By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
JASPER – With Strassenfest canceled last year due to the pandemic, many are probably eager to return to the festival in August 2021. In the meantime, a local filmmaker is giving a taste of the festival through a documentary.
Duane Busick, a Bloomington resident and native of Paoli, has created a 45-minute documentary about Strassenfest and how German heritage is celebrated in Dubois County. The documentary, titled “Strassenfest and the Area’s Reemerging German Culture,” will be screened as part of Indy Film Fest, an annual festival in Indianapolis featuring independent films, and is now available to stream online.
Busick, who spent most of his life around an hour away from Jasper, said he heard about Strassenfest before he started filming, but admittedly didn’t know much despite his popularity. .
“A lot of the things I documented in the program were things I had never experienced before,” he said. “I felt guilty for being so close and having things in your yard that you had never heard of.”
The documentary, which Busick began filming over five years ago, features interviews with Strassenfest organizers and attendees on the history and impact of the festival, footage from the opening ceremony, the polka and other festival traditions. It also includes interviews and footage from the Schnitzelbank, the Christkindlmarkt in Ferdinand, the Archbishopric of St. Meinrad and the story of Father Joseph Kundek, which Busick said connected almost every aspect of German culture that lives in Dubois County.
Kundek was a German-speaking Croatian priest who came to Jasper in the 1830s and founded St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, arranged the town of Ferdinand, and encouraged German-speaking immigrants to come to the area.
“He had such an impact on what happened in Jasper, even today,” Busick said.
Craig Mince, president of the Athenaeum in Indianapolis and artistic director of the Indy Film Fest, said he was especially happy that Busick’s documentary was being shared with audiences due to his personal connections to German culture.
“I come from a German lineage but I didn’t grow up in a too German family per se,” said Mince. “But there are these pockets of German-centric communities in places like Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Jasper, Fort Wayne that love and support each other, and it’s so fascinating to see. Strassenfest in particular is a very popular festival that people drive for hours and hours to get to.
Busick has also produced videos on other festivals in Indiana, such as the Persimmon Festival in Mitchell, the Catfish Festival in Shoals, and the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon in Tippecanoe County. Over the past decades, he has dedicated himself to telling stories that he considers important and showcasing local communities.
He said he was inspired by his best friend, who died around 20 years ago but was a successful animator for Disney.
“He had an inheritance, but it was cut short. So I thought, well, what will my inheritance be? he said. “At that point, I vowed that the most important project I was going to work on at any time would be a project I wanted to do. I feel it’s my responsibility.
Mince said this year’s Indy Film Fest will be unique as there are many films that will be available to stream online, while they usually can only be viewed in person in Indianapolis.
Indy Film Fest 2021 runs from April 29 to May 19. Many films, including Busick’s documentary, can be purchased and streamed online by visiting indyfilmfest.org, clicking on ‘explore films from the 2021 festival’ and watching under the ‘virtual party tab’.