The world premiere documentary film “Amereki Kum, Escape From Dubai” by local filmmaker Matt Johanning will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 22, on the Oconomowoc Arts Center’s Main Stage.
Five years in the making, “Amereki Kum, Escape From Dubai” is the true story of the filmmaker’s uncle, Ted Van Der Zalm. The Chicago businessman escaped from a Dubai jail in 1998 by mailing himself to Amsterdam in a wooden crate.
As the only American prisoner in the Dubai jail, when Van Der Zalm was needed for a court appearance, the guards would simply say, "Amereki Kum!"
Caught between a handful of unscrupulous businessmen and a dicey and unpredictable legal system, Van Der Zalm relied on the trust of a small handful of individuals to devise and execute a plan to escape. On Oct. 27, 1998, he climbed into a wooden crate that he built and was loaded into a truck bound for the airport.
Van Der Zalm would exit the crate 28 hours later after having endured extreme conditions and a couple of close calls. His course of action tested him physically, mentally and spiritually.
“I was in the crate, but I could see blue skies. It was like a mirage. The airplane had about an eight-hour flight to Amsterdam,” said Van Der Zalm.
Johanning is director and editor at Long Leash Films in Madison. He and his wife, Kerri, raised their two sons in Oconomowoc before relocating to Madison in 2014.
The film also features the music of Corey Mathew Hart and Lost Lakes. After the screening, Johanning and Van Der Zalm will take questions from the audience about the miraculous journey depicted in the film. Van Der Zalm’s escape crate will also be on display in the OAC lobby.
“My goal in making this film was to tell Ted’s story in an honest way, to let the drama play out naturally and to keep it honest and real. It was very emotional to talk to Ted and his family about what happened and how each of them found their own way to deal with a seemingly impossible situation,” explained Johanning.
General admission tickets are $12 and can be purchased through the OAC box office. For information about the film, visit www.amerekikum.blogspot.com. See a trailer for the film at vimeo.com/152237784.
Summer box office
The OAC Box Office will be closed Monday and Tuesday, July 3 and 4, for the Independence Day holiday. The OAC will hold summer box office hours July 5-Sept. 1. The box office will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, and noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Regular hours will resume Tuesday, Sept. 5, after the Labor Day holiday.
Regular box office hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays. In addition, the box office is open 90 minutes prior to events.
The Oconomowoc Arts Center is at 641 E. Forest St. and is part of the Oconomowoc Area School District. For more information, call the OAC Box Office at 262-560-3172 or visit www.theoac.net.