Film tells story of Doylestown's "Forgotten Explorer"
The Doylestown Historical Society brings to life the story of William Edgar Geil, the first man to travel the length of China’s Great Wall, in a feature documentary at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Pearl S. Buck Cultural Center, 520 Dublin Pike, Perkasie.
Admission is $5 and includes light refreshments and a question and answer session.
“Geil of Doylestown: Forgotten Explorer” tells the tale of the renowned adventurer, who was born in New Britain, Bucks County, in 1865 and died in 1925 while on a trip to Venice.
Geil was the Discovery Channel of his day. He was a preacher who could hold thousands spellbound; a photographer who captured vanishing cultures; the author of more than 10 books; and an explorer who spent his lifetime traveling the world, including one four-year trek that covered 100,000 miles, starting in Doylestown and stretching to the South Pacific, Asia and across equatorial Africa.
But in his hometown of Doylestown, Geil slipped into oblivion after his death.
“‘Forgotten Explorer’ reacquaints audiences with his legacy and presents the story of a hometown hero who should share the mantle of greatness with the likes of Pearl Buck, James Michener, Margaret Mead and Henry Mercer.”
Filmed on location last year in Doylestown and China, the film revisits spots along the Great Wall that Geil photographed in 1908.
Karl Stieg, a Doylestown native and now a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, directed the movie. Stieg, who graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, combined interviews with Geil experts with archival photographs of Doylestown and places visited by the explorer.
The project was funded by the Geil Grant Fund, which is administered by the founder of the Doylestown Historical Society, Ed Ludwig.
The historical society received a treasure trove of Geil’s papers in 2008, which were donated by the heirs of a local rare-book collector who had kept everything locked in his barn for decades. The collection included handwritten notes, field journals, glass-plate photographs, press clippings, letters and maps, which are now part of the society’s Holloway Research Center.
The Doylestown Historical Society premiered “Forgotten Explorer” to a sold-out audience on May 4 at the County Theater in Doylestown. The documentary also has been shown at the New Hope Film Festival and DocUtah film festival.
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