What defines one film festival from the next? Often it’s focus, or connections. The biggies, like Cannes and Venice and Toronto and Sundance, pull top directors or studios interested in gaining buzz for new releases. Others, like our own Woodstock or Columbia County festivals, work with connections and put an emphasis on music and social issues, or rural themes and a growing list of festival friends.
The young Catskill Film & Video Festival, which makes its third outing this Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3 – in tandem with the sixth round of Masters on Main Street (MoMS) art-in-storefronts work, a two-day event called “The Glow Show” – takes its cue from the MoMS experiment to which it started off as an adjunct. In other words, the idea is film and video as art media, including both esoteric visually arresting shorter works and longer experiments with words, acting, narrative and theatrical traditions – much the way in which so much gallery art has become performative in recent years.
The interaction between the art show and film fest, in fact, highlights that thematic choice, just as the venues for both events – including the use of the raw old Union Mills/Oren’s building for the festival and “Glow Show” party – serve to accentuate the direction in which this blossoming art town along the Hudson seems to be headed now.
The film festival – curated by veteran New York and London filmmaker/theater director/producer/actor/broadcaster Andrea Cunliffe, last seen producing a sterling production of Beckett’s Endgame in Woodstock and Saugerties – mixes her interests in theater and classic texts with a host of guest curations and festival mini-series. The resulting eclectic mix ranges from screenings of a new adaptation of Othello by New School directors and actors to Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine’s performance of Rappin’ for Godot, as directed by Stephen Blauweiss; a well-written take on modern intelligence-gathering in the Muslim world by noted playwright and soaps veteran David Smilow; and Palestinian filmmakers Taha Awadallah’s film memoir about his mother. There are also plenty of more experimental works, including US Artists Fellowship winner Jacqueline Goss’s selection of Bard student works; the best of last year’s Athens Animation Festival, from just up the river; and new works coming in at the last minute from a host of local talents.
Special festivals-within-the-festival include a selection of works from Cine Haiti, the groundbreaking film school set up by a host of international filmmakers in Haiti before the earthquake that gained fame as they provided real footage of the disaster’s more intimate effects, and has since spawned a growing number of new film talents, as well as similar programs across the globe. Cine Haiti teacher and representative Annie Nocenti will be on hand with one of her prized students for this premiere screening.
There will also be a Best of Reel Teens tribute to the long-running local festival that brought together student works from high schools and film programs throughout the Hudson Valley, as well as elsewhere in the US and internationally. Program founder Barry Kerr will be on hand, along with others who kept this integral program going through its final run last year. Finally, the Crystal Palace Festival will focus on experimental film and video works from the intersection of art and science: a particularly hot crossroads in the cinematic arts, as well as the rest of our culture just now.
The third annual Catskill Film and Video Festival will take place on Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3 from 12 noon to 6 p.m. daily at the old Oren’s side of the Union Mills Building complex, located at 361 Main Street in Catskill. That building, which connects to the Catskill Creek waterfront and a larger structure that supplied uniforms for Union soldiers during the Civil War, was recently purchased by a partnership including former Etsy founder and owner Rob Kalin, with plans for the establishment of a new regional jobs and culture education center currently in the works.
The Film and Video Festival will be presented in tandem with Masters on Main Street’s “Glow Show,” a Main Street window exhibit to run on March 2 and 3 as well, with a focus on evening viewing. It will culminate in a 6:30 p.m. live performance as Hudson hip-hop electronica artist Young Paris performs with dancers and musicians, followed by a film and art party starting at 8 p.m. in the Union Mills Building.
Curated by Jonathan Wang – a young interdisciplinary artist whose work revolves around popular photographic/video practices and how we experience space, who served as founder and director of FOTO Project Space, a non-profit artist-run photography space in Cape Town, South Africa – “The Glow Show” is a trail of video and light-based installations whose participating artists are utilizing sidewalks, storefront windows and building façades as viewing surfaces, an exploration of the uses to which we put light during our darker days.
Participating artists include a host of up-and-coming names from the Hudson, Beacon, Hudson Valley, Brooklyn and international art scenes, including Jordan Albaugh, Cheryl Bentley, Christian Hali, Jared Handelsman, Laetitia Hussain, Charles Lindsay, Young Paris, Kenji Suzuki, Tuguldur Yondonjamts and Wang himself.
Designed to showcase Catskill’s streetscape, Masters on Main Street started in February 2010, showing work by more than 100 artists from more than 35 studio programs around the country. It later put on “Wall Street to Main Street,” a collaboration with the artists from Occupy with Art, as well as a regional presentation of works by the New York Foundation for the Arts’ MARK artists last summer. Since its start, the Masters on Main program has spurred the arrival of several new artist-run studios and galleries along Main Street, Kalin’s Union Mills purchase and a new Catskill village-run project to bring in new artisan-based businesses to Main Street.
Admission to the Catskill Film and Video Festival costs only $5 (suggested donation) for an entire afternoon of cinematic art; “The Glow Show” is free. Most screenings are appropriate for audiences under 18; however, parental advisories will be listed when necessary in available program notes.
Talk about recalibrating art, and our view of what light can do for us this time of year!
Third annual Catskill Film & Video Festival/The Glow Show; Saturday & Sunday, March 2-3, films 12 noon-6 p.m., Glow Show 6:30 p.m., $5, Union Mills Building, 361 Main Street, Catskill; (518) 943-3400, www.greenearts.org.