Documentarian Chris Finlay says he just wants to make sure his film about the contaminated fill at 10 Church Road in the Woodstock hamlet of Shady is seen. He hopes it will encourage action.
The property owner where the contaminated fill was delivered, Vincent Conigliaro, told theater operator Andy Braunstein that the theater, operator and owners would be held liable. When asked, Conigliaro said it wasn’t a threat, but rather a warning that a lawsuit would be coming if the movie contained anything derogatory against him.
“The election is over. And now it’s back to normality. I just wanted to make sure that the people know that there’s still a documentary about the dangers to our drinking water in Woodstock,” Finlay said.
Finlay is disappointed in the cancellation. He said he has heard from people who canceled their travel plans to be sure they would be in town to see the film.
“But the film has now gone from a documentary that people ought to have seen to a documentary that everybody wants to see, and that’s important to know. So that takes the edge off my disappointment,” he said. “So in the words of Oscar Wilde, there’s only one thing worse than people talking about you. And that’s people not talking about you.”
Finlay had rented the cinema to screen the documentary. The cinema management was not participating in its promotion.
“A good documentary simplifies a complicated situation and in the process boils all the facts down to one or two hours in film. It uses all those complicated courtroom documents, radio interviews, copies of emails, three years of town meetings, three years of newspaper articles, and nails them all down, refined in order to create clarity for the watcher,” he said. “The other issue which is kind of concerning is that the Eighmeys, the people whose well water has been polluted — it was a fundraiser for them. I was disappointed that they didn’t receive the attention they deserve and the money they would have made out of the movie, so that was another disappointment along with giving the people of Shady somewhere to gather, which they don’t have at the moment.”.
The film chronicles the plight of Frank and Pam Eighmey, who live at 59 Reynolds Lane, downhill from 10 Church Road, where Vincent Conigliaro’s soon-to-be ex-wife had fill delivered from contractor Joseph Karolys. During heavy rains in the summer 2020, that fill became unstable. A landslide sent it tumbling into the Eighmey backyard just feet from their well.
The Conigliaros’ daughter Francesca testified in court that she overheard Karolys telling her mother, Gina, that the fill contained construction-and-demolition debris from his processing facility in Saugerties, and that he would be dumping it in various places, including 10 Church Road.
Supervisor Bill McKenna has said the town has done all that is within its power.
If there’s anybody out there that has any idea of where we should screen the film, Finlay can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Finlay agreed the cancellation brought a silver lining to the dark cloud over the documentary, There is now more discussion and awareness.
“It happened with The Last Temptation of Christ and with [Monty Python’s] Life of Brian and more people wanted to come out and see it,” Finlay said. “Mine isn’t about religion, thank God. Some people would say it’s about something much more potent than religion. It’s about water. Because that election Monday or Tuesday won’t matter if the water gets polluted. It will be a distant memory.”
Finlay said he reached out to McKenna six days before the screening and offered to interview him for the film. McKenna asked Finlay to send him questions in advance because he wasn’t sure he had the expertise to answer them.
“On Sunday afternoon, four o’clock, I got an email from Bill. This is one day before the screening. He said. Let’s get together tomorrow, Monday, which was the day of the screening, and let’s discuss those questions,” Finlay said. “So that night, eight hours later, the movie was canceled.”