SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 30, 2011

Witch Trials films debut here

By Tom Dalton
Staff writer

SALEM — First came Hollywood, then Bollywood and now — ta-da! — Witchywood.

Over the next week, two new films on the Salem Witch Trials that were shot locally will hold premieres here. One debuts today and the other on Tuesday.

"The True 1692," a 3-D film made by CinemaSalem and History Alive! — a branch of the Gordon College Institute for Public History — holds its premiere today at CinemaSalem, the movie house in Museum Place Mall.

The 35-minute film, which is aimed at visitors and local history buffs, is directed by Paul Van Ness, the co-owner of CinemaSalem and the head of his own film production company.

It tells the story of 1692 through the eyes of a young girl who witnessed the tragic events and attempts to give viewers a historically accurate account of the origin and outcome of the witch hysteria.

Not to be outdone, the Essex National Heritage Commission, in partnership with the National Park Service, will hold a premiere Tuesday of "Salem Witch Hunt: Examine the Evidence."

This is a re-examination of nearly 1,000 manuscripts and other published records, with re-enactors speaking the words of victims and accusers. It was made by Tom Phillips, who has worked with The History Channel, in collaboration with a team of scholars.

"This film offers many new insights into a story that has been told and retold for hundreds of years," said Annie Harris, executive director of the Essex National Heritage Commission, in a prepared statement. "When we were offered the opportunity to re-examine this period of history with the benefit of the latest scholarship, we jumped at the chance."

"Salem Witch Hunt" premieres Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the National Park Service Visitor Center, 2 New Liberty St. The directors, consulting scholars and others involved with the production will be present. Reservations are required.

"The True 1692," while presenting events from more than three centuries ago, is a film for 2011.

Van Ness said he decided to shoot in 3-D "to allow a modern viewer to step into Salem in 1692, and the technology of 3-D allows for that immersive experience in a way that 2-D can't."

The film is shown in CinemaSalem's 18-seat screening room.

Although the film shows the dangling feet of hanging victims and a man being pressed to death with stones, its focus is the history of the period and the state of mind of Puritan Salem. The young narrator is played by 16-year-old Amelia Haas, who just entered Gordon College as a freshman.

Both films were shot locally.

"Salem Witch Hunt" was filmed at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead and Parris Parsonage foundation in Danvers and at the Witch House in Salem, the former home of a Witch Trials judge.

"The True 1692" was also shot at locations across the area, including Pioneer Village in Forest River Park, a re-creation of the English colony established here in 1630.