The Woodstock Museum on Bach Road in Saugerties is a “living museum,” says co-founder Nathan Koenig, who along with Shelli Lipton created an environment there that celebrates the Woodstock experience beyond memories of that famous rain-soaked music festival of nearly 40 years ago. A living museum, says Koenig, is about not only the historical artifacts on display (which include a psychedelic bus), but also enhances the culture of a living colony of the arts.
In doing its part to contribute to the cultural life of the region, the Woodstock Museum has sponsored an annual film festival every year over Labor Day weekend since 2000. This year, the 17th annual Woodstock Museum Film Festival will expand to fill an entire week, with films shown Tuesday, August 30 through Monday, September 5. Screenings begin at 6:30 p.m. each night, with the exception of the final day — Labor Day — when the first film starts at noon.
Admission to any or all of the 38 films in the festival is free (although donations to the nonprofit Woodstock Museum are welcome). There are two theaters showing the films simultaneously — the same film in both theaters at the same time, largely to accommodate an overflow audience in the primary theater — but Koenig says that, when it comes time for the question-and-answer session with filmmakers afterward and audience critiques, the audiences of both theaters will be able to participate equally.
The theme for the festival this year is “Reality,” which of course can be interpreted in a number of ways. Most evenings there will be screenings of five films, with four screened on Saturday and ten on Monday. With nearly 40 films to choose from, highlights probably depend on one’s taste. But to offer a teaser, opening night on Tuesday includes Drifters, the story of an Egyptian orthopedic surgeon who enjoys surfing and driftwood carpentry. Daniel Friederich — Luthier d’Art tells the story of a cabinetmaker and musician who is considered by some to be the greatest classical guitarmaker.
On Wednesday, Exodus to Shanghai is an account of a Chinese consul who issued exit visas to 10,000 Jews in 1938 Vienna. Something about Silence is intriguingly billed as the story of a character unfolding, unraveling and uncomprehending.
Save the Bees on Thursday makes the point that if bees disappear (as pesticides are contributing to), humans will have only four years of life left. TWU Local 525 Memorial Beam is about the journey of a one-ton artifact from the World Trade Center as it is shipped to Miami. Thursday also is the night to see The Runaway, about an outlaw on the run for 30 years who tells his story before his execution, and The Healing Field, about challenges to conventional healthcare with non-invasive, ancient healing techniques.
Friday features Pin Up! about the American phenomenon of pin-up girls and The American Death, about dying in a culture uncomfortable with how to handle it. Saturday will highlight Body & Sound, the tale of Sergio Arturo Calonego, who plays acoustic guitar and talks about the relationship between a musician and his instrument. 1984 Riding into Hell will cover the 1984 rock scene, world news and pop culture.
On Sunday the festival will screen five films that include The Lover, introducing a wife’s memories about an obsessive love, and Escapes, in which a young woman loses her father and embarks on a journey revealing the essence of life. (Hint: running away isn’t the answer.)
Finally, Monday’s ten films begin at noon with The Leaping Place, about an elderly woman journeying to a mysterious tree hidden in the depths of an ancient cave. September Sketch Book uses old-school animation techniques to show sequences of flags from around the world, and Begone Dull Care is an upbeat animated short set to 1980s music: “a dance of tightly timed abstract paintings and pixel art.”
Along with the film screenings, visitors can experience events throughout the festival that include a nightly outdoor light show by Jim C., accompanied by music, and a campfire with visitors welcome to play acoustic instruments while sitting around it. In past years people have camped on the grounds over the course of the festival, but Koenig says that the property is full to capacity already this year. If the weather cooperates, people are welcome to swim in the eco-friendly pool — a beautiful 50-foot expanse of water cleaned with hydrogen peroxide to be non-toxic — that features LED lights at night, with underwater speakers playing music for a “kind of trippy” swim, adds Koenig. In addition, no one will go hungry, with a café on site offering all kinds of tasty-sounding edibles to enjoy.
And again, admission is free.
Woodstock Museum Film Festival, Tuesday-Sunday, August 30-September 4, 6:30 p.m. Monday, September 5, 12 noon, free, Woodstock Museum, 3 Charles Bach Road, Saugerties; (845) 246-0600, woodstockmuseum.org