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Writer adapts old American classic into ‘captivating’ film

Submitted by Liz Fox on October 6, 2012 – 10:39 pm4 Comments

Writer and producer Alice Van Buren recently made an appearance at UALR to promote “Ink: A Tale of Captivity,” a new historical drama rooted in one of America’s earliest works of literature.

The film is centered around the capture of Mary Rowlandson, a Puritan woman who was kidnapped in the seventeenth century by Native Americans during what is known as King Philip’s War. Her narrative, entitled “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God,” was published in 1682 after her recovery and became an instant bestseller.

Van Buren, a former English major and Ivy League graduate, said she hadn’t even heard of Rowlandson until she noticed the increasingly evident cultural presence of King Philip, also known as the Wampanoag chief Metacomet, in the Northeast.

“I was wondering why the name ‘King Philip’ was turning up everywhere,” she said. “As I was reading around, I eventually ran into some reference about Mary Rowlandson and I read her story and was absolutely stunned at how readable it was.”

After meeting filmmaker Thomas Sibley at a Christmas party, Van Buren decided she wanted to produce a film adaptation of a play she had already written about Rowlandson’s experiences. Over $100,000, which was garnered from her mother’s estate, was used to finance the production. The addition of several drafts brought more developed characters, props were made and theater actors were hired to play the roles of Rowlandson, James Printer and other major characters.

After actor Alan Tafoya obtained permission from local authorities, filming began on an Apache reservation in New Mexico. While some weather provided the snowy backdrop needed for a New England setting, other effects were used to help distinct Southwestern elements, such as adobe homes and plateaus, disappear.

“I think we managed to pull off the illusion [of New England] very well,” she said. “Those trees are Cottonwood trees, but we used a lens that makes the background fuzzy so you can’t tell what kind of trees they are.”

Because of the movie’s small scale, budget constraints made some aspects of production difficult. Van Buren noted in retrospect that she wished Sibley could have implemented better effects to make visual elements more alluring. Money also became an issue when the film was entered into competitions and festivals, which resulted in the cast and crew promoting “Ink” at universities and academic conferences.

But one thing that sets Van Buren’s vision apart from other adaptations, which include a miniseries and a graphic novel, is its sparing use of fictional elements. Other versions of the story have taken creative liberties for the sake of drama but “Ink,” aside from a few composite characters, has stuck to the original narrative. According to Van Buren, it also employs other film techniques, notably in characterization.

“I was very interested [in making Rowlandson a sympathetic character],” she said. “You want to care about her and you want to care about the outcome so she is very sympathetic and she’s very torn. You can see she’s trying to negotiate some impossible things.”

Though there are other elements she wished to change, Van Buren is overall pleased with the product and believes it does justice to the original story. She hopes one day to reach wider audiences with Rowlandson’s enticing story, but for now, her ambitions will remain on the academic circuit.

“Ink: A Tale of Captivity” is currently being shown at several universities, and the film will be available for purchase through Amazon in the coming months.

More information on the film, production and cast can be found at