Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Swanzey Rural Character" to screen on May 30

The world premiere of Swanzey Rural Character will take place at the Monadnock Regional High School auditorium on Saturday, May 30, with showings at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. The film is an hour long, and admission is free.

In 2008, the Swanzey Open Space Committee asked Monadnock Regional High School junior Evan Barlow to consider a special project: a celebration of Swanzey people, places and history.

Inspired by over sixty-five interviews, Barlow has captured Swanzey’s unique rural character on film. The movie represents a distillation of seventy hours of footage, hundreds of photographs, and close to five hundred hours of the teenager’s volunteer service. Barlow also designed all the film’s promotional materials, as well as packaging of the DVD. The work serves as Barlow’s senior project, a Monadnock Regional High School requirement for graduation.

“Originally, we imagined a handful of interviews with citizens who have protected their land with conservation easements,” says Victoria Reck Barlow, chair of the Open Space Committee. “Instead, the interviews became a giant chain letter, with each person insisting that Evan had to talk with these other people, who really know great stories. Evan took it all in, and created a film that is as lyrical and moving as it is beautiful.”

Grammy award-winning cellist Eugene Friesen donated his music to the project. Erik Ewers, senior editor at Ken Burn’s Florentine Films, is project advisor.

“This is partly a story about Swanzey’s people, places and history,” says Reck Barlow, “and partly a story about a seventeen-year-old who composed a love letter to a small New England town.”

The citizens of most small towns want to protect the rural character of their communities. The Swanzey Open Space Committee makes this charge their business. In addition to helping landowners with conservation easements – the group’s core mission – Open Space Committee members have found ways to celebrate the unique qualities of their town.

Some of the ways are simple, like the Swanzey Rural Character button -- wear it, and you are one. Some are conspicuous, like the oxen Buck and Ike, Swanzey’s ambassadors of open space protection and biggest stars of The Old Homestead. Some are elaborate, like the Committee’s annual party in honor of newly minted conservation easement holders. And some ways take place behind the scenes at Town Hall, where group members work with maps and advisors to help guide Town planning decisions in support of rural character.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it,” said the philosopher Goethe. Members of the Open Space Committee will tell you that they never could have imagined where many of the group’s projects would take them, and what they might learn or accomplish along the way.

Swanzey’s reputation for doing a lot with a little relates only to money. The Open Space Committee achieves its enormous success by recognizing that Swanzey is wealthy beyond measure in people -- from a seventeen-year-old journeyman filmmaker to the town historians he interviewed. Swanzey Rural Character is the proof.

Contact: Victoria Reck Barlow (603) 930-8608 or CircleoftheSunNH@aol.com

[Press release provided by Victoria Reck Barlow.]