This is the third installment of a five-part series describing film festivals in the Hudson Valley.  The previous post in this series described the Woodstock Museum Film Festival, which concluded on Labor Day.  The season picked up again in mid-October…

After a quiet spell lasting five-and-a-half weeks, the Valley’s film festival season roared back into life with the 17th annual Woodstock Film Festival, which began on October 13th and ran until October 16th. Over the course of its four days the festival offered 123 films along with numerous receptions, panel discussions, and parties at 13 different venues in six communities: Woodstock, Rosendale, Rhinebeck, Saugerties, Kingston, and New Paltz. This is the most geographically spread-out of the film festivals, with a drive of 35 minutes between some venues, requiring visitors to plan more carefully than at more centralized festivals.

This is by far the most high-profile film event held in the Valley, with a 120-page festival guide featuring photos of well-known film personages such as Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Mark Ruffalo, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Keanu Reaves.

No doubt reveling in the presence of so many film luminaries, festival organizers also are at pains to emphasize their commitment to the pure art form, with the festival awarding a series of “maverick awards”, and with slogans such as “fiercely independent” prominent.  From the festival guide, one learns that the festival showcases “films from 21 countries, transporting us in time, place, state of mind, and way of thinking. We hear from more women directors than ever (44 to be exact), and once again we give voice to those struggling for a better reality for themselves or others, achieving miraculous things, celebrating our individual differences, or just plain living life. In other words, a celebration of the human condition in its myriad facets.”

All 30 of the festival’s feature-length “narrative” films were made in either 2015 or 2016.  Most stem from the United States, with contributions also from the UK, the Netherlands, Israel, Chile, South Africa, and the Caribbean.  Most have two showings, on different days, which seems like a good idea given the logistical complexity of the festival.

The 24 documentaries also all stem from either 2015 or 2016, with most coming from the United States, but also including contributions from the UK, Libya, the Ukraine, Israel/Sweden and Israel/Palestine/USA.  As one would expect, the documentaries explore the human experience from numerous angles.  They range in length from 50 to 118 minutes and, similar to the narratives line-up, many have two showings on different days.

A medley of shorts, organized into groups with titles such as “animation”, “instinct”, and “jests” rounds out the program.  Most of the shorts come from the United States, augmented by contributions from India, France, Germany, Canada, the UK, Hong Kong, Mexico, Spain, and Iraq.

Panel discussions on topics such as music in film, women in film and media, feminism in the Middle East, and the actor’s life  allow visitors to hear from a diverse range of accomplished film artists.

In contrast to the zero-cost Woodstock Museum Film Festival, a full festival pass to the Woodstock Film Festival costs $750. Tickets for individual films and events can be ordered online or by phone, with prices ranging from $5-$80, along with an additional charge of $4.95 shipping and handling for each order.