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Kapaun to hit the big screen

Staff writer

Many books, documentaries, and newspaper articles have been written about the late Father Emil Kapaun of Pilsen and his life as a priest and a military chaplain.

Now, a motion picture, “Father Kapaun’s Valley,” is in pre-production and is expected to be produced in 2024. It will follow the March 12 release of a book, “No Bullet Got Me Yet: The Relentless Faith of Father Kapaun.”

The screenplay and book, written by Kansas native John Stansifer, will focus on Kapaun’s service in the Korean War, 1950 to 1953.

Kapaun spent time in a prisoner-of-war camp where he gave hope and comfort. He died in the camp in May 1951.

For his actions, Kapaun posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony April 11, 2013.

Pope John Paul II declared him a Servant of God, the first stage on the path to canonization.

In 2015, the Diocese of Wichita officially presented Father Kapaun’s cause for canonization to the Vatican, making a case for his recognition as a saint.

If approved, he would be the first male saint born in the U.S. and the patron saint of prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Stephen Campanelli is on board to direct the movie.

In a trade magazine, “Deadline,” Campanelli is quoted as saying: “Father Kapaun was an incredible man of faith and courage. When I first heard about this story, I was immediately captivated, and the thought of making a movie about him has been with me for years.”

Stansifer is excited for Campanelli to direct the movie.

“As audiences can see from his extensive work with Clint Eastwood, Stephen Campanelli not only has an amazing eye; he is an incredible storyteller,” Stansifer said.

Stansifer connected early on with Alan Glazer, founder of Trimax Media, a Los Angeles production company.

“Alan Glazer has been a huge advocate of this story from the first day we met, and I’m excited to partner with Trimax on this,” Stansifer said. “Father Kapaun’s story is powerful because it says so much about faith, courage, and the ties that bind us all together as human beings.

“We were going nowhere for years because Kapaun wasn’t famous enough, but we got attention when Kapaun’s remains were found and returned to Kansas in 2021.”

Glazer is happy to work with Stansifer on the movie.

“John Stansifer has dedicated the last 15 years to this project and is extremely passionate about telling the story of Father Kapaun,” Glazer said. “His screenplay is filled with so much information about the Korean War and the courage of Father Kapaun.

“As a storyteller, I’m thrilled to finally be able to share the life of Father Kapaun and his heroic actions during the Korean War — no longer the war that Hollywood has forgotten about.”

Stansifer grew up in Lawrence, where his father was a history professor at the University of Kansas. He studied film and theater and majored in history and English.

While at KU, he joined the Army National Guard and served for six years. He lives in Florida but is planning to move back to Lawrence next year.

Stansifer has written numerous screenplays that have been optioned without a film being made.

He saw a chance for a breakthrough when he viewed Kapaun’s Medal of Honor ceremony on television.

“I’m proud to be a veteran,” he said, “and when I saw it, I said, ‘I’m going to write a movie of this guy, and it’s going to be bigger than myself.’”

As a researcher, he immediately started to find out everything he could about Father Kapaun.

He tracked down Korean War veterans who knew Kapaun, such as Mike Dowe and William Funchess. He also met with Kapaun’s family and military and Catholic officials.

He visited military bases, the National Archives, museums, and churches and reviewed thousands of documents, including everything from U.S. troop movements in Korea to Kapaun’s personal diaries, papers, and class notes.

Stansifer lived in Wichita in 2015 and 2016, getting to know Father John Hotze and Scott Carter of the Wichita Diocese and Father Kapaun Guild. He visited Pilsen many times.

Stansifer signed a contract with HarperCollins, which saw the book as a potential bestseller and will be marketing it. The book will be printed by Hanover Square Press and released March 12.

The movie will be named after the location of Kapaun’s prisoner-of-war camp, which Korean War veterans named “Father Kapaun’s Valley” in his honor.

Stansifer couldn’t conceal his excitement as he talked about the upcoming productions.

“What happened to me is very rare,” he said, “having a book and a movie being advanced at the same time.”

Last modified Oct. 18, 2023

 

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