At Aspen Filmfest, plane crash survivors Mark and Andy Godfrey discuss new documentary ‘3 Days 2 Nights’ | AspenTimes.com

At Aspen Filmfest, plane crash survivors Mark and Andy Godfrey discuss new documentary ‘3 Days 2 Nights’

Andrew Travers and David Krause
The Aspen Times

A standing ovation greeted Mark and Andy Godfrey as they took the stage of the Wheeler Opera House on Wednesday night, after a sold-out Aspen Filmfest screening of the documentary "3 Days 2 Nights" about the brothers confronting the long-festering trauma of a 1974 plane crash that killed their parents and two siblings.

The film was directed by the Godfreys' lifelong friend John Breen, who joined them for the post-screening talk moderated by Aspen Film Executive Director Susan Wrubel.

At ages 11 and 8, Mark and Andy Godfrey survived a horrific crash on their way to an Aspen ski vacation from Houston. The pair stayed alive in the wreckage for three snow-bound days on a mountainside outside of Glenwood Springs before an unlikely rescue. For nearly four decades that followed, they rarely discussed the tragedy privately or publicly.

Andy broke his silence in a 2012 essay for the Aspen Times Weekly. He and Mark both open up and attempt to mend their frayed relationship in the film, which was five years in the making.

"Thirty-eight years without talking about this, I don't think that's healthy," Andy told the Filmfest audience. "That's one of the messages we're trying to get across: Good things really can come from talking about it."

The brothers hope the film can inspire others to open up and heal.

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"I know there was a lot of Andy and I in the footage, but from my standpoint, the movie is really a mirror upon which the viewer can kind of look at their life, their relationships and really be grateful for all the family they have, and the support they have and all the good moments they're able to enjoy each and every day," Mark said. "As you get a taste in the film, I have to remind myself of that: live the moment."

"3 Days 2 Nights" is still a work in progress, but Breen wanted to bring it to Filmfest and make this hometown audience — which included longtime friends and classmates and family, including their sister Paula — the first to share it with Andy and Mark. It also will screen Saturday in Carbondale.

"This movie would not have happened without John, because he knew us before and he knew us after," Mark told the festival audience. "And I think Andy and I trusted him implicitly from day one that he knew what the story was and he would be able to put together the arch of the story."

The brothers, along with Paula — who was a baby at the time of the crash and had stayed behind with family in Houston — settled in Aspen after the tragedy and were raised by their aunt and uncle Marianne and Johnny Schuhmacher. Andy, who still lives here, described the Aspen family as "like the 'Brady Bunch.'"

"They had their three kids, and the three of us came in, and all of a sudden it was a family of six kids and total chaos," he said.

One touching section of the film depicts the folk singer John Denver's visits to Mark and Andy in the hospital, singing songs with the boys as they were treated for their injuries. Asked about the Denver visits by an audience member Wednesday, Andy said that the Denver estate had been unaware of his relationship with the boys.

"What I would remember is the hospital would just stand still and there would be 20 nurses and doctors cramming in the doorway to see him," Mark added. "And there he was sitting there and laughing and saying 'Far out!'"

Denver's death in an aviation accident remains a haunting fact for the brothers.

"That thread in the story is just beyond belief," Andy said, recalling seeing Denver in the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain during the winter before his untimely death and adding: "I was going to go over and say hello. But I thought, 'Oh, I'll see him another time.' But you just never know. So don't miss that opportunity to say 'hello' to somebody."

The film mixes footage of the Godfrey brothers today with idyllic home movies of the family before the crash. Emotionally raw and intensely personal, it brings the Godfreys back to the site of the crash — where plane debris remains — and to their childhood home in Houston. It reunites them with the boy who witnessed the crash from Sunlight Mountain and alerted authorities, along with the rescue pilot who plucked them from the wreckage. It also challenges the brothers to confront the pain and loss they'd largely hidden for four decades.

The filmmaking experience, they said, was transformative.

"It's brought my family much closer together," Mark told the audience. "Clearly it's brought Andy and I closer together. It's brought us closer together with Paula. I think these are dividends we didn't expect going through this process. I'm just incredibly grateful to John for all his leadership and vision and his confidence and putting this whole thing together. I'm just overwhelmed."

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO …

What: ‘3 Days 2 Nights’ at Aspen Filmfest

Where: Crystal Theatre, Carbondale

When: Saturday, Sept. 29, 5:30 p.m.

How much: $20 ($15 for Aspen Film members)

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; aspenshowtix.com

More info: aspenfilm.org

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Read Andy Godfrey’s 2012 Aspen Times Weekly essay about the plane crash and aftermath here.

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Read the Aspen Times recent feature story on ‘3 Days 2 Nights’ here.

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