When it comes to celebrating family history, filmmaker Tonya Shevenell and her father Ray Shevenell are willing to go the distance.

The two will speak about their journey to film and walk nearly 200 miles to retrace the path of one of their ancestors when the University of Maine at Presque Isle hosts a film screening of The Home Road on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. All are invited to attend this free event.

In 1845, 19-year-old Israel Shevenell left his home in Canada and walked nearly 200 miles to Biddeford, Maine. He found work as a brick maker and is recognized as the city’s first permanent French-Canadian settler and French voter. In 2015, his 74-year-old great-great-grandson, Ray Shevenell, retraced the pioneering journey—walking from Compton, Quebec, to Biddeford—and great-great-great-granddaughter, filmmaker Tonya Shevenell, captured the experience.

During the Sept. 20 screening, the Shevenells will introduce the film and offer a post-screening discussion and Q&A with the audience.

“I wish I could talk to the 19-year-old who set out on foot April 1, 1845, crossed the border, trudged through lingering winter snow in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and deep mud in the Saco Valley, and arrived at his destination in Biddeford, Maine, two weeks later,” Tonya Shevenell said. “He earned $8 a week as a brick maker in this booming coastal town. It was steady work and more money than he could make farming at home. He walked back to Quebec that fall and convinced his family to move to Biddeford with him. Israel became the city’s first permanent French-Canadian settler, contributed to its growth, and changed the course of Shevenell family history.”

In 2015, Ray Shevenell celebrated the 170th anniversary of Israel Shevenell’s pioneering trek by retracing his steps from Quebec to Maine.

“Israel Shevenell built a new life in an American boomtown being transformed by the Industrial Revolution, and my father was inspired to recreate the walk Israel took toward that new life,” Tonya Shevenell explained. “I wanted this film to tell their stories. It’s an exploration of family, history, and identity — and how a journey into the unexpected inevitably leads to... home.”

The Home Road is the first feature length documentary film by Maine native, Tonya Shevenell. Her second, Shape Of Love: 200 Years In Maine is in production through 2019 and will be released in celebration of Maine’s Bicentennial in early 2020.

This film is 75 minutes in length and features music by Sumner McKane. To view the official film trailer, visit https://youtu.be/Nc7egiZYaDw and to learn more about the film, visit the official film website at www.thehomeroad.com. For more information about this screening, contact Gayla Shaw at 207-768-9452 or email umpi@maine.edu.

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