- Photographs by Tseng Kwong Chi / Courtesy Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc.
- This year's Woodstock Film Festival features the East Coast premiere of Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide, about the influential East Village artist.
Back in March, when the cavalcade of coronavirus closures began, Woodstock Film Festival cofounder Meira Blaustein, perhaps like most sane festival organizers this year, considered canceling the beloved event. But not for long. Instead, Blaustein, who cites "a healthy dose of insanity" as part of what made her want to start the 21-years-and-still-running film festival in the first place, didn't yield to pressure. Taking a cue from the artistic spirit of the fest's namesake town, she and her—to borrow the festival's famous tagline—"fiercely independent" team of fellow film lovers got creative. With traditional movie theaters currently closed in New York State, they made astute use of technology and found alternate venues at which to screen some of this year's hand-picked selection of over 30 full-length movies and nearly 40 short films. And so (insert clapperboard clack! here) the 2020 Woodstock Film Festival will take place from September 30 through October 4, after all.
In addition to the many films that will show online exclusively through the festival, there will be special screenings at Greenville Drive-In in Greenville, Overlook Drive-In in Poughkeepsie, and a pop-up drive-in at the Andy Lee Field in Woodstock. Several of the insightful panels and talks that have long been signature elements of the event will take place via Zoom; one such program promises Amy and Daniel Paladino, showrunners of the hit Prime Video series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." Special events are also set to happen at Colony's beer garden in Woodstock.
Among the standouts on this year's list of judiciously chosen films are the world premiere of Los Hermanos/The Brothers, a poignant documentary about Cuban brothers and virtuoso musicians Ilmar and Aldo López-Gavilán, who are reunited after a lengthy separation due to world politics (a live musical performance by Ilmar Gavilán will accompany the showing); Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks For Me, a powerful portrait of California congresswoman Barbara Lee making its East Coast premiere; and another documentary making its East Coast premiere: Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide, which centers on the titular visionary artist and his vital role in the 1980s East Village art scene.
A special component for 2020 is the festival's 35th anniversary tribute to celebrated horror producers Glass Eye Pix (Depraved, The Last Winter, Habit) that features three locally filmed genre films: Wendigo (2001), Bitter Feast (2010), and Stake Land (2009). "Glass Eye Pix presents three films from its canon of over 50 movies, each highlighting the director's unique voice, and each offering a glimpse at the range of stories found in the horror genre," says head producer and area resident Larry Fessenden. "All shot in the Hudson Valley at different times of year."
Blaustein, whose passion for indie cinema was ignited by regularly attending art house screenings as a teenager in her native Israel, was well prepared to manage a film festival by the time she and fellow movie maven Laurent Rejto established the Woodstock Film Festival in 2000. Previously, she had worked with the Hudson Valley and the Newburgh film festivals. "We could see how Woodstock would be a good place for a film festival, there was already such a high level of art and music in the area," she recalls, adding that many of the film-industry figures who've visited for what's now one of the world's major film events loved the area enough to settle here. "I remember Parker Posey apologizing for being late to one of our events because she'd decided to go out looking at houses," Blaustein says.
"It's a great festival," says actor Paul Rudd. "It's what a film festival should be, which is really independent films showcasing the work of filmmakers you might not know about. I love that, and Woodstock is a town that goes hand in hand with that. I can't think of another place that seems better suited to have an independent film festival than Woodstock."
"It's definitely been a bear, figuring things out [logistically]," says Blaustein, whose operation's regular year-round programming of WFF-branded efforts like its Summer Youth Film Lab for local teens helped test the web for the festival's transition to mainly online screenings and panels for 2020. "But this year, with everything that's going on in the world, we're really proud to be able to deliver so much—so many great films that people won't be able to see anywhere else. It's a miracle festival, really."
The 2020 Woodstock Film Festival will run from September 30 through October 4. All-inclusive passes (films and panels) are $150; online-only film passes are $125; and panels-only passes are $50. Individual drive-in and panel tickets are also available. See the full schedule of screenings and events.
