PICTURE-PERFECT RETURN TO AREA
17th edition of Woodstock Film Festival set to run this week in various locales in region
WOODSTOCK >> Film lovers can choose from more than 120 films — ranging from shorts and animation to full-length documentaries and narratives — along with eight different panels, at this year’s Woodstock Film Festival.
The Festival runs Thursday through Sunday with venues in Woodstock, Rhinebeck, Kingston, Saugerties and Rosendale.
“We want to give a reflective picture of where filmmaking is,” Meira Blaustein, the Festival’s executive director and co-founder, said.
The festival seeks to highlight the wide range of subjects and styles used by a very diverse range of the independent film world. “You’ll find very little Hollywood here,” she said.
The festival, in its 17th year, celebrates creativity, artistry, strong subject matter and pas-
“It celebrates visionaries, young and old and near and far, who tell us passionate stories,” Blaustein said.
While the Woodstock Film Festival generally shies away from Hollywood, it attracts many celebrities — including Alec Baldwin, who will be in town Thursday night for the world premiere of “Blind.”
“Blind” tells the story of Bill Oakland, an awardwinning novelist who loses his wife and his site in a terrible car crash.
“He’s really good in it,” saod Blaustein, adding that past stars have included Peter Gabriel.
“We have a lot of them,” Blaustein said. “It’s really, really wonderful to have them. I’m thrilled he’s coming, but I’m also thrilled young filmmakers from China are coming.”
Blaustein said she takes great pride in how the festival pairs some of the most accomplished names in the film industry with those just starting out. She recalled how she often sees well-known filmmakers being whisked away by limos at the end of screenings at other festivals, adding that does not happen at the Woodstock Film Festival.
“It’s very Democratic here. There’s no caste system, no one being whisked away in limos,” Blaustein said. “There’s a great mixture of those at top and those just starting out.”
Like years past, the festival’s lineup is comprised of a mixture of films shot all over the word, across the U.S. — including the Hudson Valley.
“11:55,” a Latino-centric film shot in Newburgh, centers around veterans returning home from combat.
“It’s all about the transition from that space back to the community,” she said. “How easy or hard is it?”
The film makes its New York premiere at Upstate Films in Woodstock at 1 p.m. Thursday and at the Rosendale Theatre at noon on Sunday.
“Everyone is going to be here form the cast to the crew,” Blaustein said.
Shot in the KingstonArea, “Little Boxes” is about a multi-racial family who moves from Brooklyn to a small town on the West Coast. It will be screened at the Rosendale Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and at 11:45 a.m. Sunday at the Woodstock Playhouse.
“In Brooklyn, they’re a normalcy, and in that little town they were an oddity,” Blaustein said. “They’re living a multiracial life in white America. The filmmaker and cast will also be on hand for this film.”
“My First Kiss and The People Involved,” shot in Delaware County, makes its East Coast premier.
“It was made with a very low budget,” Blaustein said. “It’s about an autistic, nonverbal young women who lives in a group home. How she deals with living in a group home and how she deals with a murder.”
Other highlights include the documentary “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing,” scheduled to be screened at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck at 6 p.m. Friday and at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday.
“The movie is really about the survivors of the marathon bombing, and the power of the human spirit,” Blaustein said. “It’s done so beautifully,”
Three survivors of the April 15, 2013 bombings will join the directors for the screenings, she said.
“It’s really worth it to see the film, and be inspired by the humanity of it,” Blaustein said. “Neruda,” a Spanish Language film, tells the story of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
“It’s political, but extremely poetic,” said Blaustein, speaking of the film which will be shown at the Woodstock Playhouse at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
In 17 years filmmaking technology has gone through rapid change from film to video and digital, she said. While filmmaking is easier than ever from a technical standpoint, Blaustein said a film is still driven by a film.
“Rather it’s become easier to pick up a camera, it’s just as complicated for an artist to create and come up with a good story that will move you,” Blaustein said. “You have to have a good story and know how to tell it.
“There’s far more films that are out there, especially documentaries, that delve into stories far deeper than any journalist can.”
These have the power that to bring us anything that takes place, she added.
“We have a few films about revolutions shot right in the midst of them,” Blaustein said. “The filmmakers are often imbedded at the risk of their own lives telling stories that can move us.”
Film buffs can also choose from eight different panels at the Kleinert/ James Center near the Village Green.
“We bring some strong interesting members in their fields,” Blaustein said. “They have 30 minutes to an one hour to converse with the audience and explain what they do and things related to what they do. “It’s inspiring and fun.” This year’s festival features a record number of women-driven panels, Blaustein said.
At 2 p.m. Saturday is “Women in Film and Media,” and at 2 p.m. Sunday is a panel on feminism in the Middle East.
Blaustein said this panel, pairing academics and these women, complements the “The Promised Band,” a documentary about a group of Palestinian Young women who befriended each other and created a band just as excused to crisscross borders.
The “Telling Their Stories” panel at noon on Sunday at Kleinert James Center features Delaware County resident Roger Ross Williams, an Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker.
The audience can chat with the panelists after each session, Blaustein said.
“Nobody is whisking them away,” Blaustein said. “That’s a wonderful opportunity.
“There’s a casual atmosphere with really, really great people in the field.”
At the Maverick Awards ceremony at BSP on Wall Street in Uptown Kingston, starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, Participant Media CEO David Linde, will receive the Trailblazer Award. Writer, director and producer Oren Moverman will receive the Fiercely Independent Award, while the Lifetime Achievement Award will go to producer, editor and cinematographer Leon Gast.
As for finding the perfect balance of local, national and international talent to fill out the Festival, Blaustein said she isn’t sure that is even possible.
“I don’t know if we ever find the perfect balance,” she said. “I think we’re looking for a diverse lineup.”
The window of the festival headquarters on Rock City Road in Woodstock.
Woodstock Film Festival Executive Director Meira Blaustein in the box office on Rock City Road in Woodstock.
An old film reel sits in the box office window at the Woodstock Film Festival.
Woodstock Film Festival press staff in the upstairs office at the festival headquarters on Rock City Road in Woodstock. From left are: Press Director Deb Medenbach, Deputy Press Director Kaela Garrett , and Press Assistant Rachel Wells.
This year’s art work for the Woodstock Film Festival.