Once again, it’s time for Hollywood on the Hudson. The ninth annual Woodstock Film Festival (Oct. 1-5) offers movie buffs five days to feast on an all-you-can-see smorgasbord of star-studded flicks, celebrity-led panels, workshops, concerts, parties, parties, parties, and the grand finale: a fun-filled awards ceremony. While we won’t reveal all the juicy details, here’s a sneak peek to pique your interest.
Kicking off the whole shebang on Wednesday night is a long-awaited concert at the Bearsville Theatre. Get ready for a foot-stomping good time when banjo player extraordinaire Bela Fleck appears on stage with Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet. But it’s not the only way in which Fleck, an eight-time Grammy winner, is involved in this year’s festival. He is also the producer and star of the documentary Throw Down Your Heart, which chronicles his recent trip through Africa to uncover the roots of the banjo.
The official cinematographic celebration begins Thursday. For the first time in the festival’s history, there will be three opening night films. First, in Woodstock, catch the debut of Gavin O’Connor’s cop-thriller, Pride and Glory, starring Hollywood hot shots Edward Norton and Colin Farrell. Director O’Connor will be on hand for a Q&A after the film (but will Colin Farrell show up? That’s what we want to know). Across the river in Rhinebeck, follow a spirited schoolteacher on her quest for love and happiness in Happy Go Lucky. The ever-peppy Poppy (portrayed by the British actress Sally Hawkins) will steal your heart in this quirky release from Mike Leigh.
In Rosendale, you can see Flash of Genius, based on a true story of a 1960s college professor and part-time inventor (played by Greg Kinnear) who gets entangled in a corporate war after the automobile industry swipes his ingenious windshield wiper design. Featuring an A-list cast (including Dermot Mulroney and Alan Alda), director Marc Abraham narrates this story of a small-town David and his determination to defeat the gas-guzzling Goliaths.
More than 150 other films round out the festival, but it’s always fun to take special note of the flicks that were made here in the Valley. This year’s crop includes the short Dinosaurs and Rocketships, which follows the eccentric Boiceville artist Steve Heller (who was profiled in our March issue) as he attempts to move his five-ton Tyrannosaurus Rex sculpture. Says Heller of his “gonzo” filmmakers: “Director Liz Fulton is delightful, and Bruce Stanbery is obsessive. He climbed on the roof of the car Liz was driving to get the right shot.”
There are also documentaries about radio’s Garrison Keillor, and the effects of Lyme disease. Also on tap: the unveiling of the WFF’s Youth Initiative projects — two five-minute shorts entirely written, directed, acted in, filmed, and edited by a group of at-risk teens in Kingston who spent a week last summer learning all the tricks of the trade.
So, movie buffs, spend October the right way — head to Woodstock, and let’s call it a movie night. That’s a wrap!