Thursday, October 16, 2008

Woodstock Film Festival A Success

This article appeared in the Townsman, October 9 edition

Woodstock, October 3, 4 & 5, 2008

The best one-liner award for the 2008 Woodstock Film Festival goes to actor/director Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Chasing Amy"), who in accepting the 2008 Honorary Maverick Award said to the crowd of film industry buffs and pros, "In any other year it would be better to be a 'maverick.'" The crowd at Backstage Productions, the theater venue on Wall Street in Kingston, variously estimated from 300 to 500 people roared its appreciation before sitting back for Mr. Smith's subsequent droll remarks that cannot be printed in this family newspaper.

The Saturday night award ceremony included speeches and/or presentations by John Sayles ("Return Of The Secaucus Seven"), actor David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck"), cinematographer Haskell Wexler ("One Flew Over…" and this year's winner recipient of the Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award), and Woodstocker Pamela Marvin, who presented the Lee Marvin Best Feature Narrative Award (Sean Baker for his "Prince of Broadway"), which she had established in the name of her deceased husband. In another highlight, director Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain"), presented The Honorary Trailblazer Award to James Shamus, CEO of Focus Features and award winning writer/producer.

By many estimates the 2008 "fiercely independent" Woodstock Film Festival, now an annual event that started with the new century in 2000, has been the biggest so far with festival reps claiming record attendance and receiving kudos from the many professionals who participated and legions of attendees of the films, concerts and panels that were part of the program. "It was wonderful too see how the festival has grown and still has maintained its particular charm and eccentricity and hands on feel... Brava!" was actor David Strathairn's take. "…Amazingly warm and welcoming and genuine," according to James Schamus. "Film is connectivity, and it is appropriate for this festival to be in Woodstock."

Woodstock town supervisor Jeff Moran, who saw several of the films said, "What is wonderful about the Festival is how approachable the film makers. You won't see this anywhere else." Moran was particularly impressed by "Diplomacy," a Danish documentary concerned with efforts in the United Nations to stop the Darfur genocide. When prompted to dwell on a more prosaic level, Moran noted how extremely busy the town was and he hoped the area merchants were benefited.

Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Arts spokesman Barry Samuels thought they were. "We are happy to host this prestigious event, which has put our name out there to the world again." He described the many attendees as providing "a great atmosphere" in the town. On a personal note he added, "Being the owner of an independent book store I am very proud of our 'fiercely independent' film festival."

Peter Cantine, partner in the Bearsville complex, which includes the Bearsville Theater praised the event not only for the talent it attracts but adding "It's good for business and good for the community."

Next year the 2009 Woodstock Film Festival is slated to run from September 30 to October 4. The sponsors are promising great things to occur during this tenth anniversary event.

On a final note, local artists Steve Heller and Karen Whitman designed and created the Maverick Award Trophy and this year's official Film Festival poster respectively.

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