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By Film Threat Staff | September 8, 2008

The Woodstock Film Festival celebrates its ninth year with another outstanding collection of nearly 150 “fiercely independent” films, panels, concerts and special events, Wednesday October 1 through Sunday October 5. The exceptionally diverse program takes place in the arts colony of Woodstock and the neighboring towns of Rhinebeck and Rosendale.

Tickets go on sale September 10th online and at the new Box Office location at 13 Rock City Road, just across the street from Festival Headquarters at the Colony Café, in the heart of the most famous small town in the world! The full schedule of events will be available on-line at

The 2008 festival presents 44 premiere films, the highest number since the festival began in the year 2000, consisting of 10 world premieres, 4 North American Premieres, 8 National Premieres, 13 East Coast Premieres and 9 New York premieres.

More than 2100 films were submitted from around the world, another record for an event that has become known in independent film circles as one of the foremost regional independent film festivals on the planet.

“Each year brings with it a new crop of extraordinarily talented filmmakers who offer fresh and exciting approaches to filmmaking,” said WFF Executive Director Meira Blaustein, “We are proud to celebrate the work of those who take on issues that effect our lives as they try to illuminate, in their own singular way, what lies in the dark, and what is hidden from our eyes and our hearts.”

Senior WFF Programmer Ryan Werner has been working with WFF for more than seven years and notes that the industry has clearly recognized the festival’s accomplishments:

“Our strategy at Woodstock has always been about attracting quality films, not just scoring premieres, “ said Werner, who is the Vice President of Marketing, at IFC Entertainment. “As it happens, this year we do have more premieres than ever before and they are of superb quality, so I think we are starting to see people realize just how special Woodstock is. It’s our most diverse line-up ever, and I think one of our best.”

(director of WFF’s Closing Night film, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”)
The Honorary Maverick Award was derived from its symbolic meaning to the Woodstock arts colony, representing an individual whose life and work is based on creativity, independent vision and social activism. Director/screenwriter/ actor/ editor/comic book writer Kevin Smith fits the bill like a glove! One of the most unique voices to emerge during the American independent filmmaking renaissance of the 1990’s, Smith made his first film “Clerks,” in 1994, for $27,575, based on his experiences as a New Jersey convenience store clerk. It was soon followed by, “Mallrats,” “Chasing Amy,” “Jersey Girl,” “Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back,” “Dogma” and “Clerks II.” He is currently preparing a horror film, entitled “Red State” and an untitled comic book/sci-fi movie.

-ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (East Coast Premiere), directedby Kevin Smith, 2008 Honorary Maverick Award Winner; follows lifelong friends and roommates Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) faced with hard times and a mountain of debt. When the electricity and plumbing get cut off, they seize upon the idea of making a homegrown porno movie for some quick cash, enlisting the help of their friends. But as filming begins, what started out as a business proposition between friends turns into something much more. (Woodstock)

-THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD (East Coast Premiere),directed by Sean McGinly, tells the tale of Buck Howard, a has-been mentalist extraordinaire who can read minds and hypnotize not just a single soul but an entire room of people. He longs for the days when he had a marquee act in Vegas with 61 appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He hires Tony, an unemployed law school dropout to help climb back to the top, and with a bold stroke of fate, Buck surprisingly lands back into the American consciousness. As the coveted spotlight again shines, both Buck and Troy question whether or not they have made the right choice in their lives. (Rosendale)

OPENING NIGHT FILMS: For the first time, WFF presents a trifecta of extraordinary Opening Night films, all screening Thursday evening, October 2nd.

