Woodstock Film Festival ’11

If summer ends, can the Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) be far behind? This year’s highly anticipated event – the 12th annual – is set to run Wednesday, September 21 through Sunday, September 25, and some teasers have been dangled in front of us all to keep us salivating while we wait.

Not all the Maverick Award-winners will be announced this far in advance, of course, but we now know a few names. The WFF Excellence in Acting Award will go to Emmy-winner Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Ocean’s 13), and a new flick starring Barkin, Sam Levinson’s Another Happy Day, will have its East Coast premiere in Woodstock. Barkin will attend the Gala Maverick Awards Ceremony at 9 p.m. on Saturday, September 24 at BackStage Productions Studios in Kingston, and also take part in a question-and-answer session at the screening.

Another awardee will be a locally based actor who has endeared himself to the upstate environmental community via his vigorous advocacy on the hydrofracking issue. Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Collateral, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Shutter Island, The Kids Are All Right) will receive the first-ever honorary Meera Gandhi Giving Back Award for his community activism. International humanitarian, author and filmmaker Meera Gandhi will be at the Festival herself, screening her short documentary Giving Back and leading a discussion on global philanthropy. The Honorary Trailblazer Award will go to Robin Bronk, chief executive officer of the Creative Coalition. Bronk is dedicated to educating, mobilizing and activating the entertainment industry and arts community on such issues as the First Amendment, arts advocacy and media literacy.


Besides Another Happy Day, this year’s WFF will include a couple of other premieres. Opening night, Thursday, September 22, will feature the US premiere at the Woodstock Playhouse of a movie made locally: Peace, Love & Misunderstanding. It was directed by last year’s Honorary Maverick Award recipient Bruce Beresford, the Australian-born director of Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, Crimes of the Heart and Driving Miss Daisy. Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener plays a conservative lawyer who takes her two teenage children to meet their estranged hippie grandmother in Woodstock, played by none other than Jane Fonda. There will be a question-and-answer session with Beresford, writers, producers and “select cast” after the screening.

The Festival will also include a world premiere: Coming up Roses, directed by Lisa Albright. It’s a drama about a former musical-comedy actress with two daughters, notable in that the mother is played by Broadway superstar Bernadette Peters. Peters appeared in a lot of comedy movies early in her career, including Silent Movie, The Jerk and Pennies from Heaven, but most of her film roles in recent years have been voiceovers for animation. So this serious film role is a bit of a departure for her on several levels. Rachel Brosnahan co-stars.

This year, in collaboration with the Consulate of Spain in New York, WFF will present two distinguished films by Spanish filmmakers, with both directors in attendance for the post- screening question-and-answer sessions. A “Gala Celebration of Spanish Culture” will include live music from renowned Flamenco guitarist Javier Limón, plus samplings of Spanish cuisine and beverages, at the annual WFF Filmmakers’ Party taking place Friday night, September 23. The two featured Spanish films are Even the Rain, directed by Icíar Bollaín, which examines Spanish imperialism through incidents taking place some 500 years apart; and Paper Birds, a tale of a penniless band of buskers directed by Emilio Aragÿn.

The complete 2011 WFF lineup of nearly 150 films will be unveiled in early September. Screenings and events will take place in Woodstock, Rhinebeck, Rosendale and Kingston. Ticket prices for WFF events range from $8 to $75, and attendance at panels ranges in price from $15 to $20. There are also a limited number of tickets available for the Gala Awards Ceremony. Reserve early, since shows tend to sell out quickly. A limited number of special Full Festival Passes are already available for purchase at ulsterpub.staging.wpenginefilmfestival.com/fundraising/fullfestpass.php. Advance single admission tickets will be available for purchase by early September at ulsterpub.staging.wpenginefilmfestival.com, and in person at the Festival box office at 13 Rock City Road in Woodstock, (845) 810-0131. Single purchase tickets will also be available at each screening venue.