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2010 Woodstock Film Festival Overviewby Ross Rice

Not just independent, but FIERCELY independent: it is indeed a suitable motto for the Woodstock Film Festival, which has become a cinema festival favorite over the years, providing a mellow small- town contrast to the more jangly hustle vibe of say, Sundance or Toronto. Now in its 11th year, the WFF celebrates films and filmmakers for four days, with panels, award ceremonies, musical performances, and of course, multiple screenings in theatres spread out around the immediate area and easily accessed.

WFF and the Hudson Valley Film Commission (HVFC) have been busy since last year’s successful season. The power of cinema has been in full effect; screenings of The Dry Land—with stars America Ferrera and Melissa Leo in attendance at the Rosendale Theatre—and Josh Fox’s hydrofracking documentary Gasland, at Onteora High School, raised consciousness about pressing issues of war and water, while drawing sellout audiences to meet the filmmakers. Public discussion and debate following the screenings has since resulted in real interest and activism. Meanwhile, the region has been quite a hot spot for filming lately, with several in production including Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground, and Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding, starring a distinctly hippie-fied Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener, directed by the well-seasoned Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies).

Beresford (see Roll feature) will also be on hand to receive the WFF Maverick Award during the Gala Award Ceremony at BackStage Productions in Kingston on October 2, along with film distribution “guru” and Trailblazer Award winner Bob Berney, and Excellence in Acting Award winner Keanu Reeves.

It’s hard to believe that WFF and HVFC have managed to do so much without a functional facility for a home base, just small offices around town and rented spaces. With their Capital Campaign this year, they’re making a push to secure property on Rock City Road (Woodstock) to build a Film Center, somewhere that can accommodate office and production space, as well occasional screenings. It’s long overdue; says WFF Executive Director Meira Blaustein, “We spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and a ton of money scrambling to find and renovate space each year to fulfill our needs, so the new Film Center offers us the opportunity to consolidate and grow to continue providing extraordinary programming and economic benefit to the region.” (See the festival website for more about making a meaningful donation to this worthy cause.)

Confirmed participants this year include (but are not limited to) Adrian Grenier, Annie Sundberg, Barbara Kopple, Bill Plympton, Bingham Ray, Bob Berney, Bruce Beresford, Doreen Ringer Ross, Ed Koch, Edie Falco, Edward Burns, Fisher Stevens, Gary Springer, Heidi Ewing, Joe Berlinger, John Anderson, John Murphy, Joslyn Barnes, Katherine Carpenter, Keanu Reeves, Larry Fessenden, Lemore Syvan, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Mari-Jo Winkler, Martine Rothblatt, Michael Tucker, Signe Baumane, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Abramowitz, Ron Mann, Ted Hope, Tess Harper, Thelma Adams, Vanessa Hope, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Danny Glover. A full schedule of screenings, panels, and events are unavailable as of this print deadline. Visit after September 1 for event times and locations.


>3 BACKYARDS | Written and directed by Eric Mendelsohn
Starring Edie Falco, Embeth Davidtz, Elias Koteas

3 Backyards tells the story of three residents of the same suburban town over the course of one seemingly perfect autumn day. Seen through a prism of sunlight and glittering leaves a businessman (Koteas) with marital troubles gets “lost” on a business trip without ever leaving town. A little girl (Rachel Resheff) steals her mother’s jewelry in the morning and finds herself entangled in a web of frightening, adult implications by late afternoon. A well-meaning housewife (Falco) offers her celebrity neighbor (Davidtz) a lift, and the trip detours into unsettling territory. By day's end, the familiar geography of the suburban landscape has dissolved into a dreamscape where identities are created, lost, and ultimately reclaimed. . Falco will attend the screening, and will participate in the Actor’s Dialogue panel.

With interviewer Martha Frankel, featuring Edie Falco

WFF's oldest and most popular panel, The Actor's Dialogue has attracted luminaries of independent film including Lucy Liu, Sam Rockwell, Steve Buscemi, Melissa Leo, Lili Taylor, Olympia Dukakis, Marcia Gay Harden, Aidan Quinn, Liev Schreiber, Vera Farmiga, Mary Stuart Masterson, Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Hutton, David Strathairn, Fisher Stevens, and Stanley Tucci. Moderated by award-winning writer Martha Frankel (Details, The New Yorker, Redbook, Cosmopolitan and The New York Times).

NICE GUY JOHNNY | Written and directed by Edward Burns
Starring Edward Burns, Matt Bush, Kerry Bishe

Actor/director Edward Burns brings to this year’s festival his newly minted project Nice Guy Johnny, a modern relationship “dramady.” Burns directed, produced, wrote and acted in this story about Johnny Rizzo (Bush) who, faced with a promise made to his fiancée, has only until he’s 25-years-old to make it as a local sports talk radio host. If unsuccessful he must trade his current dream job for something that’ll pay bigger bucks. Now he’s flying to New York to interview for some snoozeville job that his well-to-do father-in-law-to-be set up, but after meeting the lovely Brooke (Bishe) who challenges him to rethink his decision, will Johnny keep his word? Burns wraps a summery tone around Johnny’s real crisis: follow through with your promises, or follow your heart. Burns will be in attendance, see website for details.

