The Woodstock Film Festival, which unspools in Woodstock and a variety of other Hudson Valley communities in less than a month, came out with a slew of high-profile announcements this past week. First came the news that its indie emphasis this year would highlight on two truly maverick Canadian-based film innovators as award winners, and then an official lineup was announced that includes everything from big celebrity events to a host of premieres and film genre focuses that taken together demonstrate just how major the 16 year old festival’s become.
“I’m so excited about our upcoming Sweet Sixteen. We have the highest number of women filmmakers (25 out of 53 full length films!), the highest number of foreign films that are coming to us from far flung places such as Russia and Bhutan, the Netherlands and Australia, and the highest number of films featuring great musicians and music,” WFF Executive Director and co-founder Meira Blaustein said after making the big announcements this week. “There are some amazing films, filmmakers, musicians, writers, and artists of all kind who will soon gather at the Woodstock Film Festival and I can’t wait for everyone to come here and meet them.”
The film festival, which started as a Woodstock only event in 2000, runs its 130 plus film screenings, panel discussions, concerts, special events and parties from Wednesday, September 30 through Sunday, October 4 with 16 world premieres, five North American premieres, four US premieres, 33 east coast premieres, and 27 New York premieres starting with a big kick-off screening of Ron Chapman’s new The Poet Of Havana documentary and a performance by the film’s focus, Carlos Varela and band, with special guest Jackson Browne at UPAC in Kingston.
Things then move on to include a keynote address by Gasland director Josh Fox; opening and closing night screenings of new works by Maverick Award winner Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) and Fiercely Independent Award winner Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg), with a special centerpiece showing of Robert Zemeckis’ new The Walk, the long-awaited dramatization of local resident Philippe Petit famous high wire walk between the now-gone World Trade Center towers.
Other special screenings being highlighted at this point include Barbara Kopple’s latest documentary about America’s oldest continuously published weekly magazine, Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation; Robert Campos and Donna LoCiero’s documentary about the state of stand up comedy, 3 Still Standing; a look into the continuing relevance of veteran singer/civil rights activist Mavis Staples in Mavis!, and a new episode of the hit FX Cold War spy-thriller The Americans to be followed by a discussion with the show’s creator Joe Weisberg.
Panel discussions will include the usual mix of industry-specific and more general crowd pleasing lineups, with Egoyan and Maddin leading the lineups alongside music panel participants Stewart Copeland, Krishna Das and Natalie Merchant; actors and directors Mary Stuart Masterson, Michael Cristofer, and others speaking up everything from animation to marketing.
Youngsters will get their own day for interaction with festival participants at Onteora High, just as such local films as I Dream Too Much and Good Ol’ Boy will get their special focus alongside shorts, women-made works, pieces with an eye towards various social chalklenges and responsibilities, music films, and a celebration of new and older LGBTQ voices.
New this year, in addition, will be a new World Cinema Competition that includes both the Canadian award-winners new works and other films new to the states. As well as a Carpe Diem Andretta Award honoring a film “that best exemplifies living life to the fullest through character and story” in both documentary and/or fictional format being presented in the name of the late longtime area resident Vincent “Jay” Andretta III, who passed away in December, 2014.
“All these filmmakers are coming here, literally from all corners of the world,” Blaustein added. “As we enter into our sixteenth year, I reflect upon the past years of gradual growth and am thrilled by how the festival has opened itself up into the world while maintaining the core authenticity and artistry that it was first founded on…I invite everyone to come and discover the many national and international selections that make up our 2015 lineup, as each is its own unique gem and in each you will find something that will inspire and move you.”
Online sales and phone sales for the 16th Annual Woodstock Film Festival go live on September 9 at ulsterpub.staging.wpenginefilmfestival.com, when the WFF Box Office at 13 Rock City Road in Woodstock will also be open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. daily, with expanded hours once the big Sweet Sixteen week rolls around.