Later, following last week’s announcement of the nearly 150 films that would be unspooling (including eleven world, two North American, 20 U.S., 14 East Coast and 13 New York premieres), word started slipping about some of the celebrities who’d be coming to Woodstock when the WFF unfolds from the evening of Wednesday, September 29 through Sunday, October 3 in Woodstock, Rhinebeck, Rosendale, Mt. Tremper, and Kingston.
The first round of names included Edie Falco, Adrian Grenier, Danny Glover, Edward Burns, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Tess Harper, Larry Fessenden, Bruce Beresford, Barbara Kopple, Ray Kurzweil, and a long list of industry stars, many of them on the business side of things. Then came the spine chillers such as Keanu Reeves, who’ll be receiving a special Excellence in Acting Award. And Oscar-nominated Melissa Leo. Plus James Gandolfini of Sopranos fame. Edward Norton and Robert DeNiro, spotlighted in the festival’s closing night film, Stone. Plus, for those really wanting star power, Kristin Stewart of the Twilight flms.
And yet, in the end, wasn’t it more the actual movies, culled from over 1500 worldwide entries, that would end up drawing most of our celebrity-weary Woodstockers in the final rounds? What’s showing that’s hot, that will not be seen easily other than at such a festival?
Three to look for
As has been customary in recent years, WFF staff sent over an initial three works they felt were emblematic of the riches their festival’s become expert at delivering, year in and year out. And, as has also become usual, all ended up being superb finds, and logical choices for the “best of the best” sort of venue WFF has become over the years, beyond its key focuses on maverick filmmakers and industry pioneers, music films, socially responsible issue-oriented works, and all that our Hudson valley region’s been producing, cinematically, over the last decade.
God Of Love, Brooklyn-based Luke Matheny’s NYU thesis film that ended up the gold medal winner at the 2010 Student Academy, reveals a new triple threat comedian in the tradition of Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, and all the silent greats…albeit in a self-consciously post-modernist manner that plays its humor subtly through use of camera angles and twisty plotting as much as any actorly schtick (beyond Matheny’s looks). At 18 minutes, it’s just the sort of film one almost never sees outside of festival settings. But also a first hint at a great talent coming around the bend.
3 Backyards, directed by Eric Mendelsohn and starring Edie Falco and Elias Koteas, won the Best Director award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival last winter, making Mendelsohn the only director to have taken the prize twice, with his first film Judy Berlin also winning a few years back (as well as getting major play at Cannes.) A bleached-out suburban meditation on modern alienation sort of like last year’s Up In The Air, 3 Backyards will end up being harder to find, but likely prove a more lasting treasure in what promises to be a singular cinema visionary’s career. It’s truly different, in its look and screenwriting, yet also completely contemporary in the ways in which it engages so many current themes not better explored in everyday lives.
Finally, Marwencol, the Jeff Malmberg documentary that won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival last Spring and will be released theatrically this autumn, is special not only for its odd story of a man who rehabilitates himself from a bar attack leaves him with no memory, using dolls and a self-invented World War II scenario, but for the fact that this will be the Kingston-based work’s New York Premiere. The movie’s subject, Mark Hogancamp, turns out to not only be a native of our area, with local sites playing roles throughout the film, but also becomes a New York art star of sorts when locally-based artists and curators, including Tod Lippy of Esopus Magazine, recognize the odd beauty of his photographed scenes and “introduce” him via a major gallery art show.
Even though Marwencol will get wider play over the coming months, there’s something truly heart-warming and almost conspiratorial about seeing such a work for the first time within its context, just as catching short and challenging works such as God of Love and 3 Backyards in festivals is a must for anyone as interested in film’s future as its past or present.
Already on sale
Among highlighted films whose tickets are currently on sale for the upcoming festival are a slew of ready-to-release works with star power.
The afore-mentioned Stone, with De Niro and Norton, is the latest from director John Curran (We Don’t Live Here Anymore and The Painted Veil), who will answer questions after his screening. Henry’s Crime, with Reeves, Farmiga and James Caan, is expected to deepen its star’s reputation as an actor’s actor. Baltasar Kormakur’s Inhale, with Dermot Mulroney, Diane Kruger and Sam Shepard, is the Icelandic director’s North American debut. Welcome To The Rileys, with Leo, Gandolfini and Stewart as a teenage runaway, is being given a special spot as the festival’s centerpiece work.
On the documentary side of things, Lennon NYC features a new take on (and new footage from) John and Yoko’s early years as U.S. residents; while The Singularity is Near brings to life visionary Ray Kurzweil’s take on the present and future, scientifically and ethically, under his own co-direction.
For fun, look no further than the already hot ticket Fright Night Friday featuring a simultaneous “double horror header” including Vincent D’Onofrio’s slasher/musical debut as a director, Don’t Go In The Woods, with the latest Larry Fessndon/Glass Eye Pix production, Joe Maggio’s Bitter Feast, co-starring the Olive-based film legend and James LeGros. Rounding out the program will be a concert and a feast involving Italian cooking legend Mario Batali, who makes a cameo in Bitter Feast, all at the Emerson Resort in Mt. Tremper.
Music films, and concerts this year include looks at the careers of Ray Charles and Phil Ochs, as well as plenty of punk, bluegrass, jazz and reggae. Political works cover a gamut of hot-button issues, from gerrymandering and wind farms to Afghanistan, animal rights, and Gulf Coast water.
Talk and prizes
Panel discussions and workshops, a key draw for participants as well as the region’s true film fans and wannabe professionals, will include talk about music in film; an Actor’s Dialogue with Edie Falco; a discussion on the topic, “Technology & Humans — What Does The Future Hold?” with Kurzweil and his peers; film marketing and publicity tips, distribution talk, and moviemaking legal issues; a look at Amazing Women in Film; looks into the craft of making documentaries; as well as something about how one can improve the planet “with the power of film.”
Film prizes, in addition to the awards going to Reeves, director Bruce Beresord, and distributor Bob Berney, will be decided by industry leaders in a host of categories, with Griffin Dunne, Barbara Kopple, Leon Gast, Ron Mann, Amos Poe, Bill Plympton, and Haskell Wexler on a host of juries watching everything that screens.
And that’s all outside of the parties, the people-watching, and the buzz that will be swallowing the streets of Woodstock at the end of this month when the 11th annual Woodstock Film Festival gets underway.
Too much to fit all In one story? You got it…
But plenty to run and spend some time with the WFF’s catalogue, either picked up from their box office at 13 Rock City Rd., Woodstock or online at www.woodstockfilmfestival.com.
“We have an extraordinarily diverse program this year that challenges the way we perceive and think about the world,” added Blaustein. “We are proud to present a line-up that explores our innate desire to make personal connections, while reflecting on the cautionary aspects of the changing technological and environmental landscape. We need these talented filmmakers to illuminate the dark waters, helping us see beyond current perceptions, and like so many of our films, find hope and inspiration in the future.”
Remember, it all runs from Wednesday, September 29 through Sunday, October 3 all around town, and the surrounding area. And we’ll be having more on local films, special events, and local volunteers making this all happen over the coming weeks…++
Call 810-0131 for further information.