Woodstock Film Festival is an embarrassment of riches

Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr helped invent an electronic device that minimized the jamming of radio signals. This device is a component of present-day satellite and cellphone technology. You can learn more about this relatively unknown episode in history in the new documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, co-executive produced by Susan Sarandon and showing at the Woodstock Film Festival on Saturday, October 14 at 1:30 at the Woodstock Playhouse and on Sunday, October 15 at 6 p.m. at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck (photo courtesy of the filmmakers | The Everett Collection).

The Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) runs from Wednesday to Sunday, October 11 to 15, and tickets to screenings and events are on sale now at the box office at 13 Rock City Road in Woodstock, by calling (845) 810-0131 or online at www.woodstockfilmfestival.com/festival2017.

As usual, the “fiercely independent” lineup of offerings at the 18th annual iteration of WFF is an embarrassment of riches. It will feature four world premieres, five North American premieres, one US premiere, 20 East Coast premieres and 10 New York premieres. Some of the films are directed by familiar names or star familiar actors; many others will be your introduction to some obscure-but-delicious corner of the cinematic universe.


The winner of the 2017 Maverick Award will be Susan Sarandon. Also on tap to be honored on Saturday night at BSP in Kingston are Bill Pullman for Excellence in Acting and legendary agent/producer Shep Gordon with the Trailblazer Award. Pullman stars with Kathy Baker and Peter Fonda in Jared Moshè’s The Ballad of Lefty Brown, which gets its East Coast premiere at the Woodstock Playhouse on Saturday morning and screens again on Sunday afternoon at the Rosendale Theatre.

Among the other thespian known quantities whose work will be on view at WFF 2017 are the amazing J. K. Simmons, Best Supporting Actor winner for his turn as the music teacher from Hell in Whiplash; he gets to play a nice guy in Kurt Voelker’s The Bachelors. Stanley Tucci, Kyra Sedgwick and Janeane Garofalo all appear in Richard Levine’s Submission, based on Francine Prose’s novel Blue Angel. Giancarlo Esposito plays a mysterious homeless man in Michael Berry’s Stuck, a musical narrative about a group of six strangers trapped together on a stalled New York City subway car. Its East Coast premiere will kick off the festival Wednesday evening at the Woodstock Playhouse, along with a live performance by operatic soprano Sarah Joy Miller, star of the short film A Hand of Bridge.

The “centerpiece films” of this year’s WFF are The Square, from Swedish director Ruben Östlund, and Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying, starring Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne. Sunday’s closing night film is Arthur Miller: Writer, a biographical documentary directed by the playwright’s daughter, Rebecca Miller. There does seem to be a generational thing going on here, with Griffin Dunne contributing a memoir of his aunt, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold and an environmental documentary by Robert Redford’s son James titled Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are panel discussions, programs of shorts and animation, a Spotlight on Women in Film and Media featuring 18 female directors, six LGBTQ Focus films, three Dutch films, music films, films made in the Hudson Valley. And on and on and on. Films screen at various venues in Woodstock, Rhinebeck, Kingston, Rosendale and Saugerties, with ticket prices for most events ranging from $10 to $25. Visit www.woodstockfilmfestival.com for the mind-bogglingly full schedule.