The mountain that shaped our region
Sweeping documentary to explore history, importance of Mount Monadnock
Jackie Stetser, a board member of Rabbit Ear Films, left, and Donna Kluk, right, at the summit of Mount Monadnock on January 1, 2013.
A winter view of Mount Monadnock captured by hiker Larry Davis of Jaffrey. Davis is well-known for climbing the mountain nearly eight years without missing a day.
Steve Hooper of Keene, executive producer of "Monadnock: The Mountain That Stands Alone," films on Mount Monadnock.
An archival photo of a hiker on Mount Monadnock.
Photo courtesy Lee Willette Collection
Sunlight breaks through the clouds in Troy and shines over Mount Monandock. The mountain is the subject of a local documentary film that seeks to capture its historical and cultural importance in the Monadnock region.
Robert Goodby of Stoddard, professor of archeology at Franklin Pierce University, being interviewed for "Monadnock: The Mountain That Stands Alone" more than a year ago. Producer/Editor Dan White of Keene, left, and Amanda Borozinski of Peterborough, right, film and interview Goodby.
A painted turtle sunbathes in Marlborough in June 2009 with Mount Monadnock gracing the background.
Photo courtesy of Steve Hooper
One of the most climbed mountains in the world has inspired both centuries old and contemporary forms of creative expression, including poetry, literature, paintings and photographs. And to many who call this rural region their home, Mount Monadnock is an iconic place that’s helped shape this region’s identity generation after generation.
“But how can one mountain that really isn’t all that tall inspire so many people throughout several centuries? Why is it the most hiked mountain in the United States?” asked Steve Hooper of Keene, executive producer of the in-progress documentary, “Monadnock: The Mountain That Stands Alone.”
Those are two of the questions, Hooper said last week, that he and a group of local filmmakers are trying to answer through their documentary film about Mount Monadnock that’s nearing its completion this fall after three years.
Mount Monadnock means “the mountain that stands alone” in the language of the Native American people who once lived there. The documentary, which bares those words, will show the many ways the mountain “stands alone” in its impact and influence on the culture and artistry of the region, Hooper said.
“By making a documentary about Mount Monadnock we hope to expose the shared humanity in each of us: To tell personal tales with universal resonance and to seek answers as to why Mount Monadnock has inspired so many,” Hooper said.
Rabbit Ear Films, a Fitzwilliam-based nonprofit filmmaking company, launched an online fundraising campaign through the website Indiegogo on May 1 in an effort to raise $15,000 to complete the film, which is in the final phase of post-production. The 45-day campaign is a flexible fund campaign, which means the filmmakers get to keep the donations even if their goal of $15,000 is not reached by June 14, Hooper noted.
“We are doing this so that the history of the mountain will not only be a legacy for this generation, but for future ones, too” Hooper said of the project. “Preservation of the mountain has been so central to people in this area that love and cherish it. That’s pretty special due to the fact that many mountains have not been saved [from development].”
Each year, approximately 80,000 people hike Mount Monadnock, Hooper said, adding that some even take it a step further by getting married at the summit or scattering ashes of loved ones along the way. Whatever one’s personal reason for hiking the mountain, Hooper said he’s learned the climb inspires and “gives people an emotional and often spiritual high.”
Archival photographs, voice-over recordings, filmed interviews and musical compositions will be integrated into a 90 minute feature-length film that details the history of Mount Monadnock and the people whose lives it affects daily. Hooper said the filmmakers’ will seek presentation of the film on the Public Broadcasting Station upon its completion.
Amanda Borozinski of Peterborough, a former full-time reporter and photographer for the Keene Sentinel, said Tuesday that she approached Hooper, who had also worked for the Keene newspaper until December 2012 , more than three years ago with an idea to make a documentary film about Mount Monadnock. While the pair found a large collection of poetry and literature about the mountain, Borozinski said they were shocked to learn that no one had ever produced and published a film about it.
Borozinski spent three weeks at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough working on her first creative nonfiction book, “To Make Our Joy Complete,” in 2009, and said she was impressed by the filmmakers at the colony. That’s when she set out to make a film for the first time.
“The mountain needs a voice and so often we can forget why it’s important to save these natural resources,” Borozinski said.
Due to other business and personal obligations, Borozinski said she stopped working on the project after about a year, but noted that Hooper believed deeply in the film and seeing their vision through to the end.
“I’m so proud and honored to have been a part of it,” Borozinski said. “Making a film is not easy.”
Franklin Pierce University Professor Bob Goodby of Stoddard was one of the first to be interviewed for “Monadnock: The Mountain That Stands Alone.” Goodby, an archaeologist, said Tuesday that he was asked to talk about the first people who settled in the Monadnock region approximately 13,000 years ago. This area would later be known as the Abenaki homeland, he said.
“It’s important to recognize how deep the human past is here,” Goodby said. “An awful lot of people don’t know how far back human history goes.”
Mount Monadnock has enormous symbolic importance, Goodby said, explaining that it gives a name and an identity to the region. “In that sense, we have a common responsibility to take care of the mountain and the cultural resources, too,” he said.
Writer Howard Mansfield of Hancock described Mount Monadnock as a kind of axis mundi on Tuesday, explaining that it’s a focal point in the region that brings people together and connects towns.
When authors Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about the mountain in the 19th century they often talked about it being one of the greatest sites in the U.S., Mansfield said. “Well, that was probably premature of them,” he laughed, adding that today the Grand Canyon would likely be considered among the top must-see places in the country.
But Mansfield said he can’t deny that his predecessors may have been onto something. “What the mountain has above all else is its location. “By standing alone, its got it,” he said.
Through viewing the film, Mansfield said he hopes people will have a renewed sense of appreciation for Mount Monadnock and its cultural importance.
“This film may translate the mountain to a whole bunch of people who won’t read Thoreau’s journals,” Mansfield said. “Or maybe it will send them to his journals — that we can hope.”
Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.