-PRIDE AND GLORY (U.S. Premiere), directed by award-winner Gavin O’Connor stars Edward Norton and Colin Farrell. Gripping cop drama exploring honor and loyalty when a family’s honesty and safety are put in danger. Director O’Connor will be present for the Q & A after the film. (Woodstock)

-HAPPY–GO-LUCKY, directed by Academy-Award nominee Mike Leigh, this infectiously joyous comedy follows the life of Polly, a cheerful, carefree schoolteacher, played brilliantly by Sally Hawkins, as she searches for love and happiness. (Rhinebeck)

-FLASH OF GENIUS, directed by Marc Abraham and starring Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham, tells the true ‘David & Goliath’ story of the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper Robert Kearns, who battled two major auto companies demanding justice -and credit- for his invention. (Rosendale)

-WENDY AND LUCY, Director Kelly Reichardt, (Old Joy) returns with this heartbreakingly beautiful tale of friendship and survival. Michelle Williams shines as the hard-up, empathetic Wendy, an Indiana native traveling through America’s Pacific-Northwest on her way to find a better life in an Alaskan fish cannery. With her beloved dog Lucy, Wendy is sidetracked when her car breaks down in a small Oregonian town and makes a futile attempt at shoplifting that will change her life forever. A hit at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, featuring a host of amazing cameos including Woodstock area actor/producer Larry Fessenden.

-THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN, Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, multi-award winner (Cesar Awards for Best Film, Best Director & Best Original Screenplay; Venice Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize & International, Critics Prize) this turbulent family drama offers a heartfelt and simple story of family, culture and food, telling the tale of aging, laid-off Tunisian boat worker Slimane Beiji’s quest to open a restaurant featuring his ex-wife’s couscous recipe. Internal family conflict and complex bureaucracy threaten his plans. Sounds of the ocean, Tunisian music and beautiful photography, work seamlessly to create a portrait of a multi-generational family grappling with the culture of a new homeland.

-ALL TOGETHER NOW (NEW YORK PREMIERE), Award-winning documentarian Adrian Wills, captures the moment in history when two of the greatest groups of artists, The Beatles and the performers of Cirque du Soleil, come together to create the outstanding show, LOVE. Fueled by a dream from George Harrison and Cirque du Soleil director Guy Laliberte, we get an inside look at this newest Cirque show, through breathtaking rehearsal footage and often hilarious interviews with all parties involved, including the two surviving Beatles.

– JULIA (U.S. PREMIERE), directed by Erick Zonca, starring Tilda Swinton as a 40 year old alcoholic, and compulsive liar, who, between shots of vodka and one-night stands, gets by on nickel-and-dime jobs. Glimpsing imminent perdition, Julia convinces herself – as much in panic and despair as for financial gain – to commit a violent act. As the story unfolds, Julia’s journey becomes a headlong flight on a collision course, but somehow she makes the choice of life over death.

– RELIGULOUS,documentary directed by Larry Charles (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Borat), explores world religions through the eyes of confirmed skeptic and satirist, the irreverent comedian and social commentator Bill Maher, as he attempts to discover why people believe the things they do.

-TOKYO! (EAST COAST PREMIERE), directed by Joon-ho Bong, Leos Carax and Michel Gondry, WORLD CINEMA, (Japanese with English Subtitles); From the weird and wonderful mind of master filmmakers, Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Leos Carax (Pola X) and Joon-Ho Bong (The Host) comes a wildly beautiful triptych of stories that pay homage to the diversity of modern-day Tokyo. In Gondry’s INTERIOR DESIGN, a troubled couple goes on a surreal apartment hunt; Carax’s side-splittingly funny MERDE tells the story of a mysterious man who emerges from the sewer to wreak havoc on the streets above, while Joon-Ho Bong’s SHAKING TOKYO offers a touchingly poignant story of a shut-in forced to face love following an earthquake.

-SUNSHINE SUPERMAN The Journey of Donovan (WORLD PREMIERE), director Hannes Rossacher paints an intimate portrait of music legend Donovan, spanning four decades of peace, love and incomparable music. Narrated mostly by Donovan in a series of anecdotes and interviews, with plenty of songs, the film follows the cultural icon from his early days in Glasgow, to his international chart-topping success in the ’60s, to the present. Appearances by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Jimmy Page, and many others.
*Donovan will be present for the Q & A, and will perform in concert, Saturday night, Oct. 4, at the Colony Café, 8pm. He is also the featured guest on the BMI Music panel.

