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Short Takes on Film

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How much noise does a Quaker meeting make? Usually not much, unless the spirit moves someone. But at the 186-year-old South Starksboro Friends Meeting House, winter worship is punctuated by a crackling of logs, leading congregants to say they’re taking “the ministry of the stove.”

That’s the title of the four-and-a-half-minute film that won this year’s inaugural Margot George Short Film Competition, held by Focus on Film as part of the just-finished Green Mountain Film Festival. The crew of three — directors Finn and Katherine Yarbrough of Ferrisburgh, who run Earth House Productions, and Justin Rosengarten — received $1000 and a festival screening.

Judged by an independent three-person panel, the competition is open to all, says FOF executive director Donald Rae, but it will have a “solidly Vermont” theme each year. This year’s was “a celebration of Vermont’s historical and culturally significant places” — a theme dear to the late George, who cofounded the Montpelier Heritage Group.

The Yarbroughs’ film, virtually silent except for that woodstove, captures the meetinghouse’s stark architecture, the worshippers’ stillness and the scene’s integration in an autumnal landscape with a mossy cemetery. It’s visually stunning — not surprisingly, as Earth House is a professional provider of high-definition documentary footage. (Among other projects, Finn Yarbrough used his Steadicam Flyer for the Guster video, “Do What You Want,” partially shot in Bristol.)

Not all entries in the competition had rural subjects. “Last Days at Doughboy’s,” by Elizabeth Rossano — which also screened at GMFF — chronicles the closing of a Pearl Street coffee shop and Burlington institution.

Rae would like to see the contest become an institution, too — but George’s estate, he notes, provided only seed capital. His organization is “looking for additional funding to ensure that the competition flourishes for many years to come.”

“The Ministry of the Stove,” “Last Days at Doughboy’s” and “Do What You Want” can be viewed at vimeo.com (search by title). earthhouseproductions.com, greenmountainfilmfestival.org

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