The 14th annual “fiercely independent” Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) kicks off on Wednesday, October 2 and runs through Sunday, October 6. If you haven’t gotten your tickets to any of the more than 150 scheduled screenings and events yet, don’t despair: Though seats for keynote events and many highly anticipated screenings tend to sell out early, it’s often possible to get in to attend some panels and see some films at short notice – especially those with relatively unknown casts and novice directors. There will be screenings at venues outside Woodstock – in Rhinebeck, Rosendale, Kingston and this year for the first time, the Orpheum Theatre in Saugerties. So if you’re willing to take a chance on discovering something new and unfamiliar in the cinematic universe, WFF is a great time and place to do it.
Opening night of WFF is always a big deal, and 2013 is no exception: The Woodstock Playhouse will host a screening of Dick Fontaine’s Sonny Rollins: Beyond the Notes. The saxophone colossus himself will be in attendance, and the J. D. Allen Trio will be performing. [See Brian Hollander’s accompanying interview in this edition of Almanac Weekly for more details.] Another concert being produced as part of WFF will feature guitar wunderkind Connor Kennedy “and friends” – those friends including iconic local songwriter Jules Shear – at the Skytop Steakhouse in Kingston on Friday night.
One annual wingding that always sells out quickly is the Maverick Awards Gala, held on Saturday night, October 5 at BSP Studios in Kingston. Paul Green’s Band of Monkeys will be the “house band” for the awards ceremony. Among this year’s honorees are Mira Nair, director of such modern classics as Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala, Salaam Bombay! and The Namesake; she will be this year’s winner of the Meera Gandhi Giving Back Award in recognition of her extensive charity work with street kids in India. Nair will also participate in the “Music in Film” panel on Saturday afternoon at the Kleinert/James Art Center in Woodstock.
The 2013 Maverick Lifetime Achievement Award will go to iconic director, film historian and Kingston native Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon). The New York premiere of the latest film in which Bogdanovich appears as an actor, Will Slocombe’s Cold Turkey, will be screened on Saturday afternoon at the Woodstock Playhouse and Sunday evening at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck. Bogdanovich will also give a talk on Saturday afternoon at the Kleinert.
WFF 2013 will include 24 world premieres, six US premieres, two North American premieres, 19 East Coast premieres and 22 New York premieres. Narrative feature films being spotlighted at WFF include the US premiere of Alan and Gabe Polsky’s The Motel Life, starring Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson and Dakota Fanning (Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon at Upstate Films Woodstock); the East Coast premiere of Adam Rodgers’ At Middleton, starring Andy Garcia and Vera and Taissa Farmiga (Saturday afternoon at the Woodstock Playhouse and Sunday afternoon at Upstate Films Rhinebeck); the East Coast premiere of Keanu Reeves’s directing debut, Man of Tai Chi (Saturday evening at the Woodstock Playhouse and Sunday afternoon at the Rosendale Theatre); and the New York premiere of John Sayles’ latest film, Go for Sisters (Friday evening at Upstate Films Rhinebeck).
Garcia and Dorff will present an Actors’ Dialogue on Sunday morning at the Kleinert. The keynote panel on Wednesday evening at the Kleinert, “How to Crowdfund Your Project,” will feature Indiegogo co-founder Slava Rubin. Other panels of interest primarily to filmmakers include “Making Television for the Internet” and “Turning Your Short Film into a Feature.”
Another discussion that should be intriguing will be “Case Study: Escape from Tomorrow” (Saturday morning at the Kleinert), which will examine the techniques and legal implications of guerrilla filmmaking, as practiced by Randy Moore in shooting his controversial film noir without permission at Disney World. Escape from Tomorrow will also be screened Saturday night at the Bearsville Theatre.
There will also be a panel discussion on documentary-making, and thought-provoking documentaries are always a staple of WFF. New works from veteran documentarians Haskell Wexler, Four Days in Chicago, and Barbara Kopple, Running from Crazy, will be screened this year. Kopple’s film profiles Mariel Hemingway in the context of her suicide-prone family, while other biographical docs at WFF will spotlight financier Hank Paulson, filmmaker George Romero and activist Grace Lee Boggs. The North American premiere of Dana Ben-Ari’s Breastmilk on Friday evening at Upstate Films Woodstock is also eagerly anticipated.
Even when all else is sold out at WFF, finding a seat at one or more of the many programs of short films can usually be managed. These may consist of short features, documentaries, animation, music videos or films made by youth, and are always full of rewarding surprises. And don’t overlook the offerings shot in unfamiliar corners of the world – this year including Uganda and Tunisia – which sometimes turn out to be sleeper hits of the Festival.
Ticket prices to WFF screenings and events range from $5 to $75. Check out the full schedule at ulsterpub.staging.wpenginefilmfestival.com, or call the box office at (845) 810-0131.
Woodstock Film Festival, Wednesday-Sunday, October 2-6, $5-$75, various venues in Woodstock, Kingston, Rhinebeck, Rosendale & Saugerties, WFF Box Office, 13 Rock City Road, Woodstock; (845) 810-0131, ulsterpub.staging.wpenginefilmfestival.com.