Movie premiering in eastern Idaho tells story of local missionary who led evacuation out of Nazi Germany - East Idaho News
'Escape from Germany'

Movie premiering in eastern Idaho tells story of local missionary who led evacuation out of Nazi Germany

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Scene from “Escape from Germany” starring Paul Wuthrich. Watch our interview with the film’s director in the video above. | Photo courtesy Remember Films

IDAHO FALLS – Telling true stories has become a hallmark of T.C. Christensen’s film career and his latest project certainly fits that description.

The 71-year-old Utah man is the director of titles like “The Cokeville Miracle,” “17 Miracles,” and “The Fighting Preacher.” His latest movie, “Escape from Germany,” is set in 1939 and tells the story of a young missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who’s tasked with getting his associates out of the Nazi-occupied country before World War II breaks out.

“We’ve been informed by our church president that in three days the German army will invade Poland,” an actor portraying one of the missionaries says to a member of the U.S. embassy in the film’s trailer.

“Our military has no such knowledge of any aggressive activity on the part of the Nazi army,” the man responds.

“If I may sir, I believe Heber J. Grant (the church president at the time) is a better source of intelligence than the U.S. military,” the missionary says.

The independent film is playing in 40 theaters nationwide and is currently No. 11 on the domestic box office, according to Box Office Mojo. It premiered in Utah last weekend and is set to debut in eastern Idaho on April 26.

In a conversation with, Christensen says he’s pleased with the response to the film, despite waning numbers at movie theaters in the last several years.

“I was concerned because it just seems like people haven’t been going to the theater like they did before COVID. I didn’t know how it would go with us, but it’s gone very well. People are getting out and supporting it,” Christensen says.

He and some of the cast members will be part of a Q & A with moviegoers at local theaters on May 3 and 4. He’s looking forward to interacting with people who see the film.

“Idaho has been good to me in the past. Our films have come up there and people have come out and supported it, so I feel a love for people in the area … and I’m excited (to come back),” he says.

The main character in “Escape from Germany” is Norm Seibold, who grew up in Newdale and lived in Rupert all his adult life until his passing in 2003. He’s portrayed by actor Paul Wuthrich.

The movie is based on a book written by Seibold’s neighbor, Terry Montague. She first heard about it from his son, Jerry, in her high school biology class.

She kept it in the back of her mind and it was years later, after Montague graduated from Brigham Young University, before she began documenting Seibold’s story.

“We had moved back to Rupert. I was a little bit bored. Norm Seibold lived just three miles down the canal from us … so I went over with my tape recorder and my pen and notepad and he started talking,” Montague recalls.

The book was completed and published in 1984.

Christensen got a copy of Montague’s book about 13 years ago and felt compelled to bring Seibold’s story to the big screen.

“T.C. loves Clint Eastwood, I think. He likes the idea of a tough loner who has to solve a problem, and if you knew Norm Seibold, that’s just what he was,” Montague says.

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The real Norm Seibold, whose story is told in the film “Escape from Germany.” | Courtesy Terry Montague

Though Montague has been approached by multiple filmmakers to turn the book into a movie, she says Christensen’s vision was the only one that stayed true to the story.

She began collaborating with Christensen about five years ago. After seeing the finished product, Montague says it follows the book “pretty dang” close and she’s pleased with how it turned out.

“But it’s a little bit like raising a child and then giving it away for somebody else to take care of,” Montague says of giving up ownership of this story.

Many of the missionaries depicted in the movie were from Idaho and Christensen says 90% of the film’s extras are their descendants.

Jay Hildebrandt, host of “Sunday Blessings” on Classy 97, can be seen in the film briefly as a background character. His father, Arnold, served with Seibold prior to the events in the movie and was one of the missionaries who was evacuated.

A photo of Arnold Hildebrandt from Montague’s book

Hildebrandt says his dad, the son of German immigrants who spoke the language fluently, worked as a translator for then LDS Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith when he visited the mission about a week before the war began.

“After just a few stops with Elder Smith, the word came that they were evacuating Germany,” Hildebrandt says.

His dad spent the last year of his mission in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Hildebrandt is grateful he was invited to be part of the project and says he’s “blown away” by Christensen’s completed film.

“I thought this was amazing — the editing, the acting, the music and the powerful story, especially at the end how it all comes together,” says Hildebrandt. “A lot of miracles happened.”

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Jay Hildebrandt and his sister pose for a photo in costume for their characters in the movie | Courtesy Jay Hildebrandt

Having the descendants of these missionaries be involved in the film was an emotional experience for Christensen, who says he often started crying on the set as he watched them.

“Everyday, it’d make me cry because I’d see these descendants who are so proud of their ancestor and they wanted to be there and honor that person,” says Christensen. “That was really a great part of this movie.”

Seeing a true story reenacted on the big screen takes the movie-going experience to “another level,” Christensen says. It was a rewarding project for him to be involved in and he hopes moviegoers in eastern Idaho enjoy it as well.

“It’s an important story for people to (see),” Montague says. “It’s an excellent story if you want to talk about faith and obedience. Those men and women were great examples.”

“Escape from Germany” will be playing at the Blackfoot Movie Mill, the Paramount Theater in Idaho Falls and Paramount 5 in Rexburg.


christensen pic
T.C. Christensen behind the camera during a film shoot | Courtesy Remember Films