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Thursday, August 7, 2014

‘Northern Borders’ film NH preview Thursday

Anyone who has grown up, or even visited, rural areas of New Hampshire and Vermont would probably not be reminded of a western movie. After all, a quintessential western movie depicts horses running over flat plains, shoot-outs in abandoned towns and clumps of tumbleweed rolling across a dusty street. Contrarily, New Hampshire and Vermont are two states imagined to be lush, green and mountainous. However, in Jay Craven’s newest film, “Northern Borders,” major aspects of classic western movies are placed in the middle of northern Vermont.

“Northern Borders,” starring Bruce Dern, Genvieve Bujold and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, is Craven’s fifth film adaptation of one of Howard Frank Mosher’s novels. Mosher’s novel, and Craven’s film, takes place in 1956 and follows the story of ten-year-old Austen Kittredge, who goes to live on his grandparents’ farm in Kingdom County, Vermont, where he has wild adventures and learns long-kept family secrets. In addition to being a humorous coming-of-age story, the novel and film adaptation incorporate classic western elements into a distinctly northern New England setting. ...

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Anyone who has grown up, or even visited, rural areas of New Hampshire and Vermont would probably not be reminded of a western movie. After all, a quintessential western movie depicts horses running over flat plains, shoot-outs in abandoned towns and clumps of tumbleweed rolling across a dusty street. Contrarily, New Hampshire and Vermont are two states imagined to be lush, green and mountainous. However, in Jay Craven’s newest film, “Northern Borders,” major aspects of classic western movies are placed in the middle of northern Vermont.

“Northern Borders,” starring Bruce Dern, Genvieve Bujold and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, is Craven’s fifth film adaptation of one of Howard Frank Mosher’s novels. Mosher’s novel, and Craven’s film, takes place in 1956 and follows the story of ten-year-old Austen Kittredge, who goes to live on his grandparents’ farm in Kingdom County, Vermont, where he has wild adventures and learns long-kept family secrets. In addition to being a humorous coming-of-age story, the novel and film adaptation incorporate classic western elements into a distinctly northern New England setting.

Craven loves working with Mosher’s novels and using his home in Vermont as the background for bigger themes and ideas commonly found in western films.

“For that reason, they’re kind of fun,” Craven said of adapting Mosher’s works to the big screen. Craven said Mosher’s novels resemble westerns because they typically have larger-than-life characters, an outlaw of some kind and themes of family and change. Craven, who was practically raised by his grandparents and who had a close relationship to his grandmother (who incidentally loved western films), felt drawn to “Northern Borders.”

“My grandmother was my closest relative, ever, in my life,” Craven said. Much like Austen Kittredge in the story, as a child, Craven was sent on a train, alone, to go live with his grandparents in Philadelphia. For this reason, Craven said he “felt a pretty strong connection” to Mosher’s story.

Craven moved to Vermont in 1974, where he began his career as a director and as an educator at Marlboro College. Craven is currently a film professor at Marlboro College and his proximity to the educational world allowed him to experiment with directing and producing techniques. Craven said “Northern Borders” “marks a change in the way I do production.”

For this film, which took approximately two years of hard work, Craven not only enlisted the help of 20 film professionals, but also worked with 34 students from 15 colleges in the New England area.

“For them, it’s like a semester abroad,” Craven said of the college students who helped with film production. Similar to a study abroad experience, students earned a full semester of credit for the time they helped Craven with his film. Craven said working with these students was a success because of the students’ passion for film and ambition to succeed, but he warns them that making a movie is not to be taken lightly.

“Once you get into this, you’ve got to be for real … We’re making a real movie,” Craven said.

“Northern Borders” will launch in New Hampshire at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, as part of the film’s 100 Town Tour, with more dates being added to the schedule. Craven said the 100 Town Tour is a way for him “to connect with the audience,” as well as a way of showing his newest film in the setting in which it takes place. After all, the New England setting is so important to the plot of “Northern Borders” because Craven said Mosher portrays the setting so creatively.

“He renders this place with a lot of imagination,” Craven said. “It’s definitely recognizable as North Country.”

Emily Kwesell can be reached at 594-6466 or ekwesell@nashua
telegraph.com.