North Adams Transcript
NORTH ADAMS -- Five years ago, Hinsdale native Rick Derby first learned of Sally and Donald Goodrich’s efforts to build a school for girls in Loghar, Afghanistan, and was immediately compelled to make a documentary about their project.
"I work in the film industry and every so often want to tell a story that touches our humanity and you make a documentary. I had sworn that I would never make another documentary when I read this article about Don and Sally in the Berkshire Eagle," Derby said in a telephone interview from New York City on Wednesday. "I was touched on every level as I read this story back in 2004. With every paragraph, I said ‘No, I’m not going to do this,’ but by the end of the article I had written down their phone number. We started shooting in the fall of 2004 and have logged over 400 hours of footage so far."
A 45-minute section of "Axis of Good: A Story From 9/11," will be screened as part of the Berkshire International Film Festival on Sunday, May 17 at 4 p.m. at the Triplex Cinema. The documentary, which is considered a "work in progress," chronicles the Goodrich’s efforts to build a school in memory of their son, Peter M. Goodrich, who was aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"It’s pretty exciting," Sally Goodrich, Title One coordinator for the North Adams Public Schools, said Wednesday in a phone interview from Boston. "It’s been four years and it’s still in the making. Initially we had no idea in talking with the press and allowing cameras into our lives, if we would want to give up the amount of privacy it would take to do a documentary, but Rick and his crew have become members of our family."
Goodrich, who lives in Bennington, Vt., said looking back over the last four years, she knows it was the right decision to agree to the documentary.
"It’s not just our story, it’s everybody’s story," she said. "Nothing would have happened without the participation of the wonderful people in Northern Berkshire. We’re completely indebted to them. So many people have contributed to various aspects."
Parts of the documentary includes footage from local schools, including a scene where children at Cheshire Elementary School donate boxes of school supplies, and another scene from Brayton Elementary School in which children try on Afghani clothing.
"The kids are really special," Goodrich said. "They all worked extremely hard. It’s very unfortunate that they can’t travel to Afghanistan to see the school. We could have never done what we have without the support of the people in Adams, Cheshire and North Adams, especially those teachers who gravitated toward the idea of participating in the world scene. We have been able to witness the impact a collection of small towns can make on the world stage by acting in a way that asserts the best of American values."
Derby said that while a 45-minute segment of the film will be shown at the film festival, his crew will be filming on Saturday.
"We’re coming to the conclusion," he said. "The goal right now is to find funds for the completion of the film. We need to sit down and edit it for about six months. The wonderful thing about this film is that there is this mythological story line to it, so piecing it together isn’t going to be hard."
Over the last five years, Derby, along with Williamstown native and co-producer Jason Stant, have received small grants from the Bay and Paul Foundation, along with support from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"Two of my former students from the college, Mike Calvin and Robert Wedge, have been with us since the beginning of filming," Derby said. "A lot of our tapes have been logged at the college and Professor Bob Bishoff has been very supportive throughout the entire project."
By sustaining the documentary solely on grant funding, Derby said his production company has not had to answer to the vision of a donor.
"It’s a simple story, but its also an anthropological look at how one 9/11 family coped with the loss of a son," he said. "It’s full of all these wonderful and emotional moments."
The Goodrich’s interest in Afghanistan came from Peter’s childhood friend and neighbor, Marine Maj. Rush Filson of Williamstown. In August 2004, Filson was stationed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
A week into his first deployment, he delivered donations to a school of 300 students that had eight teachers, but almost no school supplies, no roof and a principal who was receiving death threats.
Since then the Peter M. Goodrich Foundation has built the school in Loghar, supported two other schools and 55 orphans in Wardak, Afghanistan and has brought numerous children to study in the United States. It is currently raising funds for victims of the Nangarhar Earthquake who work at WADAN (the Afghani organization that oversees the Foundation’s overseas efforts) and have lost family and homes.
For more information, visit www.axisofgoodmovie.com.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail email@example.com.