This article appeared in the Townsman, October 2 edition
Woodstock, October 1
The ninth annual Woodstock Film Festival (October 1 - 5), which kicked off with an array of films, panels and concerts spread over venues that far transcend the Woodstock border, has come a long way, baby. Once a modest affair restricted to a few venues in Woodstock, it is now noted for its vast breadth of styles and tastes in film making, and for attracting top-notch actors, directors and writers to the event. Just about everything in film, from long to short, tragic to comic, real to animated, name it and it will most likely be found somewhere in the scheduled screenings.
So what else is new?
If you are a film aficionado and want to learn a few things about the industry (aside from turning out the lights before running a reel), try attending some of the panels; this year's line-up looks potent.
Film making still seem like a man's game? Let's hear from the ladies, who will be hosting a panel, "AMAZING WOMEN IN FILM" at the Utopia Studios (next to the Bearsville Theatre) on October 4 at 10:00 AM (admission $15.00). "Women in the film industry continue to carve a strong and meaningful path in a world that used to be traditionally dominated by men," says the program note. "With more women sitting in the Director's Chair and holding top positions as executives, producers and administrators, has the balance finally shifted to a point of equality?" Wow, this could be good, especially since "word has it" there is going to be plenty of humor. Thelma Adams, who currently writes film reviews for US Weekly and contributes regularly to The Independent, The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, The Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post and Indie Magazine will moderate the panel that includes actor/producer Maggie Renzi, actor Rita Taggart ("Weeds," how special for Woodstock!), and two-time Academy Award¨ winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple. Google them, believe me, these are very accomplished women.
How about a close up "CONVERSATION WITH HONORARY TRAILBLAZER RECIPIENT JAMES SCHAMUS" at the Utopia Studios October 4, at 12:00PM (admission $ 15)? Mr Schamus, when not busy as a professor in Columbia University's School of the Arts, is perhaps best known for his longtime collaboration with writer/director Ang Lee, with whom he co-wrote and produced such films as Eat Drink Man Woman, The Ice Storm, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The moderator for this conversation, Karen Durbin, is the film critic for Elle magazine, where she also writes features, and articles on film for the Sunday Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times. Hey, let's hope she gets in the conversation, too.
What about those films that focus on environmental, political or social issues; do they make a difference or just sell popcorn? Find out at "MOVIES THAT MATTER: DO THEY COUNT?" at the Utopia Studios October 5 at 10:00AM (admission $ 15). "In helping to define the fabric of our culture, do filmmakers have a responsibility to address social issues?" is the question on the table. The discussion promises to explore "the impetus, the process and the impact of movies that matter on our world." Moderated by David D'Arcy, a critic for Screen International and who writes regularly for a wide range of publications, he is also a frequent commentator for BBC. The panel will include John Sayles (you read that right; writer/director of "Return of the Secaucus Seven"), Haskell Wexler, the noted cinematographer ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," another must-see for Woodstockers), Morgan Spurlock, writer/producer/director ("Super Size Me"), and producer Pamela Yates ("Witness to War"). Probably best to leave the popcorn home for this.
The above are just a taste, and say little about the huge variety of films, which have always received at least interest and in most cases out right kudos. It's not too late to get in on the action; tickets for films, panels and concerts (Wow, Donovan; alas sold out) are available on line from woodstockfilmfestival.com or at the box office located at 13 Rock City Road (across from the Chamber of Commerce building) between the hours of 9am and 7pm (the box office will close at noon on October 5), or call 845-810-0131 for information.