Directed by Kurt Voelker USA / 2016 / 100 minutes East Coast Premiere
Grieving over the death of his wife, Bill Palet (in a subtly charismatic performance by JK Simmons) makes a bold move, packing up his life and adolescent son to start anew in LA. With a striking performance by up-and-coming actor Josh Wiggins as Wes, the father-son relationship permeates the story as they each contend with their grief, assisted by the relationships they build.
Wes finds solace in new friends and pursuits, but this sense of "normal" is upended as Bill falls into a debilitating depression. Struggling to keep a grip on their lives, their story is intertwined with two women — a discerning French professor (Julie Delphy) who cares deeply for her students, and a troubled girl (impeccably played by Odeya Rush) whose kindness is obscured by a dark reputation.
Witty, heartening and full of honest sentiment and fresh dialog, The Bachelors explores how grief can sabotage our ability for compassion, while love has the power to drive healing. — Colton Cox
The Ballad of Lefty Brown
Directed by Jared Moshè USA / 2017 / 111 minutes East Coast Premiere
In what is a uniquely American genre, director Jared Moshe takes us back to the world of cowboys and cattle barons. However, this time it's not the hero, but his sidekick in the spotlight. After Eddie Johnson (Peter Fonda) is elected Montana senator, he appoints his bumbling pal Lefty (Bill Pullman) to take over his ranch. Everyone, including Eddie's wife (Kathy Baker) thinks this is a bad decision. When things take an unexpected turn, and Eddie is gunned down, Moshe spins a stirring and compassionate yarn, as Lefty, thrown into an unaccustomed position, proves his loyalty, turning from clumsy sidekick into relentless avenger. Pullman's Lefty Brown is an inspiring character, simple, stubborn, with an invincible courage that carries the film by his masterful performance. An old-fashioned Western accentuated with a cinematic eye and attention to details, this is a story that never becomes old: that of undying loyalty of one man for another. — Ben F. Fischer
Directed by Harris Doran USA / 2017 / 87 minutes East Coast Premiere
Angie, an impoverished single mother with a history of bad decisions, is determined to do better for her son. Discovering that the house she shares with her mother, a crude woman with a poor track record of her own, is being condemned, Angie begins a frantic search for a new home. When all other options fail, she fixates on solving the problem by confronting the one person she feels owes her: the man who sexually abused her as a child.
A haunting story about an uncomfortable topic, Beauty Markfearlessly portrays the effects of sexual abuse. While some may question her methods of salvation, the raw and unflinching performance of Auden Thornton as Angie engenders a deep sense of compassion, even as she goes down a questionable path. Ultimately what is so refreshing and uplifting about Beauty Mark, is Angie's choice to use the trauma and pain of her past to save someone else. — Monique Ray
Directed by Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell USA / 2017 / 92 minutes East Coast Premiere
You can't go home again. Or, can you? When Becks (short for Rebecca, played by gifted Tony winner Lena Hall) leaves her Brooklyn boho life to follow her long term girlfriend to LA, only to be jilted when she gets there, seeking solace at "home" seems sensible. So Becks drives to her mother's house in St. Louis and the life she left behind years ago.
Distraught by her breakup, the spurned Brooklyn singer-songwriter starts playing guitar for tips in an old friend's bar and parading her sexuality. Mom, skillfully portrayed by Christine Lahti, attempts to be supportive but often comes up short and awkward. Chronicling her attempts and frustration to re-establish a life back in the Midwest, the "fish out of water" narrative is supported by a winningly fresh, original musical score and some hysterically funny scenes. Will Rebecca find her niche in St. Louis? Maybe one can 'go home again.' — Jeff Morris
Directed by Karl Jacob USA / 2017 / 91 minutes North American Premiere
Approaching womanhood, 12-year-old Florence experiences her first deer hunt, a traditional rite-of-passage in her matriarchal family. Drawing on his own experiences growing up in Northern Minnesota, director Karl Jacob has crafted an intimate portrait of the familial ritual of hunting, a subject that tangentially dovetails with contemporary concerns regarding firearms.
