Whether picking up Kurt Vonnegut’s World War II time travel epic, “Slaughterhouse-Five,” as a teenager or at 40, readers encounter several themes in the book first published on March 31, 1969: war, love, loss, trauma, time travel, money and success. Even though the telling is non-linear and time-jumping, “All this happened, more or less,” the novel begins.
To commemorate the book’s impact during the five decades since its release, a Franklin College documentary filmmaking team of nine students — from various Indy metro points, including the southside — plus Joel Cramer, Pulliam School of Journalism division head, and John Krull, director of the Pulliam School of Journalism, produced “The Children’s Crusade Revisited: Slaughterhouse-Five at 50” for WFYI.
Krull worked on the film’s narrative. During fall break in October, Cramer and a crew of students interviewed Mark Vonnegut, son of Kurt Vonnegut, in Boston. They traveled to New York to talk with Vonnegut scholar Marc Leeds and Sidney Offit, author and friend of Vonnegut, while also shooting key locations.
After first airing on WFYI in December, the film was nominated for two Emmys: Writer for a Program and Nostalgia Program. They learned about their award in the category of Nostalgia Program while attending a virtual ceremony on June 20. The movie has been picked up by about 270 other Public Broadcasting Service stations.
“The story keeps finding fresh audiences, just like the book,” Krull says.
While well-known today as a staple on high school and college reading lists, having been translated into more than 20 languages and consistently ranked among the best books of the 20th century, at the time “Slaughterhouse-Five” was Vonnegut’s first success. By launching him into the world of celebrity, it forever changed the dynamics among his family and friends. Krull and Vonnegut met and became friends later in the author’s life.
As Vonnegut says in footage featured in the film: “I prefer laughter to tears because there’s less cleaning up to do afterwards.” So it goes.
The 2020 Emmy Awards Ceremony aired Sept. 20.
— By Rebecca Berfanger