In an isolated, high plains community, a mathematics professor disappears from the local college without a trace. Three months later his body is discovered tied to a tree and burned beyond recognition in the remote hills south of campus. Iconoclastic author Poe Ballantine searches for clues relating to the case while reflecting on his life of wanderlust.
Love and Terror is an insightful and engaging portrayal of the life of a writer. The film is itself a compelling example of nonfiction storytelling.”
—Dr. Lyn Elliot, Communication Studies Department, University of Missouri-Kansas City
This documentary is a great classroom enrichment opportunity for teachers of creative nonfiction at both undergrad and grad levels. It offers rare insight into the process of literary journalism by studying the approach of Poe Ballantine, a master of the genre, as he takes on a fascinating true crime situation and interweaves the story of its investigation with the story of his town and his family.”
—Marion Winik, Associate Professor,
Klein School of Communication Design, University of Baltimore
An entertaining, and decidedly offbeat documentary…”
—Ronnie Scheib, VARIETY
In the summer of 2006, Dr. Steven Haataja arrived at the local college to begin a teaching position. Known as being somewhat aloof and quite brilliant, the mathematician seemed to be assimilating well into the community. But that winter, Dr. Haataja disappeared without a trace.
Three months later his body was discovered tied to a tree and burned beyond recognition on a private ranch in the remote hills south of campus. News teams descended upon the town while law enforcement officers, along with psychics and ghost hunters, exhausted themselves in the circus-like investigation. Conjecture and hysteria prevailed and the story quickly developed a life all its own. Theories about what happened range from a hate crime to accidental death to suicide to alien abduction.
Filmmaker Dave Jannetta explores the mystery through the eyes of award-winning author Poe Ballantine, who spent six years investigating the case while writing a memoir centered on the events (Hawthorne Books, September 2013). “Love and Terror” also examines the author’s life of wanderlust, his rocky marriage, his autistic son, and the high plains Nebraska town where the professor lived before he disappeared.
Love & Terror is morbid, hilarious, and whipsmart filmmaking…”
—Kurt Halfyard, TWICH FILM
Run time: 103 minutes
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Dave Jannetta is a Philadelphia based filmmaker. In 2009 he wrote and directed his debut feature film, ”Rachel & Diana.” “Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere” is his first documentary.
Prior to founding 32-20 Productions in 2009, Dave served as personal assistant to Peter Jackson through the North American production of “The Lovely Bones.” He also spent a year abroad working at Jackson’s WingNut Films in Wellington, New Zealand.
He is a graduate of Penn State University and an alumnus of Werner Herzog’s “Rogue Film School.”