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Berlin documentary released to waiting crowds



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Scott Strainge, of Blind Squirrel Productions, thanked the residents of Berlin for their support at a reception after the sold out showing of At the River's Edge on Saturday. (Photo by Erik Eisele) (click for larger version)
April 21, 2010
BERLIN — Four showings and more than 400 tickets were not enough to satisfy demand for At The River's Edge: An Oral History of Berlin, New Hampshire, the documentary about Berlin that was released last weekend.

The shows "sold out" days in advance (they were available for free), and both theaters in the Princess Theatre were packed on Saturday morning.

The documentary, produced by two teachers from Timberlane Regional High School in Plaistow, captured the oral history of the city through the stories of residents. It starts when the city was first founded and follows its growth and transformation through more than a century.

The two teachers, Scott Strainge and Joshua Silveira, run a company called Blind Squirrel Productions, which specializes in historical documentaries. They are both history teachers, and they first worked in Berlin on a documentary about logging. They partnered with Historic New England to launch a series that captures the history of cities and towns, and they knew Berlin was the place they wanted to start.

"We are so humble and so proud and so privileged to be a part of this," Mr. Strainge told about 150 people who attended a reception at St. Kieran's Arts Center on Saturday afternoon. "We can't thank you enough. We had a wonderful experience."

The film is up for consideration at both the Pittsburgh and Seattle Film Festivals, he said, and it is also up for consideration for an award from the American Association of State and Local History.

"It was pretty overwhelming," said Walter Nadeau, of the Berlin and Cos County Historical Society, about the level of interest and support for the project. He thanked Blind Squirrel Productions, Historic New England, St. Kieran's Arts Center and the Princess Theatre for making the release so spectacular. Most importantly, he said, he wanted to thank everyone who volunteered to be interviewed for the project.

Jackie Nadeau, of the Historical Society, said they sold more than 200 copies of the DVD on Saturday. Additional copies are available at the Moffett House.

The Moffett House got more than just copies of the documentary, however. The project took old family movies from the Browns and others, digitized them and turned them into DVD. Mr. Strainge said they gave copies of all archived materials to the Historical Society for their collection.

But the project wasn't just created for Berlin.

"We don't want the history of Berlin to just stay here," Mr. Strainge said. The project will tell Berlin's story, he said, and carry its history around the country.

Mr. Strainge said he felt like he'd lived in Berlin, after more than 400 hours editing residents' stories about the city.

Ken Turino of Historic New England said they were delighted with the support, both when they were making the video and now releasing it. "The people here were just so welcoming."

"We're hoping we keep up the relationship with the Berlin and Cos County Historical Society," he said.

That sentiment echoed at the Historical Society.

Mrs. Nadeau said she'd like to see more of this type of work, including capturing what the future holds. There is more of Berlin to tell she said, and she wants to see the rest told.

"I think of it as chapter one," she said.

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