Connecting in a place with no bridges

Documentary explores memories of Islander Richie Madeiras.

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Filmmaker Charles Frank began a deep dive into the life of his first cousin once removed, the late Richie Madeiras, by running an ad in an Island newspaper searching for those who had a memory to share about him. Madeiras, who Frank always knew as his uncle rather than a cousin, was an Island native and former Oak Bluffs shellfish warden who drowned off East Chop in 1999. Frank was looking to create a documentary about the life of this man who had such a legacy within his family. Filmed in 2020, “Somewhere with No Bridges” is now available to screen via Amazon, Apple TV, and Vimeo. 

“It was a multi-year project. We filmed for two years and edited for about a year and a half. It was kind of a long-term, slow-burn type of project. Very exciting that it’s available now for everyone to see,” Frank told the Times. 

Frank grew up in Western Massachusetts and never really got to know his uncle. However, the stories Frank heard from his family about Madeiras made him a larger-than-life character. 

“He took on this near-mythic figure in my life just because of how much I’ve heard about him. I think as I got older, I wanted to get closer to him in some way because I never had the chance to, and everybody shared these loving and beautiful stories about him,” Frank told the Times. “I felt like I missed out in a way.” 

To make the documentary, Frank co-founded the production company Voyager with Andrew Hutcheson. This allowed him a high level of creative freedom for the project. 

“I was given a really rare opportunity to kind of go out and share this story the way that felt right to me,” Frank said, adding he worked with some incredible people to accomplish the film — from the crew to the Islanders who knew Madeiras. 

The love for Madeiras and his memory layered the words from those who knew him in the film. 

“He was in the boat all the time. He just lived in the boat. He was probably the best small boat guy going,” Mike Manza, a friend of Madeiras, says in the film. Manza’s anecdote of Madeiros’ coastal life was followed by a montage of Madeiras’ friends, talking about various memories they had. From Rick Karney saying Madeiras “just had things going” while they scalloped to Angelo DiMeglio remembering the time Madeiras knocked out two guys “who were being wise to him” at a bar, his friends and family spoke about him.

“Not that he was a saint and all that,” retired Times’ Oak Bluffs columnist Megan Alley says with a chuckle in the documentary. “But that’s OK. He was human.” 

Susie Madeiras, Richie Madeiras’ wife, said she remembered asking him if he and the family could be normal for one weekend, smiling and laughing while she told the story in the film. 

Various friends describe Richie in the film saying, “He wasn’t a [physically] big man, but he was a big man” with a “huge personality.” He was a “freaking dynamo.”

“I can see him now,” one of them says with a laugh, remembering the energy Richie embodied. 

The documentary portrays Madeiras as someone who “what you saw in Richie was what you got from Richie,” and he was loved for that and more. Many of Madeiros’ loved ones and friends shed or held back tears while talking about him. 

Richie’s love for his children, Elyse and Ben Madeiras, was another aspect of his legacy. 

“He was really proud of the kids. I think that was the proudest accomplishment he felt that he’d ever done in his life, that he could have these two awesome kids,” Susie says. 

These anecdotes and messages from those who knew Richie on Martha’s Vineyard paints a portrait of the kind of man he was, which was Frank’s intent as he developed the film. 

During the latter part of the documentary, Frank showed a parallel between the relationship Richie had with Mark Landers through the friendship of their sons, Ben Madeiras and Lucas Landers. The two young men were shown doing many things together on the Island, from past birthday parties to current-day fishing in rough weather. Frank wanted to show through these two, and the people they interact with, the legacy and impact Richie left on the Island. 

Frank had another message to send to people alongside Richie’s story. He wanted to encourage people to reach out to those they know who are distant from them “even if there seems to be no bridge there.” 

“My hope is that whether or not an audience knows Richie, knew Richie, that this film would make them look inward into their lives and think about somebody they might feel distant from for one reason or another,” Frank said. “Maybe it would move them to get closer to them, whether they’re still here with us or not. I think one thing I learned is that though I never got to know Richie when he was alive, I got the chance to get to know him through everyone that knew him well and I feel closer to him now more than ever. I hope the film can move people to go on a similar journey and try to build a connection where it seems like there might not be one.”