My name is Helen Langridge Wells and I am asking for your help to finish a documentary that I have made about the men who built the Thai Burma Railway.
Last year I met the most incredible artist called Jack Chalker who had been sent out as a young Britsih soldier to Singapore in 1942. He was taken by the Japanese as a Prisoner and made to work on the infamous 'Death Railway' where so many of his comrades lost thier lives. He had recorded many of his experiences in his wonderful drawings used within the film which are now historical documents. I was struck by his incredible ability to forgive what was some of the most inhumane treatment ever recorded; it was his wisdom and this forgiveness of those that had dealt him this suffering that I found the most inspiring experience.
So I decided to share it with everyone and embarked on this project with no funding other than the support of hla, the company that I founded 25 years ago and incredible support from family and friends. I filmed him in his Somerset home, now aged 96 years old, having recently suffered a stroke, he told his stories with laughter and tears, such a positive and charming man you could not expect to meet anywhere else - but then I did.
Other POW's who had been there with Jack started to appear, Dr Bill Frankland, Sir Harold Atcherley, Alistair Urquart and Bill Moylon to name a few. So off I went to film and record their stories and found them all to be equally inspiring.
Having listened to how the Japanese behaved I felt it important to go to Japan and interview to get the story from the other side, the railway soldiers of The Imperial Army. Finding them was not easy as few are still alive, but finding those that would talk was even harder.
In Japan the subject is not dicussed, there is still shame involved. These men did talk, some struggled with their consciences, others apologized and some denied it ever happened; but they all agreed to talk, a first for most Japanese as most of the younger generation in Japan know nothing of this part of their history.
It helped me, and hopefully will help you the audience, to understand why and how they could treat people like this. The documentary is a record for all future generations of what humans are capable of, good and bad, and the incredible importance of forgiveness.
hla has financed the project so far but at this point we need financial help to get the final stage completed and the project out there. In order to allow us to get the documentary into festivals we need to pay the library footage companies a license fee. All the money raised will go towards finishing the one hour film and obtaining this footage licence to allow entry to festivals so that hopefully more and more people will see it. In the event that a broadcaster becomes interested we will require the broadcaster to pay the additional license costs for wider use.
My background comes from working in music videos and commericals for over 30 years. I have been part of hla for 25 years. hla is co owned by Mike Wells, Simon Ratigan and Daniel Carter, all of whom have been so generous in helping make this project a possibility. This is exciting new ground for me, one that now I've found I hope to continue with. Hopefully next time with some funding in place!