As in many world cultures where preordained ceremonies historically usher adolescents into adulthood, the protagonist in "Cold November" transforms from a child playing with a cardboard village to a seeker alone in the woods, desperate for comfort, aid and the attainment of an elusive goal. The exquisite performance of Bijou Abas as Florence, the stillness, and the evocative beauty of the landscape provide a gentle counterpoint to the real life shooting, skinning and dressing of the majestic kill. In a world where guns equate with war and terrorism, "Cold November" reminds us that ones relationship with guns is completely different when they are used to provide nourishment. —Ben F. Fischer
Directed by Kevin Tent USA / 2017 / 95 minutes
A hopeless romantic (Domhnall Gleeson) thinks he's found true love with an older woman (Christina Applegate) only to learn that she's married and their encounter was merely an instrument of revenge against her neglectful husband (Thomas Haden Church). Initially out for blood, the husband finds himself strangely sympathetic to the romantic's plight and decides the best way for the two of them to get revenge is by moving in together, cutting her out and living a bachelor's life.
Don't Come Back From the Moon
Directed by Bruce Thierry Cheung USA / 2017 / 84 minutes East Coast Premiere
In a rundown desert town, the men begin to vanish one by one, leaving their families to wonder where they have gone and will they return. Is this some sci-fi abduction? After one father's cryptic note, the kids starting referring to the disappearances as going to the moon.
The supernatural atmosphere persists, enhanced by soft grainy camera work and a discordant soundtrack, the town starting to look post-apocalyptic, with barren land, tumble-down buildings and kids lolling about with no options or hope. The real reason for the absentee fathers, however, is more mundane. Lacking job opportunities, they seek greener pastures. At the center of it all is fifteen-year-old Mickey, juggling teenage tomfoolery, his love for another forsaken kid, and acting the grown-up, providing for his younger brother and now single mom. In this beautifully executed story, what choice will Mickey make: remain to rebuild his world, or leave to find his own future? — Ben F. Fischer
Girl in Flight
Directed by Sandra Vannucchi Italy, Switzerland / 2017 / 78 minutes North American Premiere In Italian with subtitles
"Almost 11-year-old" Silvia's home life is dominated by her mother's depression. Hoping for a break, Silvia pleads for a family trip to Rome. But when her father backs down yet again, she takes off on her own from their home outside Florence to fulfill her dream. Fearless and open to everything, she falls in with 13-year-old Emina, a Gypsy girl who reluctantly takes Silvia under her wing. And so the adventure begins. In a story that confronts such universal themes as the struggles of family life disrupted by mental illness, as well as a child's innocence in relation to an outcast ethnic group, Girl in Flight is a film of compassion and beauty. Shot in a Roma camp with resident non-actors by an award-winning cinematographer, this tender, captivating and emotional indie gem is based on events in first-time director Sandra Vannucchi's real life. —Barbara Pokras, ACE
Directed by Tamlin Hall USA / 2017 / 102 minutes New York Premiere
Holden On is the true story of a teen from the small town of LaGrange, Georgia, struggling with mental illness and addiction in the mid '90s. Holden Layfield was cheerful, popular, a star athlete, kind, and compassionate . . . and he had a dark secret: he suffered from schizophrenia. As his condition deteriorated and his attempt to self-medicate turned into addiction, he disconnected from family and friends. On November 16, 1995. 19-year-old Holden committed suicide with a shotgun.
Tamlin Hall was one of Holden's schoolmates and in his phenomenal first film he shows that Holden's life matters by exposing the stigma surrounding mental illness and encouraging those who are suffering to talk about it and seek help. His cinema verite style, iconic 90's soundtrack, finely chosen cast, and obvious respect and empathy for his subject create a passionate testimonial to someone whose life was shattered before it even started. — Ben F. Fischer
Directed by Bob Byington USA / 2017 / 70 minutes New York Premiere
In this absurdist comedy set in the near-future, Ben, a perpetual dater who is incapable to commit to any relationship, portrayed in a wonderfully wacky performance by Kieran Culkin, works for a company tasked with finding a forever home for genetically modified babies who don't age, cry, eat or soil diapers. So-called Infinity Babies are a stylistic choice for parents who don't want the responsibilities of raising a child. But somewhere along the way, one of these care-free babies almost dies of neglect and one of our characters discovers a need and knack for parenting. Featuring such supporting comedic veterans as Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally (both from Parks and Recreation) and Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Silicon Valley), whose hilarious performances are essential to the whole, and assuredly directed by Bob Byington with beautiful black and white imagery, Infinity Baby is about trying to find our place in a world that is becoming increasingly artificial and the human relationships and connections that we hone along the way. — Evan Thomas
Last Flag Flying
Directed by Richard Linklater USA / 2017 / 119 minutes
In 2003, 30 years after they served together in the Vietnam War, former Navy Corps medic Richard Doc Shepherd (Steve Carell) re-unites with ex-Marines Sal (Bryan Cranston) and Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) on a different type of mission: to bury Doc's son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War. Doc decides to forgo burial at Arlington Cemetery and, with the help of his old buddies, takes the casket on a bittersweet trip up the East Coast to his home in suburban New Hampshire. Along the way, Doc, Sal and Mueller reminisce and come to terms with shared memories of the war that continues to shape their lives.