Narrative FeaturesA CALL TO SPY, by Lydia Dean Pilcher (New York Premiere)
AMMONITE, by Francis Lee (Special Presentation)
BITTER FEAST, by Joe Maggio (Glass Eye Pix)
EPIC, by Chris Wedge
THE FATHER, by Florian Zeller (Opening Night)
FREELAND, by Mario Furloni and Kate McLean (New York Premiere)
FULLY REALIZED HUMANS, by Joshua Leonard
HORSE LATITUDES, by Noah Gilbert (North American Premiere)
I CARRY YOU WITH ME, by Heidi Ewing
LORELEI, by Sabrina Doyle (U.S. Premiere)
MATERNA, by David Gutnik
MILKWATER, by Morgan Ingari
MODEL, by Ran Jing (New York Premiere)
PAPER SPIDERS, by Inon Shampanier (New York Premiere)
ROTTEN EARS, by Piotr Dylewski
SAVE YOURSELVES!, by Alex H. Fischer & Eleanor Wilson
STAKE LAND, by Jim Mickle (Glass Eye Pix)
THE DRUMMER, by Eric Werthman (World Premiere)
THE OUTSIDE STORY, by Casmir Nozkowski
WENDIGO, by Larry Fessenden (Glass Eye Pix)
WHAT BREAKS THE ICE, by Rebecca Eskreis (World Premiere)
Documentary FeaturesBEHIND THE STRINGS, by Hal Rifkin (World Premiere)
CODED BIAS, by Shalini Kantayya
COMING CLEAN, by Ondi Timoner (New York Premiere)
DEAR MR. BRODY, by Keith Maitland (New York Premiere)
THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE, by Maria Finitzo
THE HUMAN FACTOR, by Dror Moreh (East Coast Premiere)
JACINTA, by Jessica Earnshaw (New York Premiere)
KENNY SCHARF: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, by Malia Scharf & Max Basch (East Coast Premiere)
LOS HERMANOS/THE BROTHERS, by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider (World Premiere Kickoff Event)
THE PUSHBACK, by Kevin Ford (U.S. Premiere)
THE SIT IN: HARRY BELAFONTE HOSTS THE TONIGHT SHOW, by Yoruba Richen (New York Premiere)
SURGE, by Hannah Rosenzweig & Wendy Sachs (East Coast Premiere)
TRUTH TO POWER: BARBARA LEE SPEAKS FOR ME, by Abby Ginzberg (East Coast Premiere)
WILDFLOWER, by Matt Smukler (World Premiere)
WOODSTOCK TUVAN STYLE, by Ilona Vinogradova (World Premiere)
ONE WEEK by Danny Gold, FLOWER PUNK by Alison Klayman, A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES by Lynne Sachs, THE HEART STILL HUMS by Savanah Leaf & Taylor Russell
CALL CENTER BLUES by Geeta Gandbhir, YAI NIN by Champ Ensminger, DAFA METTI (DIFFICULT) by Tal Amiran, A YOUTH by Giorgio Bosisio
BROOKLYN PARK by Nikola Duravcevic, ROSA by Suha Araj, SKUMJAS by Yassin Koptan, OUTSIDERS by Gleb Osatinski, THE SHEPHERDS OF CAT ISLAND by Attila Rostas
STILL WYLDE by Ingrid Haas, ANNA by Dekel Berenson, MARGO & PERRY by Becca Roth, MOTIVATED SELLER by Chris Cascarano, STAND STILL by Isabella Wing-Davey, THE RAIN PONCHO by Andrea Rosen
CAGNOLINO by Hugo Diego Garcia, CAKE DAY by Phillip Thomas, ONDINE by Tomasz Śliwiński
WANNABE by Rupert Höller, THE BUTTON by Sebastián Radic, Felipe Reutter, I’LL HAVE WHAT SHE’S HAVING by Nuri Jeong, GO BACK by MeltMirror, I’M HERE by Kateryna Tiurina, WASTELAND by Sinéad McDevitt, DON’T DIE by Greg Doble, DONE WITH THOSE DAYS by Marcin Biegunajtys, Nick Urata, AN INNOCENT MAN by Jess Cope