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October 10, 2013

Film echoes director's childhood

Vt. director Jay Craven brings project across lake

PLATTSBURGH — Director Jay Craven’s latest film, “Northern Borders,” echoes his unique relationship with his maternal grandparents, who raised him from the first through fourth grades.

Set in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the film — based on Howard Frank Moser’s award-winning novel — stars Bruce Dern (Best Actor, 2013 Cannes Film Festival) and Genevieve Bujold (Academy Award nominee) as Austen and Abiah Kittredge. No marital bliss here; their union is labeled the “Forty Years War.”

Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (“Moonrise Kingdom”) stars as 10-year-old Austen Kittredge III, who comes of age in his grandparents’ siege juxtaposed with back-country adventures and skeletons-deep family secrets.

“He has to navigate that difficult, emotional terrain and, in doing so, is challenged and grows up a bit,” said Craven, an award-winning indie filmmaker. “It’s really a character-based film. It’s an intimate chamber drama of these characters.”

“Northern Borders” is unlike any movie Craven has made before. It was the product of a daring partnership between his nonprofit Kingdom County Productions and Marlboro College, where he is a professor of film.

“Movies from Marlboro” is a semester-long film-intensive collaboration between young filmmaking professionals and 34 students from 12 colleges in the Northeast.

“We go to the Sundance Film Festival for a week and have eight weeks of workshops, pre-production, academic classes, film classes, and then there are six weeks of production,” Craven said.

“We began filming in the spring of 2012. We decided on casting as part of the process. We cast Bruce Dern and Genevieve Bujold, and we needed a boy. We found Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick in an audition in New York. I don’t know of anything quite like this. It was definitely a novel program. We’re actually planning to do another one (‘Peter and John,’ based on Guy de Maupassant’s 1887 novel) next spring. We felt very positive about it, and students, in many cases, found it to be really transformative.”

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