The Light of the Moon
Directed by Jessica M. Thompson USA / 2017 / 94 minutes New York Premiere
Walking home alone late at night after drinks with friends, listening to music on her headphones and unaware of her surroundings, a young woman is accosted and dragged into a dingy, Brooklyn alleyway. She is brutally beaten and violently raped. Staggering home to the apartment she shares with her boyfriend, the trauma becomes her new reality. Bonnie's story is, sadly, not unique. While she admits to being mugged, deep shame prevents her from disclosing the rape to her caring co-workers and concerned Latina mother. Meanwhile, her sympathetic boyfriend Matt is guilt-ridden because he wasn't there to protect her. As Bonnie struggles to regain her sense of self and rages at Matt's well-meaning attentiveness, we question if one can heal while avoiding the truth. From the impersonal rape kit to the fruitless attempt to identify the rapist, director Jessica Thompson's compassionate and engaging filmmaking deftly guides us through the psyche of the victim. — Barbara Pokras, ACE
The Mad Whale
Mad Whale, The OPENING NIGHT FILM
Directed by Adam Linzey, Luke Haskard, Andrew Wood, Ariel Heller, Sonia Guggenheim, Matt McClung, Jenna Cavelle, David Breschel, Uttera Singh USA / 2017 / 99 minutes World Premiere
Inmates at a women's mental asylum are tasked with staging a theatrical production of Herman Melville's Moby Dick as a bold new form of therapy.
Directed by Bill Plympton and Jim Lujan USA / 2016 / 76 minutes
Revengeance is the animated story of low-rent bounty hunter named Rod Rosse, The One Man Posse, who gets entangled in a web of danger when he is hired by ex-biker/ex-wrestler turned U.S. Senator Deathface to find a girl who stole a package. The 8th hand-drawn animated feature film from master animator Bill Plympton, it is the first collaboration between Plympton and his creative partner, writer/artist Jim Lujan, who together bring us this new outstanding animated work.
A Real Vermeer
Directed by Rudolf van den Berg The Netherlands / 2016 / 105 minutes East Coast Premiere In Dutch with subtitles
Han van Meegeren is considered one of the most talented artists of the 1920's Dutch art scene. But when he falls in love with the beautiful actress Jolanka Lakatos, wife of Holland's most important art critic, van Meegeren makes a powerful enemy, intent on destroying him. Then, pouring salt on the wound, his wife and son leave him. Distraught, van Meegeren escapes to the south of France to work on one thing: revenge. He dedicates himself to forging a perfect Vermeer that will fool the art world and humiliate his nemesis. When it comes time to unveil the painting, however, Han must choose between revealing the truth and getting his revenge, or keeping quiet and winning Jolanka's heart. In this period piece of high tension drama, madness and romance, A Real Vermeer is a fictionalized story of a man who, in real life, rose to infamy as one of the most ingenious art forgers of all time.
The Song of Sway Lake
Directed by Ari Gold USA / 2017 / 101 minutes East Coast Premiere
In this lyrical ode to nostalgia, time and place play an important role alongside the exceptionally strong cast. Set circa 1990 in the resort town Sway Lake, temperamental Ollie (Rory Culkin) and his duplicitous Russian friend (Robert Sheehan), visit his ancestral home to search for a rare record album collected by Rory's late father. There they face his icy grandmother (Mary Beth Peil) and distressed helper (Elizabeth Peña). Haunted by his father's ghost, Ollie is driven to find the record as a keepsake, though his grandmother seeks to sell it. In a complex story of loyalty, betrayal, love, and intrigue, set against a backdrop of big band sounds and raucous teens cavorting on the lake, we encounter both the falling apart and coming together in what is an atypical boy-meets-girl (and boy-meets-woman) summer romance, with full-on family dysfunction. The Song of Sway Lake is an impressive character study of everyone involved. — Ben F. Fischer
Directed by Catherine Eaton USA / 2017 / 93 minutes
Why would a woman living on a remote Maine island choose to not speak? The Sounding is a beautifully envisioned film that explores this psychological mystery. With a hint of an Oliver Sachs case, the story of Liv (portrayed by director Catherine Eaton), eerily unfolds. After the death of her grandfather, a renowned neurologist who raised her, Liv, who has been silent for years, begins to speak in a language disquietingly her own. But when a driven neurologist, recruited to protect her, instead commits Liv to a psychiatric hospital, the once sedate women becomes a full-blown rebel. In a scenario that ebbs and flows from harsh to tender, romance to violence, Liv's refusal to conform threatens to keep her locked up forever. A film as impassioned as its protagonist, The Sounding is a voice for those who have the courage to be different. — Jeff Morris
Directed by Ruben Östlund Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark / 2017 / 145 minutes In Swedish and Danish with subtitles
Christian is a sophisticated, liberal and respected curator of a contemporary art museum who is about to launch a daring new exhibit titled The Square, when in a blink of an eye, everything changes. One minute a successful man in control of his life and his surroundings, Christian becomes a victim of a theft of his wallet and phone, and is pulled into a whirlpool of events that gets more and more bizarre before it balances out again. A rich and entertaining satire that takes on the Swedish art scene, politics and human nature, The Squareboasts stellar performance by Christian (Claes Bang) and Anne (Elizabeth Moss) as it takes you on a ride through individual and societal behavior.
