In his critically acclaimed film, Charles Frank ’13 returns to Martha’s Vineyard to explore how a community deals with loss
In his feature documentary debut, Somewhere With No Bridges, streaming on Apple TV+, Amazon, and Vimeo, director Charles Frank ’13 explores the lasting impact of one charismatic man’s life and sudden death on a close-knit New England island community. Fisherman and shellfish constable Richie Madeiras went missing from his boat off Martha’s Vineyard, the title’s place with no bridges, while alone at sea in 1999. Divers recovered his body three days later. Some 20 years later, Frank—Madeiras’ distant cousin—returned to Martha’s Vineyard, where his family has deep roots, to try to understand the character he’d grown up hearing stories about.
“I was a very young child when he died,” Frank says. “I wanted to know who this almost mythic figure was who touched all these people so that their faces and their eyes lit up when they talked about him.”
Praised as a “universal reflection on grief, memory, and time” by Film Librarian and “a celebration of life like you’ve never seen” by Screentology, Somewhere With No Bridges won the audience choice award at the 2020 Salem Film Festival. To make the movie, Frank spent weeks roaming the island with a camera, probing beyond the transient glamorous summer scene to get to know the people and places that defined Madeiras’ life. What begins to emerge from the film’s sensitive use of original interviews with surviving family and friends, archival material, and mesmerizing shots of the Vineyard’s transcendent natural beauty is a portrait not only of the missing man but of the place he loved and the year-rounders who, in the face of seismic economic shifts, proudly call it home.
“There is definitely a magical feeling on the island,” Frank says. “There are moments that happen in nature there that feel like a glimpse through the veil, a connection to something bigger. Making the film, I realized, ‘OK, I get why the people who live here, have lived here for generations, don’t want to ever leave.’ Even as it becomes increasingly difficult, they are fighting to stay on this island.”
A founding partner of Brooklyn-based production company Voyager, where he does branded work for clients such as McDonald’s, Facebook, and Jack Daniel’s in addition to making independent movies, Frank broke into the industry through an internship he landed while at Williston.
“A production company gave a presentation on campus, and the school connected me with them,” he explains. “The company ended up offering me a summer internship. Williston was so incredibly supportive of my interest in film and gave me so much space to explore it, making short films in Arts Intensive for the Williston Film Festival, working with Mr. Hing on an independent study of the director David Fincher my senior year. I’m forever grateful.”
Before turning to feature-length documentary with Somewhere With No Bridges, Frank achieved critical success with several short works. Among his Vimeo-steaming fan favorites are Junk Mail, the story of a spirited 98-year-old woman who refuses to succumb to the loneliness of aging, and The Ultimate Running Machine, about a New Yorker who takes up marathoning after suffering a debilitating brain injury in a mugging.
“I’m inspired by the stories of real people,” Frank says. “There is so much that is compelling and interesting and meaningful. As a filmmaker, I try to tell people’s stories in an ethical way that honors them.”