-THROW DOWN YOUR HEART, FOCUS ON MUSIC FILM, directed by Sascha Paladino, this cinematically beautiful film documents master musician Bela Fleck’s trip through Africa searching for the roots of his instrument, the banjo. He meets his match in exuberance and sheer musicality as he journeys through Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia and Mali to play and record with notable musicians. Screening Saturday at the Bearsville Theater.
*Bela Fleck, along with Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet with Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee, present WFF’s Opening Night Kick Off Concert, Wednesday, Oct. 1st, at the Bearsville Theater.

-PREDISPOSED (WORLD PREMIERE), directed by Philip Dorling, this little film has big credentials with Melissa Leo starring and award-winning writer Ron Nyswaner sharing the writing and producing credits! Eli, on the big day of his college interview, has one small task to tend to before he can secure his scholarship. He has to take his mother (Leo) Penny to rehab. When they learn that she cannot be admitted unless she is physically intoxicated, everything changes. This rollicking short features the song Secrets by rock guitar master EARL SLICK, the longtime collaborator of David Bowie.
*Slick and singer/songwriter SAPHIN will perform in concert as THE EONS, Friday night, Oct. 3rd at the Colony Café.

NARRATIVE FEATURES: 32 A directed by Marian Quinn; EDEN directed by Declan Recks; EXPLICIT ILLS directed by Mark Webber; FLASH OF GENIUS directed by Marc Abraham; GOSPEL HILL directed by Giancarlo Esposito; THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD, directed by Sean McGinly; HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRIS MALDEN directed by Sweaty Robot; HAPPY- GO- LUCKY directed by Mike Leigh; I’LL COME RUNNING directed by Spenser Parsons; IDIOTS AND ANGELS directed by Bill Plympton; JULIAdirected by Erick Zonca; LET THE RIGHT ONE IN directed by Tomas Alfredson; MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY directed by Barry Jenkins; NATURAL CAUSES directed by Alex Cannon, Paul Cannon and Michael Lerman; THE NEW YEAR PARADE directed by Tom Quinn; NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS directed by Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig; PAPER COVERS ROCK directed by Joe Maggio; POINT BLANK directed by John Boorman; PRIDE AND GLORY directed by Gavin O’Connor; THE PRIDE directed by Gerard Hurley; PRINCE OF BROADWAY directed by Sean Baker; RIDE WITH THE DEVIL directed by Ang Lee; THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH directed by John Sayles; THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN directed by Abdellatif Kechiche; TOKYO! directed by Joon-ho Bong, Leos Carax and Michel Gondry; VISIONEERS directed by Jared Drake; WENDY AND LUCY directed by Kelly Reichardt; WERE THE WORLD MINE directed by Tom Gustafson; ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO directed by Kevin Smith.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES: ALL TOGETHER NOW directed by Adrian Wills; AMERICAN SWING directed by Mathew Kaufman and Jon Hart; AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD directed by Dan Stone; THE BETRAYAL directed by Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath; BLIND SPOT directed by Adolfo Doring; BULLETPROOF SALESMANd irected by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker; CAPTURED directed by Bon Solomon and Dan Levin; DIPLOMACY- THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT directed by Rasmus Dinesen and Boris B. Bertram; EXAMINED LIFE directed by Astra Taylor; FLYING ON ONE ENGINE directed by Joshua Z Weinstein; GARRISON KEILLOR: THE MAN ON THE RADIO IN THE RED SHOES directed by Peter Rosen; GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN directed by Paul H-O and Tom Donahue; HI, MY NAME IS RYAN directed by Paul Eagleston and Stephen Rose; IN A DREAM directed by Jeremiah Zagar; JOHNNY CASH’S AMERICA directed by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon; KASSIM THE DREAM directed by Kief Davidson; KNOW YOUR MUSHROOMS directed by Ron Mann; MILTON GLASER: TO INFORM AND DELIGHT directed by Wendy Key; OF ALL THINGS directed by Jody Lambert; PLAYING FOR CHANGE: PEACE THROUGH MUSIC directed by Jonathan Walls and Mark Johnson; PRESSURE COOKER directed by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker; RELIGULOUS directed by Larry Charles; SUNSHINE SUPERMAN: THE JOURNEY OF DONOVAN directed by Hannes Rossacher; THING WITH NO NAME directed by Sarah Friedland; THROW DOWN YOUR HEART directed by Sascha Paladino; TRINIDAD directed by PJ Raval & Jay Hodges; UNDER OUR SKIN directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson; UPSTREAM BATTLE directed by Ben Kempas.

