BAR HARBOR — “It was almost like mini-civil war,” Scott McFarland says in a new documentary about the founding of Mount Desert Island High School, “because you had all these towns that, through the years, for generations, had a strong rivalry against each other. And all of a sudden, now, you’re putting them in the same school.”
The film, “Consolidation: The Story of Mount Desert Island High School,” is set to premiere Sunday, Sept. 1 at 3 p.m. at the Criterion. The film explores the dynamics and tensions that came with having three rival schools become one — and the ways in which the high school unified the island community, and continues to do so today.
It’s the second documentary project by Director Peter Logue, Executive Producer Kim Swan and the Bar Harbor Historical Society.
There was so much excitement behind their first project “The Fire of ’47,” which commemorates the 70th anniversary of that event, that capacity crowds packed The Criterion Theater twice in October 2017 to see it.
“I was able to assemble the same creative team that made ‘The Fire of ’47,'” Logue said, including narrator Steve Zirnkilton, “and my hope is that this feels like a continuation of that project.
“In fact, the film opens only two years later, in 1949, by exploring the educational survey that began the consolidation effort in earnest.”
The fire and the high school consolidation, he said, “stand out as the [events] that made the largest impact on the way that we live our lives today.”
Jamie Gonzales, a member of the Mount Desert Island High School class of 1969 and school staff member for more than 40 years, is one of the featured voices.
Gonzalez spent his first three years of high school in Northeast Harbor and his senior year at the new, consolidated high school.
He took the summer off, then came back to the school to work as a custodian in the fall. He held the job until 2015, when he was honored with a surprise retirement ceremony at a home basketball game.
Gonzales is one of 16 students from that “pilot year” interviewed by Logue for the film. John Walls, the school’s first assistant principal, former teachers and current students are also featured. Logue collected more than 15 hours of interview footage, and he said he said collaborating with those subjects was his favorite part of the project.
The film premiere comes as new conversations about increased collaboration between towns, schools and institutions are very much a part of public discourse on MDI.
“I really think, and hope, that Peter’s film is going to prompt an islandwide conversation about how we can work together in the future, especially in the nonprofit sector,” Swan said. “I think collaboration is a beautiful thing and I hope by realizing how many hurdles were jumped to get us to a MDIHS, we can see everything is achievable if we are willing to work hard and work together in pursuit of a common goal.”
A special publication from the Islander commemorating the school’s 50th anniversary will also be available at the premiere.
Tickets are $10-15 and are available on the Criterion’s webiste. Visit the Bar Harbor Historical Society on Facebook.