In search of compassion, the producer and director discovers healing in a documentary about the Second World War – InForum
FARGO — Writer, producer and director Stephanie Manesis has a knack for seeing grace in unlikely places.
This year’s recipient of the Partnership for the Arts Individual Artistic Partnership (IAP) grant has been working on the 26-minute documentary, “Compassion on the Battlefield in WWII,” since 2012.
Although it took a decade to prepare, with many more stories to uncover before the 26-minute film was completed, Manesis calls the documentary a project built on “love and perseverance”.
The film discusses three types of compassion: “Compassion between enemies on the battlefield, compassion between comrades on the battlefield, and the post-war self-compassion experienced by veterans for the things they would have wished for. to have been different during the battle,” according to a statement on the Manesis site,
Manesis is slowly fundraising as it goes, a battle many artists know well. She used her $2,050 in TAP IAP funding to hire a screenwriter and has, to date, raised approximately $25,000 from other grant sources, crowdfunding, and the generosity of friends and family.
“I’ve been working on it very slowly for several years. The reason it takes me so long is just fundraising,” she says.
A professional writer by day, Manesis, who also works in sculpture and watercolor, has no formal background in screenwriting or filmmaking, so she hired a writer, as well as a story consultant for Los Angeles, who help shape the narrative.
“The people I use for filming have been very high caliber with a lot of experience on the History Channel, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, that sort of thing,” Manesis said. “Because I have limited experience in the field, I want to make sure I have the best in my team.”
Seek Compassion, Find Healing
As the documentary evolves over time and she works diligently to secure funding for the project, Manesis and her film crew keep walking, making poignant connections between wartime enemies.
“Initially, I was only looking for stories of compassion between enemies. So basically, two enemies who meet on the battlefield and have a moment of compassion, where their hearts connect on the battlefield, and they decide to not fight and they basically lay down their arms,” Manesis explains.
During the veteran interview process, this daytime freelance writer also helps uncover something else: healing.
“Many of the World War II veterans I have interviewed will tell me that they had never told these stories to anyone before. I found that when they met someone who was a foreigner, who was a very good listener, they were more likely to open up than their own families,” says Manesis.
Manesis continues to be on the lookout for WWII veterans who are still alive and who might be willing to share their own compassionate stories for the film.
Early on, she found a storyteller – and a friend – in the now 97-year-old Dr Maurice Bonemeyer, who shared his harrowing experience facing the 1944 Battle of the Bulge.
“He and a group of Americans were surrounded on a farm by a group of Germans. … They lined up all the Americans against the wall and a German tank came, shot down their gun and was about to slaughter them all,” Manesis explains.
Courageous Compassion: Local Film Highlights Stories of Kindness Between WWII Enemies
Bonemeyer, who knew some German from growing up in German families in North Dakota and Minnesota, said he could understand the German soldiers as they discussed what to do with the Americans who they had captured.
“Dr. Bonemayer said he heard another German, a young man come up in front of the tank, waved his hands and said, ‘You can’t shoot them. We have to take them prisoners of war.
Manesis expects a rough cut of the film to be completed in the coming months. The goal is to present and sell the documentary to public television affiliates across the country.
In the meantime, she is still looking for veterans to interview for the project and hopes to continue spreading the message that peace is possible.
“When we think of war, we think of killing machines. And we think we trained these men to go out and kill, kill, kill. And we don’t stop to think that in the middle of a battlefield, two men can actually lay down their arms and choose not to kill each other,” Manesis said. “And so I hope we get viewers to think differently about war and to think that if two men on the battlefield can lay down their arms, then why can’t we have a more comprehensive and more collective.” between two countries?
Donate to the documentary
To help fund Manesis’ documentary project, visit
. All donations are tax deductible.
The Partnership for the Arts Individual Art Partnership Grants are open and available to artists working in a variety of genres. The deadline to apply is February 11. For more information on grants, visit
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a non-profit organization that cultivates the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit