Film : Family ties
Two documentaries will play on the Island next week as part of separate film series. One, "House of Bones," concerns a West Chop family. The other, "Phyllis and Harold," chronicles the life of a Long Island family, where so much is hidden beneath the surface that the film couldn't be released until Phyllis and Harold, the parents, died.
Born and raised on the Island, actor Victoria (Tori) Campbell watched her family's West Chop summer estate go out of the family. Almost at the same time, her grandmother, Beebee Howland, the family matriarch who had owned the house, died.
Ms. Campbell recorded both events, which occurred in 2006, and has produced "House of Bones," a documentary rich in family and West Chop history. It will premiere Tuesday, August 5, at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, sponsored by the Martha's Vineyard Film Society.
The film's title comes not from the skeletons rattling around in closets - although there are plenty of those - but from a friend's description of the Campbell abode as a house of "good bones." With its 10 bedrooms and extensive garden, the Howland house was for four generations a gathering place for friends, neighbors, and an array of always interesting guests. "Chaos" is the happy description of summer life there.
Although they built and lived in another, year-round house nearby, Ms. Campbell's parents, Dolly Campbell, who manages the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven, and Bruce Campbell, who runs a Louisiana bio-fuel trucking company, moved to the big house and kept it going during the summer.
In addition to Ms. Campbell's parents, the cast of characters includes Dolly Campbell's best friend from childhood, Jeannie Goodman. "It's so boring now. Nobody is having an affair," Ms. Goodman jokes in the film.
Dolly's sister, Aunt Libby Howland, is the sanest and smartest of the four siblings, and her husband Duncan Hazlewood is a quiet, introspective painter. Dolly's other sister, Jenny, works as a school teacher, and her brother, Wilder, is at odds with Bruce. The filmmaker's brother, Seth, serves in the military, and is married to a hairdresser named Jacquie.
The Howland summer estate evokes the glories of a former era, when old-money bluebloods could afford servants, the cost of upkeep for their "beautiful old ark," and the grand-scale parties thrown there. "House of Bones" tactfully records some of the Island's class tensions and how the "old order" of Vineyard summer people has begun to erode.