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Woodstock Film Fest 16th Anniversary Showcases Collection of Panels and Special Events 

Woodstock, NY (September 2015)- The 16th Annual Woodstock Film Festival presents a slate of panels that will entertain and enlighten its film-loving audience. Participants include grassroots activists, industry professionals, acclaimed directors and producers, boundary pushing actors, and esteemed authors.

"The Woodstock Film Festival's panels are among my favorite events," said Meira Blaustein, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Woodstock Film Festival, "bringing many of today's most accomplished and talented creative forces in the independent film industry together with our audience for in-depth and frank discussions about their respective areas of expertise, each one can be a fun college crash course on its own."

Launching on Wednesday, Sept 30 with our special Keynote Address and later the Kickoff Event at Ulster Performing Arts Center, engaging panels and special events can be found throughout everyday of the festival. Ticket prices range from $15-$20.

Tickets can be purchased online at beginning Sept 9!

Wednesday, Sept 30

Wednesday 9/30, 4 pm @ kleinert james art center

Activist writer/director Josh Fox opens the 2015 Woodstock Film Festival with a dialogue about the intersection between human rights and climate change, and how film can illustrate and transform our approach to this complex political problem. His two Gasland films had a symbiotic relationship with the worldwide anti-fracking movement. What can we learn from the way these films and the movement helped spur each other on? How can we better connect narrative, emotion, art, and reporting to the environmental and climate movement? What do we have to do next as a movement?

Josh Fox is best known as the writer/director of Gasland Parts I and II. He is internationally recognized as a spokesperson and leader on the issue of fracking and extreme energy development. He is currently working on a new documentary about climate change. Gasland premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, where it was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Documentary. The film premiered on HBO, was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary, and won the 2011 Emmy for best non-fiction director. Gasland Part II premiered on HBO in 2013. It was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy, won the 2013 Environmental Media Association award for Best Documentary, was named the Best Film at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, and was given the Hell Yeah Prize from Cinema Eye honors. Josh is the recipient of the 2011 Ono/Lennon Grant for Peace. 


Wednesday 9/30, doors open 7:15 pm @ the ulster performing arts center

The Poet of Havana explores the cultural, political, and social significance Varela has had in his 30 years as a singer-songwriter. A veteran of censorship battles with the Cuban government, his emotionally charged songs—raw, metaphoric chronicles of contemporary Cuban life— have drawn comparisons to Bob Dylan’s work. Jackson Browne’s translation of Varela’s Muros y Puertas (Walls and Doors) talks about how polarized we are as a society, evident in the song’s refrain, “There can be freedom only when nobody owns it.” Shot in Havana with unique access, the audience enjoys stunning concert and insider backstage moments, along with exclusive interviews with such international stars as Ivan Lins, Luis Enrique, Juan and Samuel Formel, Diana Fuentes, X Alfonso, Alexander Abreu, in addition to Jackson Browne and actor Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Traffic, Guardians of the Galaxy).

Cuban singer/songwriter Carlos Varela started playing music literally “in the dark.” Growing up in Havana, whenever a power failure killed the lights, Varela and friends would play rock music blowing across the sea via a homemade radio antenna. In 1977, at a concert of Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés -- standard-bearers for Nueva Trova, homegrown folk music that reflected the unrest of many Cubans -- Varela realized music could be more than just a fun way to pass the time.

Although he insists poetics took precedence over politics, Varela has struggled with the restrictions of censorship. But while other artists might have sought refuge elsewhere, Cuba is his inspiration and has always been home. He has recorded eight albums and performs worldwide.

CLICK HERE for tickets and info!


Thursday, Oct 1

a live performance with johnny steele and will durst
(following screening of 3 still standing)

thursday 10/1, 8 pm @ bearsville theater woodstock

Johnny Steele began performing comedy in 1984 after quitting graduate school in a move his parents named "Operation $40K Down The Drain." But Johnny quickly got the hang of the craft and was soon performing, and drinking for free, at the nation’s top clubs. Over the next decade he went on to perform at comedy festivals, win comedy competitions, log over 20 national TV appearances, and did we mention drink for free? Johnny is currently performing comedy as well as working on a number of web, radio, and TV projects, one of which is bound to take off due to, if nothing else, pure dumb luck. He is also working on a humorous solo show about his journey to find peace in a WalMart America gone mad with mindless consumption, endless sprawl, and bone-jarring stupidity. And really, aren’t we all?

Will Durst is acknowledged by peers and press alike as one of the premier political satirists in the country. Durst’s stand-up comedy is a hilarious blast of outrageous common sense. His abiding motto is: “You can’t make stuff up like this.” The New York Times calls him “possibly the best political comic in the country.” He is a five-time Emmy nominee; has been fired by PBS three times; told jokes in 14 countries; racked up seven nominations for Stand-Up of the Year; and his 800+ television appearances include Letterman, HBO, Showtime, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, the BBC, and many more. Will’s hobbies range from pin ball to the never-ending quest for the perfect cheese-burger. Durst’s performances are made possible by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.


