That other place I wish I was today

18th Annual Zoar Outdoor Summer Film Series

On Saturday, July 11th, independent filmmaker Joe DeFelice will show his documentary – “The Deerfield: A Working River”. The film is a study of the social and natural history of the region and the technological development along the Deerfield River watershed. Interspersed with interviews of local experts, old photographs, guitar music and voiceover narratives, the film becomes an intriguing history lesson. DeFelice wants people to learn about the river and realize the need to protect it. He has produced 3 other films about rivers and lives in southern Vermont.
The presentation will start at 6:30 in the Zoar Outdoor Pavilion. These programs are free and open to the public.  A simple summer barbecue starts at 5:30 pm for $8.50 per person and film show begins at 6:30 pm at the Zoar Outdoor Pavilion.  For more information, contact Zoar Outdoor at 800-532-7483 or

And from (by Fred DeVecca)

Joe DeFelice has always loved rivers.

“I remember growing up in Connecticut, whenever there would be a big rain, the river behind our house would overflow,” he says. “My mother and I would go and check out where it flooded.”

There was something kind of magical about those trips and seeing how wild and out of control it could be. It was this experience of watching it swell, watching it flow. To me it would mean unknown adventure. Let’s go follow that stream and see where it leads to. There’s something very alive about it and how it’s always changing yet always the same.”

DeFelice, 39, grew to become a filmmaker and has made three films about rivers. His most recent, The Deerfield: A Working river, will have its world premiere at Pothole Pictures on Friday, June 12 to kick off the RiverFest celebration here.

His first film was about the Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri River, which runs through Montana and Wyoming. One of the factors which interested DeFelice about the Deerfield was how different it was from the Yellowstone. “The Yellowstone is the longest free-flowing river in the continental U.S. and the Deerfield is the polar opposite,” he says. “It’s one of the hardest working rivers in the U.S.” What exactly does he mean by a “working river?” “’Working’ means ‘being worked’ and that means by dams —using its power for harnessing energy, “ he explains. There were other qualities about the Deerfield that made it worthy of being the subject of its own film. “I really appreciated it for the variety I saw in the river,” says DeFelice.

“The headwaters begin in basically wilderness areas and then you have the incredibly developed portion down through Massachusetts, and parts of Vermont, too. And yet, even though it’s tamed and it’s not as wild as the Yellowstone, it still has its beauty showing through. All through this process I always saw the beautiful side of the river and came to realize that it’s pretty darned healthy. Obviously the dams fragment the river, but even with that, there are lots of fish and people are trying to manage it well. The people I’ve interviewed say it’s one of the healthiest rivers in the state.

To make his film about the Deerfield, DeFelice employed historical photos, documents and interviews with people who live and work along the river. He describes the film as “basically a portrait of the river. “ He goes on to say that his film about the Yellowstone concentrated mostly on environmental aspects, but he wanted to add more human elements into this project. “I want the audience to learn about the river — all aspects of it including the history — human history, in-depth natural history,” he says.

“I really wanted to do a film that touched on a lot of different aspects that potentially would attract different audiences — young people, fishermen or people who are interested in the history of the building of the dams, or the history of the railroads, how the valley was developed. I want people to learn about the river and then take to heart the need to protect it.”

The Deerfield: A Working River is about 75 minutes long and is in turns poetic, instructional, inspiring and an intriguing lesson in history. It begins with a montage of still and action shots taken all along the expanse of the river accompanied by a voiceover narration and soothing acoustic guitar music. It progresses to a series of narrative sequences by folks involved in some way with the river, many of whom are familiar to West County residents, including Charlie Crosier, a historian from Colrain, Charlemont archaeologist Aaron Miller and Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum representatives Alden Dryer and Polly Bartlett. All throughout the film are fascinating, old black and white photographs of familiar and not-so-familiar locations and some stunning modern cinematography of the river, its banks, watershed, wildlife, buildings, skies and neighbors.

DeFelice, who lives in Newfane, Vt. with his wife and son, has won several cinematography awards for his film work and has taken his previous movies to The International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana. He has studied film at New York University and also holds a masters degree in environmental studies. He hopes that this film can be “disseminated to schools in the area to have kids learn about this river.”

“I also hope to hold more public screenings up and down the towns along the river so people can learn and maybe get involved more with the Deerfield River Watershed Association,” he says. “They can always use volunteers. Our mission is to create media to educate about rivers and watersheds and basically put people in touch with other people who do work and to get people inspired to help.”

DeFelice hopes to continue to make small, local films that help communities and raise awareness. “I knew I wanted to do something to help out, to give back something, and I didn’t know exactly where my talents lie, but I began to realize that I’ve always had this passion, this kind of reverence, for nature, and rivers are a part of that,” he says. “If I can have even a slice of my enthusiasm come out in my films, then that would be helping out. I think I’m best in that element and if I can somehow capture that special feeling that I have and share it with others and maybe tweak their thinking into trying to go out more into nature or look more deeply into nature, then that maybe will be my contribution to the world.”

I am very proud of my friend, and I wish I was there today to stand with him at this special time. But, I’m quite confident this wont be the last time he’s showing one of his films.

Congratulations, Joe, on a terrific piece of work.

Contributed by: Scott Copperman


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