Film ensures soldiers are Not Forgotten

WITH her World War I documentary Not Forgotten, writer, director and producer Jane Jeffes had one simple wish."I wanted to explore the lives of ordinary people and bring back to life the people behind the statistics,'' Ms Jeffes said."My interest is in the individual soldiers - I think history is made up of personal stories, not just statistics and military records.''The one-hour documentary - which premieres tonight on SBS to tie-in with Remembrance Day - pieces together the stories of some of the men commemorated in World War I memorials around the country.One of those memorials is Ballarat's nationally recognised Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial.From the thousand of names on the Lake Wendouree memorial, it is the story of Chinese Australian Victor Lepp that is brought to life in Not Forgotten.Lepp's grandfathers came to Ballarat to seek their fortunes on the goldfields in the mid-1880s.While he survived Gallipoli, Mr Lepp died in the first weeks of Australian service on the fields of the Somme.The area in which he died, Pozieres, became known as the ground more soiled with Australian blood than any other place on earth.In July this year, the documentary's film crew - together with Mr Lepp's great granddaughter Andrea Ryan - spent three days in Ballarat tracing Mr Lepp's history.Along with the war memorial, they also visited the Ballarat Mechanics' Institute and the Arch of Victory."I found the whole experience really emotional and full of lots of surprises,'' Ms Ryan, who lives in Werribee, said."It has actually really opened my eyes up.''"I'd now really love to go to France and visit Pozieres.''Ms Ryan described Ballarat World War I historian Amanda Taylor - who also appears in the documentary - as "amazing''."Her knowledge of the soldiers was incredible,'' Ms Ryan said."I could have listened to her forever.''Ms Taylor was this year nominated for the Shrine of Remembrance Medal.The new initiative honours an individual or group that has made outstanding contributions to community understanding of the service and sacrifices made by Victorians for their country in times of war and peacekeeping. "When you see a family reacting emotionally to what you are telling them, you know these people (the soldiers) are not going to be forgotten,'' Ms Taylor said.Not Forgotten screens tonight at 8.30pm on SBS.