Woodstock Museum Free Film Fest has international feel

Shelli Lipton and Nathan Koenig.

Nathan Koenig and Shelli Lipton were one day away from the start of their annual Woodstock Museum Free Film Festival, which started on Wednesday, August 30 and runs through Labor Day, Monday, September 4. They were speaking from their property’s “Studio B” in West Saugerties, going over the ideals behind their gathering of media from around the world, this year’s theme of “Hope,” and what they were thinking when they started things up 18 years ago at the pre-renovated old Town Hall on Tinker Street in Woodstock. Or you could say “speaking over” each other. After all, as Koenig pointed out, “Studio B” was also their bedroom.

He handed the phone to Shelli, who sets the theme for the next year each time the couple’s about to start one of their festivals.

“I’m going to tell you about ‘Hope,’” she said of the ideas she gelled last year long before Election Day, 2016. “There’s no denying that there has been a disruption to our daily lives brought about by outside forces. Hope is a theme that’s like a window opening up to obtain fulfillment. These films come to us from all over the world, preparing us to carry on.”


She added that next year’s theme would be the idea behind the word, “Impact.” Then handed the phone back to Nathan.

“If you ain’t got hope you ain’t got nuthin,” Koenig quipped before starting his fast-paced shilling of the many films he and Lipton have gathered for this year’s festival. “They’re positive films meant to provide a reprieve from dark times; we want things adding to creation instead of subtracting.”

Works, the two note, will be coming from Canada, Japan, India, France, the UK, Iran AND Irag, Italy, Brazil, Sweden, Ireland, Bulgaria, Australia, Denmark, Greece The Netherlands, Palestine, Singapore, Turkey, South Africa, and all over the U.S. and Northeast. Lipton and Koenig worked to help get a visa for one filmmaker coming from China for a Q and A to follow screenings of her film, Calabash & Duran.

“Independent movies submitted from around the world, music, light shows with Jim C., bonfire and Q&A with many visiting filmmakers set under the stars and in tents, and simultaneously in two air-conditioned  indoor theaters,” Koenig read from his PR for their festival, the apogee of lifetimes traveling doing light shows and film presentations around the globe for decades now. The two gave a shout-out for a local film, Nocturnality, featuring the Linda Diamond Dance troupe and local musician Desisto.

Each evening screenings start at 7 p.m., and feature a mash-up of short and longer works, some documentary and some fictional, or creative non-fiction, but often dealing with matters of transformation, of overcoming internal and external challenges. Things kick off at 11 a.m. on Monday, Labor Day itself, and run until the late afternoon.

In addition to the film screenings Lipton will be running a cafe, with a firepit, with music and conversation. Light shows, including one in the salt-water swimming pool. Various settings in which to watch films, from the truly intimate and “cozy,” as the couple puts it, to larger theaters. All told, the Woodstock Museum site — a rambling conglomeration of home, outbuildings, old vehicles, and ramshackle, old-style hippie fun with ample creature comforts, can hold 100 festival goers.

“It’s kind of a happening,” Koenig said. “I had no idea this would be going on this long when we started it, or that we’d have so many young people involved at this point.”

Lipton talked about “giving away a noncommercial idea of another Woodstock, a place to get together where everything is free and you can still talk about peace and love…It’s still about freedom, something we need now more than ever. Some may call it all clichéd but we’re not giving up.”

Koenig chimed in: “It’s a mini-Woodstock festival. It’s about what the whole idea of Woodstock came out of.”

The 18th Annual Free Woodstock Museum Film Festival runs through Monday, September 4 at Woodstock Museum, 13 Charles Bach Road in West Saugerties. For a full schedule see http://www.WoodstockMuseum.org. For further information and directions look online or call 246-0600.