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Film Notes: Norwich Director Brings Wintry Tale to Public TV

  • Christian Kohn appears in a scene from "Fire," a short film by Norwich native Ben Silberfarb. The film is based on Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire." (Courtesy photograph)

  • Circe, a professionally trained dog from the New Hampshire Lakes Region, appears in a scene from "Fire," a short film by Norwich native Ben Silberfarb.

  • Ben Silberfarb stands in the background on the set of his short film "Fire," which was shot in the Upper Valley. Sawyer Broadley, a member of the sound crew, stands in the foreground. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, December 08, 2017

During a particularly frigid stretch in his native Upper Valley a couple of winters ago, Ben Silberfarb realized a dream by filming an adaptation of a Jack London short story.

On Tuesday night, the Hanover High School and Dartmouth College graduate’s 20-minute short Fire comes in from the cold, appearing on Vermont Public Television as part of the network’s “Made Here” series of movies by Vermont and New Hampshire filmmakers. Vermont PBS picked up Fire after it won the award for best short at the New Hampshire Film Festival.

Based on London’s short story To Build a Fire, the movie, which Silberfarb shot in Sharon, Norwich and Lyme, stars Lyme resident Christian Kohn as a man who confronts nature and his own mortality by venturing into the woods with his dog during a severe cold snap. Lyme-based actor and writer John Griesemer also plays a role in the movie, which includes a sequence involving Kohn’s character falling through ice into cold water and then struggling to get warm.

“I read the story in high school,” Silberfarb, who grew up in Norwich and graduated from Hanover High in 1986, recalled this week. “I always thought it would be a great short film, but I never thought I’d have the experience and the resources to do it.”

After studying film at Dartmouth, Silberfarb followed his childhood interest into nature and the outdoors, acquiring a master’s degree in forestry and working for organizations such as the Nature Conservancy.

He returned to filmmaking about a decade ago, and these days mixes his own creative projects between commissions as a cinematographer-for-hire on other directors’ films and on commercial videos. Silberfarb shot fellow Norwich resident Nora Jacobson’s recent feature, The Hanji Box and a documentary that Jacobson directed last summer about the history of the Cornish Colony. In 2015, he directed photography on Plainfield resident Samantha Davidson Green’s short romantic comedy Don’t Leave Me Hanging, which Vermont PBS also aired on “Made Here.”

“They’re all great,” Silberfarb said of the “Made Here” productions, which also include Tunbridge filmmaker John O’Brien’s quirky Vermont stories. “I love seeing that local content, which can stand up to anything on, like Netflix. I feel really, really lucky to be able to be part of that.”

As part of its “Made Here” series, Vermont PBS premieresFireon Tuesday night at 7:30, and repeats it on Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. For cable subscribers to Comcast, “Made Here” airs on Channel 2 and in HD on 1033.

Looking Back

The Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College is offering a tempting package of seasonal cinematic favorites this weekend, starting tonight with a screening of Love Actually and concluding Saturday afternoon with Home Alone.

Love Actually, director Richard Curtis’ romantic comedy from 2003, has no business working as entertainment, except for the charm and believability of the actors playing the long, sparkly garland of Brits (plus one American, portrayed by Laura Linney) who stumble on their way to (mostly) finding their soulmates. Stealing the show, as usual, is the droll Bill Nighy as a dissipated rock star chafing at having to perform his One Big Hit again and again.

Home Alone, which I’ve never seen in its entirety on the big screen, launched Macaulay Culkin into child stardom — and into a vicious cycle of real-life dissipation and tabloid headlines — for his 1990 depiction of a moppet whose clueless parents leave him behind en route to a holiday excursion, and so finds himself fending off would-be burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern).

Love Actually begins tonight at 7 at Loew Auditorium, in the Black Family Visual Arts Center in Hanover. The lights go down for Home Alone at 4 on Saturday afternoon. For tickets ($5 to $8) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Star (Wars) Struck

In anticipation of the nationwide release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Norwich Public Library next week hosts a party for fans of the series and screens the two most recent epics in the series.

The celebration includes a Star Wars-themed gathering, at which costumes are encouraged, from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission to a 5:30 p.m. pizza party in advance of the Star Wars party costs $5. Only the pizza party requires an RSVP to 802-649-1184 or lisa.milchman@norwichlibrary.org.

Next Friday afternoon at 3:30, there will be a free screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the episode that J.J. Abrams directed in 2015.

And on Dec. 16 at 10 a.m., the library will host a screening of Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards’ 2016 movie that was marketed as A Star Wars Story.

To learn more about these activities, visit norwichlibrary.org or call 802-649-1184.

Festivities

The Billings Farm and Museum eighth annual Woodstock Vermont Film Series resumes on Dec. 16, with two screenings of the Turkish documentary Kedi, which follows feral cats on their rounds of Istanbul, and the city humans who love and enable them.

Next up in the series, on New Year’s Eve, the museum will show Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Admission to all screenings in the Woodstock Vermont Film Series, usually held at 3 and 5 p.m., unless otherwise noted, costs $5 to $9 for members of Billings Farm and $6 to $11 for others. A word to the wise: Don’t just stroll in at showtime expecting to get in. Call 802-457-2355 to reserve tickets .

Documentation

In the next stop in the tour of It’s Criminal: A Tale of Bridging the Divide, director Signe Taylor brings her documentary to Norwich Public Library on Monday night at 7.

The movie follows a class of Dartmouth students in an experiential-learning course, who help woman inmates of the Sullivan County jail in Unity to write a play about their experiences with the criminal-justice system.

Joining Taylor for the post-screening discussion will be Ivy Schweitzer and Pati Hernandez, teachers of the Dartmouth students, and two former inmates who participated in the play’s creation. Admission is free.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.

Correction

Norwich Public Library will hold a free Star Wars-themed party on Thursday, Dec. 14, from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission to a 5:30 p.m. pizza party in advance of the Star Wars party costs $5. Only the pizza party requires an RSVP to 802-649-1184 or lisa.milchman@norwichlibrary.org. The admission and reservation information was incorrect in an earlier version of this column.