When Lee & Joy
Pennington began Jole Productions in 1990, their concept was to use as little
and as small equipment as possible in order to be able to get into places and
capture stories that otherwise might be missed. Throughout the world, many of
the “old things” and “old ways” were disappearing. It was on those things that
soon would be lost that they focused their attention.
With not much more
than an 8mm video camera, they made their way into the jungles of Papua New
Guinea where they filmed their first piece, In Search of the Mudmen
“It was very
exciting, “ the couple recall. “It felt like stepping back into the stone age
and being able to get on film rituals and scenes that were thousands of years
“The footage is
pretty bad compared to today’s standards,” says Lee laughing, “but it’s still a
piece we’re both fond of. In a sense it was a disappearing moment caught in
time. We’re proud of that even if the piece is a bit shaky and
The South Pacific
called them back on several occasions and resulted in Petroglyphs of
Polynesia (1992) and Sinoto: Polynesian Legend (1993).
“I think,” says
Lee, “it was during this time we began to sense the overwhelming force of
For example, we
were on the island of Raiatea and were looking for someone who could talk about
petroglyphs. Not only did we find someone, we found a person, Johnny Brotherson,
who could read the petroglyphs, something archaeologists said no one could do.
Johnny took us into the mountains, and
we filmed petroglyphs that fewer than twenty people in the 20th
Century had even seen.”
“Also, on the
island of Huahina we were trying to find someone who could talk to us on camera
about the marae, the outdoor temples of the ancient Polynesians.
So who shows up but
the famous archaeologist, Yoshihiko Sinoto, the very person who had
reconstructed all the maraes on the island! Sinoto spent four days going with us
around the island and explaining his work.
Lee Pennington &
“We often go into a
project not knowing where it will lead us, but we always have a feeling the
right things will show up at the right time. So far, that’s been the
In 1995 Jole
Productions released Wales: History in Bondage—a piece that focuses on
the English destruction and cover-up of Welsh history, including some rather
clear evidence that Wales’ most famous native son, King Arthur, was real and not
some imaginary figure. According the Welsh records, Arthur was the
brother of another “legendary” figure—Prince Madoc. In 1997 Jole Productions
released Prince Madoc: Fact or Fiction.
1997 took the
Penningtons to South America where they filmed Secret of the Stones, an
exploration in search of Viracocha, the bearded stranger who came from the sea
and brought civilization to the South Americans.
At Tiahuanaco, in
Bolivia, the Penningtons found evidence that a great civilization flourished
there 17,000 years ago!
stonework of Sacsayhuama
Following the lead of Thor
Heyerdahl, their work in South American pointed them toward Easter Island,
perhaps the most remote inhabited piece of land on the planet.
Researchers still haven’t
been able to solve to everyone’s satisfaction just how the natives transported
the megalithic statues around the island.
“We made two film trips to
Easter Island,” says Lee, “one in 1997 and another in December-January at the
“We spent so much time at
the archaeological sites that the moai actually felt like they had become our
Mysterious Easter Island was
the subject of their 2001 documentary, Eyes that look at the
Not all of the
Penningtons’ documentaries have been done on exotic places.
production was The Gospel Ship, an interview with Lee’s mother who was 92
years old at the time. “She was born in 1900,” says Lee. “She lived through the
entire 20th Century and had witnessed the coming of automobiles,
airplanes, radio, television, computers. Her insight on so many things was just
They also did three
documentaries on a disabled West Virginia coal miner who had moved to Eastern
Kentucky in the 1950’s and had some ancient, mysterious stone works on his land.
Verne Spratt was the subject of: Verne Spratt: Keeper of the Stones
(1992) and Cliffs of Mystery (1992) and Good Roads, Good Water:
The Life of Verne Spratt (1996).
Tenacity has also
been a part of the Penningtons’ experience. They spent ten years and drove more
than 10,000 miles filming The Mound Builders (2001).
“At the time,” says
Joy, “we were teaching. So we took weekends and summers to go do the filming”
(Lee and Joy taught nearly forty years in Kentucky before retiring from the
University of Kentucky Jefferson Community College in Louisville in 1999).
