Hidden gems at the Woodstock Film Festival

(Photos by Dion Ogust)

When we called Woodstock Film Festival executive director Meira Blaustein on the eve of the 19th annual event’s first night party this week, one new event filled her attention.

At 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, October 13, the WFF will be presenting a short film with panel discussion. The 22-minute movie, Lessons From A School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane, follows the dialogue that builds as the priest from a small town in Scotland that witnessed a school massacre 16 years before Sandy Hook reaches out to a clergyman in the community of Newtown. But after its showing at the Woodstock Playhouse, filmmakers Kim A. Snyder, director, and Maria Cuomo Cole, producer, will then be showing clips from their latest work on last winter’s Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, FL, and discuss the aspects of such school violence alongside survivors and parents of the Parkland and Newtown tragedies, including Samantha Fuentes, known for her speech at the March for Our Lives event in our nation’s capital last Spring.

“We’re all feeling honored to have this program,” Blaustein said. We’d just asked about the role “hidden gems” and “sleepers” play in film festivals. “One of the great things about going to a film festival is that one like ours selects things from all over the world for a diverse line-up that’s all high quality…With so much trouble around us, it’s important to be touched by a film where you can also meet the filmmaker.”

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Among the works that Blaustein suggested as “sleepers” were Spell, a psychological fantasy set in Iceland; Somaliland, a documentary about a Somali school that prepares youth for college in the U.S.; the black and white coming-of-age deejaying saga Wheels; the Brazilian heartbreaker about a newly-orphaned 15 year old, Socrates; The Feeling Of Being Watched, a look into what it is to be a surveilled Muslim-American; a doc on the long history of homelessness in Los Angeles named The Advocates; the inspiring rags-to-glory doc Wrestle; Here And Now an Israeli hip-hop drama; Ask For Jane, a dramatic look into the activism that led to Roe v Wade; and the category-less 2030.

In addition, Blaustein pointed out the many films with local connections screening throughout the festival, from works by local film professionals shot elsewhere to those made here by filmmakers based elsewhere. 

Among such highlights, the film festival director noted the Canadian-made Keely and Du, produced and scored by Woodstockers; the Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) starring Then Came You, shot in Kingston and expected to be “a major release” over the coming months; and local legend Jon Bowermaster’s latest producing effort, Ghost Fleet, about Thai fishing battles.

“We have a growing community of film talent living or coming here,” Blaustein said. “That kind of growth breeds more growth. Our filmmaking community feeds itself.”

For tickets for all Blaustein has mentioned, or any Woodstock Film Festival events running this week through October 14, see woodstockfilmfestival.com, stop by the festival’s main office at 13 Rock City Road in Woodstock, or any of the festival’s venues around the area.

Meira Blaustein, festival executive director.

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