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Documentary being produced about 1997 Grand Forks flood

David Kuznicki, producer of a documentary about the 1997 flood, gets footage of the Red River on Thursday evening, March 21, 2019. (Malissa Raker / Submitted photo)

GRAND FORKS — While he may be new to Grand Forks, filmmaker David Kuznicki hopes to connect with the community as he tells the stories of residents who went through the Red River flood of 1997 in a new documentary.

The documentary, which likely will be finished by the end of the year, will tell the stories of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Minn., residents who experienced the historic flood, Kuznicki said.

“I believe whole-heartedly in that sort of hyperlocal history that can get lost sometimes,” he said.

Kuznicki has produced multiple Emmy Award-winning documentaries. One of his most recent documentaries was titled “The Town That Disappeared Overnight,” which recounts the story of a small town in New Jersey that was buried beneath a man-made reservoir.

Kuznicki’s wife recently took a job teaching at UND. He feels it is important to give back to his community and producing this documentary was one way to achieve that goal.

“It’s important for me to feel that I’m joining this community, and this is how I choose to do it,” he said.

Kuznicki felt the topic ultimately chose him and said it’s important to be out in the community, on the ground talking to people when producing a documentary, which is something he has been doing since moving to Grand Forks.

“I’ve been asking everybody, ‘What do you think defines Grand Forks?’ Virtually all of them said the 1997 flood really showed off our community and it showed off our character and it really showed off our ability to pull together and overcome this obstacle,” he said.

While no one died as a direct result of the flooding, Kuznicki said the flood was a “traumatic” time for Grand Forks and its residents.

“This was insanely traumatic for the community, but it also brought out the best in the community,” he said.

Production has already begun on the documentary, Kuznicki said and he has already learned a lot about Grand Forks and its people. He has done interviews with all kinds of people, including residents, reporters and city officials.

“Every one of these stories has equal weight,” he said. “This flood impacted everybody in the same way. Just because somebody was a decision maker doesn’t make their story more important than somebody who just had to outrun the water.”

Kuznicki said he was surprised to learn just how many stayed after the flood.

“I would have guessed there was a mass exodus after 1997. I would have guessed that so many people would have said ‘My life is not going to be the same and I’m going to go somewhere else.’” he said. “But that didn’t happen. Most people stayed.”

The people of Grand Forks and their stories are the core of the documentary, Kuznicki said.

“People are very proud of living in Grand Forks; they love Grand Forks,” he said. “They’re willing to band together and face whatever comes their way.”

If people would like to tell their story about their experience during the 1997, they can reach out to Kuznicki via email at david.kuznicki@gmail.com.

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