompson is putting the finishing touches on a two-hour documentary, "Never the Same: The Prisoner of War Experience." She expects to complete the film this summer. The film features Baldwin's narrative portrayal as Commander Thomas Hayes, a captured American prisoner who does not survive and dies on a "hell ship" -- ships used to transport POWs to Japan and Manchuria for slave labor.

The film picks up in the aftermath of the Bataan Death March. The feature film will focus on how prisoners survived the remaining years of the war. That includes stories of how prisoners broke their arms so they could stay in a prison camp to escape work duty and the brutality of their Japanese captors.

A website, www.tragedyofbataan.com/ includes profiles of the men and women who shared their stories, information on the Bataan Death March, the fall of Corregidor, and additional resources.