The WFF has garnered a reputation for screening some of the most exciting films of the genre! The program this year includes Comedy Shorts, Documentary Shorts, Epic Shorts, Killer Shorts, Latin American Shorts, Predisposed Shorts, Superhero Shorts and Youth/Teen Shorts. Also featured, our heralded Animated Shorts program, curated by the incomparable Bill Plympton (full length animated feature IDIOTS AND ANGELS) and Signe Baumane (TEAT BEAT OF SEX: EPISODES 8,9,10,11).

WFF is passionately committed to supporting regional filmmakers and film production. This year there are several outstanding short films in our MADE IN THE HUDSON VALLEY category, as well as some great features. Among the offerings:

-GOSPEL HILL (World Premiere), directed by Giancarlo Esposito; greed and idealism collide in this powerful narrative set in a small southern town as preparations are made to memorialize the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of civil rights activist Paul Malcolm. Stars Julia Stiles, Adam Baldwin, Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson and Esposito himself, who has family ties in nearby Saugerties.

-DINOSAURS AND ROCKETSHIPS, directed by Liz Fulton and Bruce Stanbery, profiling Woodstock area artist Steve Heller, the eccentric artist who builds a life size Tyrannosaurus Rex out of tire chains and bulldozer sprockets and then has to figure out how to move it.

-THE PRIDE (East Coast Premiere), directed, written and starring Tivoli resident Gerard Hurley, explores forgiveness, trust and love in a community of Irish travelers in upstate New York. Cinematography by Woodstock resident Ian Ellerby;

-EDGE OF TOWN (World Premiere), directed by Christopher Ciancimino; When the body of a woman is discovered in the woods, it triggers a series of connections between four locals and gradually reveals the cause of her death.

-THE GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN, directed by Paul H-O and Tom Donahue; uniquely personal and comprehensive documentary exposes the fragility of one man ‘s ego in the light of fame and fortune. All star cast!

-NATURAL CAUSES (New York Premiere), directed byAlex Cannon, Paul Cannon and Michael Lerman:”Can your first love, be your last love… or are all early relationships doomed to fail until you know what you are looking for?” Bard College alumni!

-PREDISPOSED, directed by Woodstocker Philip Dorling, follows Eli, who, on the big day of his college interview, has to take his mother Penny to rehab. When they learn that she cannot be admitted unless she is physically intoxicated, everything changes. Featuring Ulster County’s Melissa Leo.

-BLOOD RED EARTH, directed by JT Petty; a brave named Red Earth takes his younger brother into the grasslands to kill meat that will feed their family and earn their father’s respect. The family’s admiration is short-lived when the dangerous truth emerges.

-SUPERMAN #1,directed by Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms; friends gather for beer and a brutal inquisition. Co-starring Woodstock-based actor Michael Burke.

In honor of Haskell Wexler, legendary cinematographer and director, who is receiving WFF’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, the festival is screening THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH, shot by Wexler and directed by John Sayles, who along with Wexler, will be present for the Q & A after the film. This exquisite 1994 film is renowned for its magnificent images and rich story tableau: a young girl, Fiona, is fascinated with her grandfather’s tales of her family’s departure from the island of Roan Inish, where a beautiful Selkie, a human that can transform herself into a seal, stole her baby brother. Fiona travels back to Roan Inish and sees her brother playing alone on the beach, but can she convince her family her visions are real? One of Haskell Wexler’s greatest cinematic achievements, the festival is proud to screen it in tribute to this modern master.

