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REF NO.: 132

SUBJECT: Historic documentary to be shown at Gander alumni event celebrates Newfoundland's connection with Argentina

DATE: Feb. 12

The Memorial University Alumni Association is hosting a special event to screen the documentary Letters From Eliza, in Gander on Monday, Feb. 26. The doors open at 7:30 for an 8 p.m. screening at the College of the North Atlantic, room 201. Admission is free and there will be complimentary snacks afterwards. This moving story of exile and family reclaimed was filmed in Patagonia, Argentina, and in Newfoundland. Principals from the film development and production will be on hand to give a short overview and to answer questions.

The made-for-television film documents the life of Eliza (Elliott) Lewis of Fogo, Newfoundland. As a young girl in 1914 she left with her newly married mother and her stepfather Bill Downer to move to Patagonia, Argentina. Though she lived to be 103 she never again returned to Newfoundland. But through her letters she stayed in touch with various members of the family back home. The most prolific and prolonged letter writing took place between Eliza and Mary (Payne) Scammel. These two best friends corresponded for almost 90 years until Mary died in the 1980s.

Filmmakers Dave Quinton and Don Downer traveled with a camera crew to begin this film in the spring of 2000. In Patagonia, they tracked down and interviewed relatives, and visited hometowns, grave sites and ranches. Eliza Lewis celebrated her 100th birthday with cameras rolling and the governor of Santa Cruz (now president of Argentina) present. Two of the offspring returned to Newfoundland in 2001 and were filmed at Fogo and at Eastern Tickle visiting the former dwelling sites of relatives. The homecoming was also remarkable in that it reunited the two branches of Eliza's Patagonian and Newfoundland family. This intriguing story with a Newfoundland connection had been kept alive in Patagonia by story telling among the offspring for over 90 years.

Eliza Lewis, unfortunately, died in October of 2002, one month short of her 103rd birthday. She had viewed a rough cut of the film, however, before her death.

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