The Iron Range Family Album is a 45-minute film record of day-to-day life on the Range in a magazine format. Through the blending of 1,100 still photographs, artifacts, and video, a series of vignettes are edited to the work of Iron Range musicians. Each short segment is like a different painting of this unique place. Together they are like a large exhibit of everyday Iron Range life.
The 1,100 photographs were chosen from Douglas and Mary Lou Nemanic’s private collection of more than 40,000 Iron Range documentary exposures. In 1977 the film’s producers began a project to record what is probably the most misunderstood region in Minnesota originally settled by more than 30 different immigrant groups from southern, eastern and central Europe.
From time to time the Nemanics were joined by volunteer photographers who added to the Iron Range collection, giving it a broader perspective. Over the next 30 years they continued their documentation to record the cultural change that was taking place. This change is featured in the film as the first generation passes, while their children, and then their grandchildren grow old. Through it all the Iron Range culture persists into the 21st century.
Master musicians volunteered traditional European folk, classical, jazz, and northern country. The selecting of images, scanning, writing, and editing took two years. The Iron Range Family Album is just that--a look at a family, only that family includes an entire subculture.
The introductory segment was edited to the original music “Rust Belt” written and performed by jazz pianist Dave Villani, the only non-Iron Range musician. Dave is from Altoona, Pennsylvania, a railroading city, which had close ties to the Range during the industrial era and suffered the same negatives effects when it ended. Iron Rangers perform the polkas and waltzes. The segments on plants and water are edited to pieces by classical pianist Dr.Veda Zuponcic (Aurora). Guitarist Doug Ellis’ (Forbes) provides a haunting northern country song “Your Day Will Come” accenting the hard-times. The powerful music is in itself a tribute to the Iron Range. The film ends with the up-tempo “Ranger in My Heart,” composed by Tim DeMillo, was sung by Rich Mattson (Eveleth) who performed three instruments and produced the recording as well. Ron Setnicker and Paul Polisich provided traditional polkas.