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PBS to air the saga of LDS pioneers

The story of the Mormon Pioneer westward migration is being told in a two-hour documentary to be shown over most Public Broadcast Service stations in the United States Aug. 10.

"Trail of Hope, the Story of the Mormon Trail," was produced under the auspices of member station KUED Channel 7 in Salt Lake City, which will broadcast the documentary Sunday, July 20, at 8 p.m.Most member stations will broadcast the program Sunday, Aug. 10, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time, and 8 p.m. Central and Mountain time. Many other stations will present the program at different times, so viewers should check local television listings.

"It's a dramatic story brought to life as only PBS can," commented Gary J. Dixon, a member of the Church's Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee and executive vice president of Bonneville Communications.

"Watching this documentary will be a great learning experience as well as just a high-interest type of program," he added. "One could never have individually interviewed all the scholars, been to all the places, read all the information that this program brings together in two hours."

It was made with the cooperation of the Sesquicentennial Committee, but an effort was made to balance the presentation, said producer Lee B. Groberg, who also co-wrote and directed the documentary. The program contains excerpts from interviews with several Western historians and scholars, both Church members and non-members.

President Gordon B. Hinckley is seen in the program, as is Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt.

Veteran movie and television actor Hal Holbrook, famous for his stage portrayal of Mark Twain, hosts and narrates "Trail of Hope."

Brother Groberg, Bountiful 11th Ward, Bountiful Utah East Stake, has created public television documentaries on gun maker and LDS pioneer John Browning and on the Utah mining towns. He said he and non-LDS writers Lyndia Carter and Maggie St. Claire produced the first draft for "Trail of Hope." LDS writer Heidi Swinton retooled and polished it for the finished product.

"The story is told from the pages of journals of people who were there," the producer said. Sixty-five voices were cast for various readings in the documentary. Sound effects help round out the production, as does an original musical score by Sam Cardon and Merrill Jenson.

Thus the scholarship and research, accurate as it is, does not overshadow the emotional impact of the film. This was evident even during the on-location shooting schedule that covered 60 days over 14 months. Brother Groberg said, for example, that during filming of scenes depicting the crossing of the Sweetwater in Wyoming, he got tears in his eyes imagining what the distressed Saints in the handcart companies must have felt as they saw rescue wagons approaching.

Though it has not yet premiered, the film has already won an award of excellence from a national organization, the Film Advisory Board, which evaluates productions for their suitability for family viewing.