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'Wood/Sails/Dreams' film to be shown Friday in Newport

NEWPORT — John Stanton insists he’s not a sailor. But when the Nantucket-based journalist-turned-filmmaker completed his latest documentary, “Wood/Sails/Dreams,” he certainly made himself into an honorary one.

On Friday, Stanton’s film will be shown at Newport’s Jane Pickens Theater, helping to kick off the opening of the Newport International Boat Show, the largest boat show in New England.

The film, a 56-minute documentary narrated by Wooden Boat Magazine founder and publisher Jon Wilson, takes viewers on a journey from Nantucket to Newport, and Bristol, R.I., to Brooklin, Maine. It tells of the resurgence of the wooden boat culture and features breathtaking footage of sloops under sail and interviews with some legends from the world of wooden boat-building.

“We started out to be a 15 minute short about the early days of the Opera House Cup race,” said Stanton Tuesday morning from Nantucket. “But once we met people and got to know them and heard their stories, the bigger it got. Everyone had a story.”

The famed Opera House Cup race, the oldest wooden boat regatta on the East Coast — along with many colorful Nantucketers — plays a major role in the film.

There are also interviews with Bill Kenyon of Newport’s International Yacht Restoration School, Dan Shea of Bristol Boat Works, Halsey Herreshoff and Dyer Jones of the Herreshoff Marine Museum, Newport’s George Hill, skipper of the 12 meter yacht Weatherly, Elizabeth Tiedemann, Newport, owner of the 12-meter yachts Gleam and Northern Light, and Onne van der Wal, a nautical photographer.

Also interviewed is Steve White, son of the famous boat designer Joel White and grandson of New Yorker essayist and author E.B. White.

“The biggest challenge was balancing the beauty with the narrative,” said Stanton who serves as director and producer. “It’s very cinematic.”

Dan Driscoll, the cinematographer, has worked with Stanton on a number of documentaries.

“I really believe that my job is to put people in a different world and let them walk around in it for a while,” said Stanton

“The act of building and sailing boats made out of trees and powered by the wind is a small moment of grace in the face of a digitally enhanced world and throwaway culture,” says the film’s introduction. “But forty years ago the rise of fiberglass boats nearly pushed wooden sailboats, and the trade of building them, to the brink of extinction. “Wood/Sails/Dreams” explores the resurgence of the wooden boat culture, the restoration of American maritime history, and the to be lessons learned from the ancient craft of traditional boat building.”

“Wood/Sails/Dreams,” which premiered in June at the Nantucket Film festival and screened in August at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, will play at the Jane Pickens Theater on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.

A panel discussion with Stanton, Clark Poston, of the International Yacht Restoration School, Tiedemann and George Hill about wooden boat restoration and how the resurgence of the wooden boat culture over the last 40 years manifests itself in Newport will be held immediately following the showing.

“One of the best parts is the panel discussion afterwards,” said Stanton, a Peabody, Mass., native with a number of films to his credit. “I usually find that the people know far more than I do.”

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