The Strange Ones
Directed by Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein USA / 2016 / 81 minutes
Two travelers, a young man and a boy, appear to be on an adventure across an undefined remote American landscape. (In fact, this unnamed place is the Hudson Valley, including Woodstock.) We assume they are two brothers on vacation, yet something feels off kilter. Who are these men and what are they after? The outstanding performances in this atmospheric thriller are a tour de force and the unforeseeable events furnish unsettling suspense. The often wet, blurry landscape, the repetitive background sounds of nature, and the determined facial expressions of the duo are one moment tender, hostile the next, with a guarded innocence on the face of the boy who falsely calls himself Jeremiah, coalesce into unease as we fear for the boy's safety. Even when circumstances become dire, their relationship remains enigmatic, as Jeremiah accepts the aid of sympathetic strangers, without revealing the true nature of their connection. — Ben F. Fischer
Directed by Michael Berry USA / 2017 / 87 minutes New York Premiere
The Woodstock Playhouse screening on October 11 will be preceded by the short film A Hand of Bridge.
Music performances are also a part of the October 11 event.
Trapped together on a stalled New York City subway car, six strangers confront their assumptions of one another under the scrutinizing eye of a mysterious homeless man, authentically played by Giancarlo Esposito. A musical for modern times, Stuck counterbalances its claustrophobic setting with impassioned songs and fully realized characters, each vocalizing their stories through memory and fantasy. The talented cast (which includes Ashanti, Amy Madigan, Tim Young, Aden Cho, Omar Chapparo, Gerard Canonico, and Reyna de Courcy) leaps through the screen and grips us with the realization that each of us carries some silent burden waiting to be proclaimed. The Manhattan underground is eerie and cold as a backdrop to the songs and stories, allowing Stuck to truly come alive through its characters. As they reveal their histories, struggles and prejudices, they also recognize their shared experiences, breaking the barriers between strangers on an urban metro. — Colton Cox
Directed by Richard Levine USA / 2017 / 107 minutes East Coast Premiere
Ted Swenson is a published author working as a creative writing professor, with a comfortable marriage and a passion for his work. But as the guidance he provides to a gifted student intensifies, Submission, based on the best-selling novel Blue Angel by Hudson Valley resident Francine Prose, delves into a deeper story, exploring issues as creative envy and the pressure of personal expectations as Swenson tries to navigate the slippery slope from teacher to Guru, admirer to manipulator.