The 2010 Woodstock Film Festival and The Emerson Resort & Spa have partnered to present a spectacular night of independent film Friday, October 1. The sur-reel evening features the simultaneous screenings of two highly anticipated indie horror films. First, the slasher/musical Don’t Go in the Woods—the directorial debut of actor Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Full Metal Jacket, Men In Black), with musical score by Academy-Award winning producer Sam Bisbee—will be shown, appropriately so, in the Emerson’s outdoor Pavilion conveniently located next to the woods. Then, the Emerson Great Room will host the macabre cinema of Bitter Feast, directed by Joe Maggio (Paper Covers Rock, Milk and Honey, Virgil Bliss) and produced by indie horror genius (and long-time Boiceville resident) Larry Fessenden. Q&A’s with D’Onofrio and Maggio will follow screenings. Both shows start at 8 PM.


Maintaining their “fiercely independent” streak, the WFF promotes modern documentaries that expose the real issues of our times. Here are three we recommend.

CAMP VICTORY, AFGHANISTAN | Directed by Carol Dysinger, New York Premiere
One of the central films of the WFF 2010 political line-up, Camp Victory, Afghanistan, features almost 300 hours of footage shot over the course of five years, telling the story of the officers of the new Afghan National Army (ANA), and the U.S. National Guardsmen sent to mentor them. Shot from 2005 to 2008, it is the first film to examine the on-the-ground training of the Afghan military which is the critical step towards bringing stability to Afghanistan, and which is the linchpin of U.S. exit strategy. At its heart, however, Camp Victory, Afghanistan is about an unlikely but profound friendship between two men—Afghani General Fazil Ahmad Sayar and American Colonel Michael Shute—from opposite sides of the world working towards a common goal: creating a professional Afghan army from a group of unmotivated and illiterate enlistees.

GERRYMANDERING | Directed by Jeff Reichert
Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York City, will be in attendance to talk about Gerrymandering, an incisive documentary exposing a national political issue as old as America itself, and still at the heart of American politics. Right now, across the country, our two major political parties are gearing up for a once-a-decade war—the redrawing of election district lines—which helps determine who will control Congress for the next ten years, and possibly more. Democrats and Republicans collude to keep these skirmishes private so that they can maintain total control over the ultimate political weapon: the ability to directly determine the outcome of elections. Why bother stuffing ballots when they can just draw districts? For the first time, Gerrymandering exposes the most effective form of manipulating elections short of outright fraud. After the 2010 Census is finished, will you know where your district went?

MY LIFE WITH CARLOS | A film by German Berger-Hertz
Taking a look into a political tragedy of the past through a personal lens, director German Berger-Hertz explores the repercussions of an act of political violence that tore his family apart. The murder of his father under orders from Augusto Pinochet—one of many committed in Chile under the dictatorship of Pinochet—continues to reverberate across decades and through generations. My Life with Carlos is both profoundly personal and at the same time strikingly universal. Berger-Hertz shares his journey of personal anguish, and perhaps forgiveness, in a way that brings an important but painful history to light. Not satisfied with living in anger and hatred for past injustices, My Life with Carlos presents a new and hopeful generation, unafraid to confront the tragedies of the past with the objective that they never be repeated.


The Woodstock Film Festival is well-known for showing a musical side to cinema; why shouldn’t it? It’s Woodstock! Musical performances to be announced; please consult for updated information.

PHIL OCHS: THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE | Directed by Ken Bowser, World Premiere
From civil rights to the anti-war movement to the scandals of Watergate, protest singer Phil Ochs wrote songs that engaged his audiences emotionally in the issues of the 1960s and 70s. With the voices of his family and many of the well-known musicians who considered themselves fans of Phil Ochs, filmmaker Ken Bowser creates a vivid and compelling portrait of a folk icon of the 60s whose life was cut tragically short.

SOUNDS LIKE A REVOLUTION | Directed by Summer Love and Jane Michener, U.S. Premiere
Featuring interviews with David Crosby, Ani Difranco, Pete Seeger and Henry Rollins, Sounds Like a Revolution focuses on four independent musicians—including the Dixie Chicks and Michael Franti—who continue to motivate and inspire America’s youth for a positive revolutionary change.

DON’T QUIT YOUR DAYDREAM | Directed by Clark Stiles and Merritt Lear, East Coast Premiere
Don’t Quit Your Daydream is a profound musical adventure featuring first time director Clark Stiles and his band, The Good Listeners, as they embark on a last ditch, cross country, album recording extravaganza to save their musical identity and hopefully their careers. Co-producer Adrian Grenier (Entourage) will be in attendance, and will be performing live with the band during the festival—check the website! Again, it’s

Film summaries & images courtesy of Woodstock Film Festival.

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