The Vermont Movie: Exploring the Identity of Vermont

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport by

NEWPORT — Part three of Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie, a six-part collaborative documentary exploring Vermont’s history and culture, was screened Wednesday night at the Gateway Center in Newport. The episode, titled Refuge, Reinvention, and Revolution, explored the back-to-the-land and activist communities that sprung up in the state during the sixties and seventies. A discussion took place afterward, led by Dorothy Tod and Kate Cone, two of the filmmakers who worked on the film.

The Vermont Movie is much more than a historical documentary. For one thing, it is thematic, rather than chronological. History is used to measure and organize the story, but, history is only one of many tools the film uses to explore the identity and character of Vermont.

The film looks at identity as a process of change, always in a state of flux and trying to work itself out. It also demonstrates how the collective consciousness of the present is only the latest in a series of changes taking place over time.

Episode three focused on how the social turmoil that the country experienced during the sixties, paved the way for a counter-culture migration into the state. Many communal living experiments were established, with the state’s natural serenity providing the perfect opportunity for the refuge, reinvention, and revolution, the episode takes its title from.

The characters appearing in part three are as much individuals, as they are representatives of the collective identity of the state. As the episode follows these “hippie” communes, emotionally, the viewer is drawn into the universal search for home, and what it takes to secure that place once it is found. The idealism that might bring one to a place like Vermont is quickly countered with the reality of what it takes to adapt to its unique environment.

“The film is as much about emotional history, and cultural history, than anything else,” Phil White said following Wednesday’s screening. “

The film also makes one ponder what it is about Vermont that makes it so special.

“It’s also just fun to reflect on why we love Vermont. For so many people Vermont is a home of choice. What is it about Vermont that is so appealing? If you were born here, or moved here, it feels like home,” Mr. White went on to say.

“It’s important to have another view of the identity of Vermont,” filmmaker Kate Cone, said. “We know what we think Vermont is, but the film offers a wide range of new ideas, connections, and links about events in history that people might not know about.”

For filmmaker Dorothy Tod, episode three allowed her to reflect on the theory behind the filmmaking process that brought about The Vermont Movie.

“Freedom and Unity, which is part of the name of the film, became a way to describe how we as filmmakers worked,” she said. “I didn’t grow up on a commune, but I grew up on the edge of one, and had neighbors and friends who had been part of one. It always made me a little nervous to have that degree of freedom.”

Episode four will be screened next Wednesday at the Emory Hebard State Office Building in Newport. The episode title is “Doers & Shapers.”

The film is an important study of the history and identity of Vermont, and should not be missed. For more information, visit the film on the web at TheVermontMovie.Com or watch the trailer below: