BENNINGTON -- After seven years of production, Upper Valley Arts of Norwich, VT will release "Freedom & Unity: The Vermont Movie," the first ever documentary series about the many voices, cultural and political traditions that give the Green Mountain State its egalitarian ideals and bold, iconoclastic spirit.
The six-part film, a collaboration of three dozen critically acclaimed Vermont filmmakers and historians, is led by award-winning filmmaker Nora Jacobson.
Part two of the documentary, entitled "Under the Surface," will be screened at the Bennington Museum on Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Following part one, which explores the roots of today’s Vermont, part two deepens the journey, digging beneath the surface of Vermont’s bucolic image to explore labor wars, eugenics experiments, the McCarthy era, and progressive Republicanism. Covering over a century--from pre-Civil War to 2009--it chronicles the rise of unions and quarry work, Barre’s Socialist Labor Party Hall, the marketing of Vermont, the state’s reaction to New Deal policies, George Aiken’s gentle populism, and Republican Ralph Flanders’ heroic stand against Joe McCarthy during the Red Scare. Emigrés from urban areas, "back-to-the-landers" like Helen and Scott Nearing and filmmaker Nora Jacobson’s father, Nicholas Jacobson, came to Vermont in search of an alternative lifestyle.
In this collaborative film dozens of filmmakers use cinema verite, personal stories, rare footage, compelling interviews and original re-enactments to create a fresh, living testament that explores the history and contemporary culture of the Green Mountain State. This groundbreaking, six-part journey reveals the stories of Vermonters past and present -- from Abenakis and early settlers, runaway slaves and farmers to historians, politicians, newcomers and activists moving "back to the land."
To many outsiders, Vermont is either an idyllic landscape of villages and farms, or a seething hotbed of radical left-wing politics. But the story is more nuanced. "Freedom & Unity: The Vermont Movie" examines Vermont’s legendary grass roots politics, but also dares to explore the disturbing legacy of eugenics and racial myopia. The film explores life lived at a local level and asks, how is a state’s identity created? And, how does the past inform the present?
Vermont’s motto, Freedom & Unity, was chosen as the title not only because it hints at the intriguing, and at times controversial themes of this project, but also because it mirrors the production process. Each filmmaker was encouraged to tell the story they wanted, and express it in their own cinematic voice.
Nora Jacobson, the series director and editor, whose documentary "Delivered Vacant" premiered at the New York Film Festival and competed at Sundance, has woven together a compelling, enjoyable work that holds viewers’ attention with its intelligence, vigor, and intimacy.
For more information, visit www.thevermontmovie.com.