“The Mound Builders is pretty special to us,” says Lee, “not only because
of the amount of time we spent on it. But people tell us it’s the most
comprehensive thing ever done on the subject.”
Emerald Mound, the second largest in America,
In producing a
documentary, the Penningtons always do extensive research.
“That’s just part of our method,” says Lee.
“We read hundreds of books and articles and visit museums and talk with people.
By the time we actually put the piece together, we’ve generally got enough
information for a half dozen or more documentaries.”
One such research
project took them high in the mountains of North Georgia where a thousand foot
long stone structure has for years baffled professionals and amateurs alike.
Who built the wall and when, and what was its
purpose, have long been the subject of speculation. Some say the wall was built by Indians;
others say it was built by Europeans—in particular, by a group of Welshmen led
by Prince Madoc. The Cherokee simply say
the wall was built by a “moon-eyed” people.
made several trips to the wall and actually stayed on Fort Mountain to film and
Their research led
to a major discovery as to what the wall is and what was the wall’s purpose. In
2005 they completed The Serpent Fort: Solving the Mystery of Fort Mountain,
Georgia, a documentary that answered some major questions concerning the
In 2006 they
finished The Depot Museum, a walking tour of Fort Payne’s unique piece
of history (done exclusively for the Ft. Payne, AL Depot Museum), They also
completed Tunnel of Time, a tribute to Marion Dahm, a grassroots
Viking researcher who spent more than half of his life gathering evidence to
prove his hypothesis.
What are the
Penningtons working on now?
“For the past six
years we’ve been researching and filming a piece called, SEAFARING STRANGERS:
Vikings in America.
“We think there is
ample evidence to place Norsemen into the interior of the continent long before
Already the couple
have spent several months filming in the upper Midwest and other parts of the
U.S., one summer filming in Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Greenland) and 28 days during the past autumn (2006) filming in
Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We think we have
some very strong evidence for the Viking premise,” says Lee.
Lee Pennington at Hvalsey
church in Greenland
When will the piece
“The project is much greater than we
originally anticipated,” says Lee. We’ve
already spent more time on this piece than any we’ve done except The Mound
“At first we thought we’d
have one 50 minute piece. Now it looks
like we’re going to have three 50 minute segments. The Viking project has kind of taken on a
life on its own.”
As usual, the
Penningtons have other irons in the fire—for example, a projected film
concerning the ancient copper mining that took place on Isle Royal and in the UP
researching the copper mining for a couple of years and have done some filming.
The more we get into it, the more exciting it becomes.”
In Search of
the Mudmen, 1990. The Gospel Ship,
Spratt Keeper of the Stones, 1992. Cliffs of Mystery,
Ticking Lizard, 1992. Petroglyphs of Polynesia,
Sinoto Polynesian Legend,
of the Way Places: Cutlass Bay Club, Cat Island, 1994.
Wales: History in Bondage,
Good Roads, Good Water: The Life of Verne Spratt, 1996
Prince Madoc: Fact or Fiction,
1997 Secret of the Stones,
Stones That Whisper,
Easter Island's Hotel Gomero: A Family Affair,
Mound Builders, 2001 Eyes That Look at the Sky:
the Mystery of Easter Island, 2001 Tell City: The First Fifty
The Serpent Fort
(Solving the Mystery of Fort Mountain,
The Depot Museum: Fort
Payne’s Unique Piece of History, 2006
Tunnel of Time, a
Tribute to Marion Dahm, 2006
VIDEOS AVAILABLE FOR
Secret of the
Stones @ $26.00 plus $4 S & H ($10.00 international)
Builders @ $28.00 plus $4 S & H. ($10.00 international)
Look at the Sky: The Mystery of Easter Island @ $28.00 plus $4 S& H. ($10.00
The Serpent Fort (Solving the Mystery of
Fort Mountain, GA) @ $24.00 plus $4 S & H ($10.00
Time, a tribute to Marion Dahm @ $24 plus $4 S & H ($10
make check payable
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