In honor of James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features, who is receiving the 2008 Honorary Trailblazer Award, the festival is holding a tribute screening of the 1999 film RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, written by Schamus and directed by Ang Lee, with whom he has worked several times. Ride with the Devil tells the story of Jake Roedel (Toby Maguire), the child of German immigrants living in Missouri during the civil war who joins up with a rag-tag militia of Southern loyalists. Hailed as ‘word-perfect’. WFF is proud to present this modern classic.

In honor of Lee Marvin, the Hollywood legend whose first professional appearance as an actor was at the summer stock theater in Woodstock, WFF presents Marvin’s most personal film, the stylish 1967 neo-noir crime thriller POINT BLANK. Directed by John Boorman (Dirty Dozen) in close collaboration with Marvin, who plays a reluctant criminal who stumbles into a bad situation and pays dearly for it. Marvin was involved in all aspects of the film and wanted to use various metaphors within the film to explore his deep-seated feelings about violence. Marvin retained his Woodstock ties throughout his life and WFF’s award for Best Feature Narrative Film, this year was re-named in honor of this iconic actor.

PANELS: Stellar Discussions with Amazing Filmmakers
– SHOW ME THE MONEY: From Dream To Reality- How To Finance Your Independent Film;
– CAREER DAY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE: With Filmmakers, Industry Members, Musicians, And Entertainment Professionals

GALA AWARDS CEREMONY includes presentation of the Lee Marvin Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best Feature Documentary, Best Short Narrative, Best Short Documentary, Best Animated Short, Best Student Short, along with the James Lyon Award for Best Editing, the Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography, and, this year the first ever WFF 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, being awarded to Wexler, who will be on hand to accept.

The Woodstock Film Festival has an outstanding group of industry leaders who make up the jury for each category of competition:
Lee Marvin Award for Best Feature Narratives includes Matt Dentler, Mark Duplass, Ted Hope and Mary Stuart Masterson.
Documentary Features: Rachel Grady, Morgan Spurlock and Molly Thomson
Narrative Shorts: Karen Durbin and Ross Partridge
Documentary Shorts: Ryan Harrington, Stephen Nemeth and Tim Sternberg.
Student Shorts: Jeremiah Newton, Peter Bowen and Amy Gossels.
Animation: Signe Baumane, Bill Plympton and Patrick Smith.
James Lyon Award for Best Editing Narrative: Sabine Hoffman, Brian A. Kates A.C.E. and Kate Williams.
Editing Documentary: Sabine Hoffman, Sloan Klevin and Susan Littenberg
Cinematography: Haskell Wexler.

WEDNESDAY, OCT 1, BEARSVILLE THEATER: OPENING NIGHT KICK-OFF CONCERT with ABIGAIL WASHBURN AND THE SPARROW QUARTET featuring BELA FLECK with CASEY DRIESSEN and BEN SOLLEE, features the borderless sounds of two banjos, a fiddle and a cello playing variations on traditional melodies of East Asia with a bluegrass/folk style. (see film synopsis, Throw Down Your Heart). For ticket info, click here

FRIDAY, OCT. 3, COLONY CAFÉ: EARL SLICK AND SAPHIN ARE THE EONS! Rock legend Earl Slick is a guitarist and producer best known for his longtime collaboration with David Bowie and his recordings with Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Since his first deal with Warner Brothers, Saphin continues to rise as a highly accomplished singer/songwriter/performer and producer. Slick and Saphin deliver driving, edgy rock performances in an innovative and seductive sonic and visual multi-media package. Co-presented by WACBIZ. (see film synopsis, Predisposed)

SATURDAY, OCT. 4, BEARSVILLE THEATER: THE LEGENDARY DONOVAN IN CONCERT! A rare opportunity to experience the legendary musician/poet /cultural icon in a relaxed, intimate Woodstock setting. From Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow and Catch the Wind to Universal Soldier, Hurdy Gurdy Man and Season of the Witch, Donovan’s message remains as vital to the new generation of the 21st century as it was during the revolutionary ‘60’s. Said John Lennon – “Donovan is as important and influential as either Dylan or the Beatles”. (see film synopsis, Sunshine Superman: The Journey of Donovan)

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