Director Richard Levine delivers a suspenseful human drama mixed with a risque blend of comedy making the film entertaining and compelling. Honest and authentic, with gifted leading actors Stanley Tucci and Addison Timlin carrying the film, supported by Kyra Sedgwick and Janeane Garafolo who deliver critical roles, Submission is a biting commentary on political correctness, gender politics and the witnessing of a decent man setting his life aflame. — Monique Ray
Directed by Anahita Ghazvinizadeh USA, Qatar / 2017 / 80 minutes East Coast Premiere
In this succinct, enchanting look at modern-day identity issues, writer-director Anahita Ghazvinizadeh's They tenderly follows fourteen-year-old J, who goes by the pronoun "they," during a crucial three-day time span. J lives with their parents in the suburbs of Chicago and is exploring their gender identity, all the while taking hormone blockers to postpone puberty. After two years of medication and therapy, J has to make a decision whether or not to transition. Over a long weekend while their parents are away, J's sister Lauren and her Iranian friend/partner Araz arrive to take care of they. With a haunting central performance by Rhys Fehrenbacher, the film is refreshingly non-judgmental in a way rarely seen in real life, much less on screen. — Monique Ray
Directed by Mark Dennis and Ben Foster USA / 2017 / 87 minutes East Coast Premiere
The Premise: A group of archeology students, searching for their missing teacher, become trapped inside a mysterious cave where time passes at a different pace than in the outside world. The Realization: A time-bending science fiction adventure that is smart, entertaining and grips you from start to finish. Using a simple notion of time passing faster outside than inside the cave, what initially starts out as a straightforward rescue expedition soon becomes a spooky sci-fi mystery fraught with alarming threats and unforeseen twists and turns around every corner, making it impossible to guess what's coming next. Danger imperils the lives of the characters and threatens their ability to return home. Will they be saved despite their ineptness? With an animated cast portraying the somewhat dysfunctional rescue team, Time Trap is a clever, fast-paced ride packed with imagination and fun. Suitable for children who aren't easily scared and adults who long to still be kids. — Ben F. Fischer
Directed by Hadi Ghandour Lebanon-France / 2016 / 100 minutes North American Premiere In Lebanese-French with subtitles
Adnan is a dreamer at odds with himself: a Lebanese travel agent who can describe the romances of the world to his clients, but has never left his own country. So when the opportunity arises for him to attend a business conference in Paris, he packs his suitcase and flies out, only to find himself tempted by a culture that challenges his sense of loyalty — both to family and nation. Wide-eyed in the City of Love, Adnan is seduced by Paris one moment, then drawn back to Lebanon the next, with worried phone calls from his wife counterbalancing his European enticements. As Adnan wonders where his heart truly lies, we are charmed by his emotional tug-of-war, stuck between a lifetime of caution and his latent yearnings. The Traveller is thoughtful and sweet, and Adnan, played with buoyancy by Rodrigue Sleiman, brings levity as his character stumbles into an unfamiliar world. — Colton Cox
Us and Them
Directed by Joe Martin United Kingdom / 2017 / 83 minutes East Coast Premiere
Three rough and tumble British lads, intent on making a grand and brutish public statement on economic inequality in the UK, use one upper crust family as their sacrificial lamb. When disenfranchised Danny (Jack Roth) confronts wealthy banker, Conrad (Tim Bentinck), he plans to teach him a lesson he'll never forget.
When daughter Philippa comes home with her supposed boyfriend, her parents are shocked to see he is from the "wrong" social class. They soon learn he is an imposter and thus begins this wild ride of a home invasion thriller. Tensions escalate as the intruders hold the family hostage and force the father to choose between wife and daughter in a game of Russian roulette. Danny's seething anger is palpable and only countered by Conrad's attitude toward privilege and entitlement. Briskly paced with wonderful acting, this well-crafted film is on the pulse of sociopolitical strife in the UK and reflects the current political unrest worldwide. — Gene Fischer
Directed by Robert Jan Westdijk The Netherlands / 2016 / 93 minutes North American Premiere In Dutch and English with Subtitles
Not your typical father/ son bonding experience, a middle age crime novelist with a soft spot for the ladies, and his awkward 20 year old son, both dumped by their partners at the same time, embark on a trip from Amsterdam to Edinburgh on the pretext of a publicity tour. Their strained relationship and personal demons begin to heal with the aid of two local women, while the music of the renowned (Dutch) band The Waterboys serves as the catalyst for the individualized turning points for the two men. A double coming-of-age film, Waterboys is a warm and amusing story of an estranged father who needed to be shaken up from his revelry and endless playboy adventures and do some growing up, and a son who had to learn to take life less seriously. Despite the levity, this charming and easy-going comedy is a movie of surprising depth.— Svetlana Krotek
What Children Do
Directed by Dean Peterson USA / 2017 / 86 minutes East Coast Premiere
Estranged sisters Amy and Shannon return to their hometown in upstate New York to care for their dying grandmother. After not speaking for three years, and knowing little about each other's current lives, they come face-to-face with lingering childhood resentments, all the while trying to put aside the past to come together for Nana. With the kind of comedy that only sibling rivalry can generate, the failed actress and bored librarian sisters come across old flames, over-zealous pastors and overdue DVDs, as they work to heal their relationship with each other and the town they grew up in (Woodstock, that is!). — Monique Ray