Mark Doerrier was at Ground Zero on 9/11. Afterward, he took time off to reconsider his own life. He had been producing and filming shows for Japanese television for 14 years. He asked himself, What would he make his own film about?
In March 2002, he saw an article in the Times Herald-Record
about a water shortage in Goshen and began to investigate. The village had decided to run a temporary aboveground pipeline from the village of Florida, five miles away. One landowner, however, refused Goshen right-of-way through his property. His name was (appropriately enough) Chester LeBaron. A long legal struggle between LeBaron and Goshen Mayor Marcia Mattheus ensued. Doerrier began visiting Goshen twice a week. After two weeks, he started filming.
His first movie, In the Land of Goshen
, is the result.
Doerrier’s father owned a small construction company in Babylon, Long Island. He wished his son to be an engineer; instead, Mark studied art at SUNY Buffalo. Perhaps that’s why the camera lingers so lovingly on the engineering crises of the Goshen Department of Public Works. (Just as the pipeline is finally completed, it springs a leak. We follow the crew as they hurriedly drain the water to repair the blown gasket.) There is something terrifying about a town that cannot supply drinking water to its citizens—especially as it brings to mind prophecies of numerous water wars in the next century.
While working on this story, Doerrier discovered that harness racing was invented in Goshen in 1838, growing out of informal races between speedy local farmers. Doerrier met Howard “Doc” Gill, a veterinarian turned horse trainer who owns 30 horses. The movie follows Gill as he trains Miss Gibbons, who will become his most successful mare. The search for potable water and the search for a winning horse intertwine in In the Land of Goshen
Goshen native Sgt. John McLoughlin, the police officer who was buried for 22 hours under rubble in the World Trade Center, appears in the film on the first Memorial Day after 9/11. (Oliver Stone’s recent movie, World Trade Center
, was based on his story.) As he walks up to the podium on crutches, his face is a study in anxiety, gratitude, and suffering. He thanks the town of Goshen, and tears fill his eyes.
In the Land of Goshen
doesn’t offer a simple, inspirational message like Hollywood movies—or even most documentaries. From his years of filming for the Japanese, Doerrier has developed an Eastern aesthetic. His movie is gentle, inconclusive—Hudson Valley Zen. (Also, he is the best cinematographer of statues I’ve ever seen.) Its “message” may come to you three weeks later, while you’re chopping onions.
In the Land of Goshen
screens January 27 at 2pm at the Yellow Bird Gallery’s Downing Film Center, 19 Front St., Newburgh; (845) 561-3686. Dorrier will also present an excerpt from the film at this month’s Cafe Chronogram salon at Art on Wall, 288 Wall St., Kingston, on January 6 at 8pm. The event also features music by David Perry and art by Kevin Paulsen. www.chronogram.com