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Muskegon Lake recovery highlighted in documentary by alumnus

  • Hundreds of people attended a premiere of a screening of "Back from the Brink" at the Frauenthal Theater in Muskegon early in May.
  • David Ruck, director of "Back from the Brink," speaks to the crowd at the movie premiere.
  • Alan Steinman, director of the Annis Water Resources Institute, at left, speaks during a panel discussion. Director David Ruck, far right, listens.

Posted on May 23, 2019

For years, Muskegon Lake in Muskegon County was severely polluted by the various factories and industrial plants that lined its shores.  While the lake is still considered an Area of Concern by the Environmental Protection Agency, conditions have improved greatly thanks to efforts of community organizations and funding from a wide variety of sources. 

That recovery is highlighted by a short film produced and directed by Grand Valley alumnus David Ruck that was shown at a community event at the Frauenthal Theater in Muskegon earlier in May. About 600 people showed up for the event.

The film, "Back from the Brink" explains some of the industrial history of the lake and features interviews with leaders of community organizations, as well as experts from Grand Valley's Annis Water Resources Institute, who have been involved in lake cleanup and pollution remediation efforts. The film was financed through the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission with local, state and federal funding partners. 

Ruck said that as the lake approaches being considered for delisting as an Area of Concern, he thought it was a good time to tell they story of the lake and the work that has gone into making the lake suitable for recreational use again.

"I wanted to show what went into decades of work on the lake, but also what it will continue to take to keep the lake in good shape," Ruck said. "I think this film shows that a community can undo the wrongs of the past, and that a community can thrive because of it."

Ruck said he hopes that students at Grand Valley see his short film as an example of a way that nonfiction filmmaking can inspire change.

"Nonfiction is where I started as a student at Grand Valley, and it's a powerful medium," Ruck said. "I hope students see the power to influence change within communities through documentary filmmaking."