PAradise is there: screening and talk featuring natalie merchant and jon bowermaster
Thursday 10/1, 9:15 pm @ woodstock playhouse

Twenty years after it was first released, singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant has re-recorded her 5 million-selling album Tigerlily. Paradise Is There, A Memoir by Natalie Merchant, is a personal account of the beloved singer’s journey. Told through her voice and the voices of her fans, the bio-pic illustrates how powerfully the songs from the record — "Carnival," "River," "Wonder," "The Letter," and more — have impacted her audience. At the same time, it is a first-hand telling of how the music and her avid admirers have significantly influenced Merchant’s own life. We have all enjoyed her music and with this film we get to know Merchant in a new way and appreciate the humanity of the woman that is reflected in her songs. Filled with archival footage from her early days fronting 10,000 Maniacs, this is the first documentary about herself that Natalie Merchant has participated in.

Saturday, Oct 3

SOCIAL IMPACT IN MEDIA– How do we define it? How do we measure it? Why does it matter?
Saturday 10/3, 10 am @ kleinert james art center


"Social Impact" is a term and a goal that many filmmakers strive to achieve. Yet it can seem overwhelming in the face of the many challenges, from getting any project funded, made and distributed, to achieving and realizing the results of the “impact.” Our panelists, for whom impact is a vital part, will lead us through personal case studies to explore and define what has worked for them. Here are some common questions they will try to answer:

  • What’s behind all the buzz about impact measurement? 
  • How do we measure impact when it’s not always clearly definable?
  • Is it fair to expect to require filmmakers to be held accountable for this type of work? 
  • What are some best practices from the field?
  • Is the impact producer an essential hire for any project today? 
  • When, how, and why some films can be a tool for real change?

Panelists: Andrew Catauro, Dan Cogan, Paco de Onís, Mike Webber, and Todd Wider.
Moderator: Cynthia Kane


MUSIC FOR FILM - sponsored by BMI
Saturday 10/3, 12PM @ Kleinert james art center


One Giant Leap 2: What About Me? explores complexities of human nature, spirit, and the universal language of music. The filmmakers traveled around the world for years collecting spoken word wisdom and musical "jewel." They started with pre-composed backing tracks on a laptop and added layers of music, mixing international stars like Michael Stipe, KD Lang, and Stewart Copeland with a diverse array of world music artists that include Bedouin musicians, Chinese rappers, Gabonese Pygmies, Tuvan throat singers, Egyptian folk musicians, and Japanese Taiko drummers. Join BMI's VP of Film & Media, Doreen Ringer-Ross, as she chats with composer/musician Stewart Copeland (drummer for The Police), spiritual musician Krishna Das, and filmmaker/recording artist Duncan Bridgeman about their dynamic collaboration on this project.

Panelists: Krishna Das, Stewart Copeland, and Duncan Bridgeman.
Moderator: Doreen Ringer-Ross


Enough, Already! Changing the Status of Women in Film and Television
Saturday 10/3, 2pm @ kleinert james art center


Presented by New York Women in Film & Television
The panel will be followed by a reception hosted by New York Women in Film & Television and Tangerine Entertainment. A panel of industry veterans will discuss the lack of opportunities for women directors in film and television and some of the steps that are being taken to address this situation, including the American Civil Liberties Union's recent letter to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies demanding an investigation of the entertainment industry for its systematic discrimination against women directors. Other projects and ideas for interventions will be discussed.

Panelists: a representative from the ACLU, Leah Meyerhoff, Anne Hubbell, and Rose McGowan
Moderator: Alexis Alexanian


THE AMERICANS EPISODE screening and talk with SHOWRUNNER joe weisberg
Saturday 10/3, 2:15 pm @ upstate films woodstock

Nominated for numerous awards and a two-time winner of the AFI Best TV Program of the Year, The Americans is an exciting Cold War series about two Soviet intelligence agents posing as a married couple to spy on the American government. This superb suburban spy thriller, starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, balances the escapades of espionage with the tribulations of parenting and, in the process, achieves what might appear unimaginable — empathy for the enemy. Explore the ins and outs of this “hide in plain sight” story with show creator Joe Weisberg, who worked in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations in the early 1990s. The talk will be moderated by Eric Kohn, chief film critic and senior editor at Indiewire. 

Screening of The Americans Season 3 Episode 10: Stingers (Courtesy of FX)
Philip and Elizabeth deploy a plan for the C.I.A.’s Mujahideen visitors. Tensions at the Jennings' home escalate.


the honorary award recipients: A CONVERSATION WITH ATOM EGOYAN & guy maddin
saturday 10/3, 4 pm @ kleinert james art center

Atom Egoyan and Guy Maddin are two of Canada’s most celebrated filmmakers. Egoyan's body of work includes theatre, music, and art installations – while delving into issues of memory, displacement, and the impact of technology and media in modern life. Among his films are the groundbreaking Exotica, the multi award winning The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia’s Journey (starring Bob Hoskins), Where the Truth Lies (with Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth), Devil’s Knot (with Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth), and the forthcoming Remember (starring Christopher Plummer). He was recently presented with the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo Award. Egoyan is honored with a 2015 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award.

Maddin has directed numerous shorts and eleven feature-length films, including The Saddest Music in the World, My Winnipeg, and most recently, The Forbidden Room.  His most distinctive quality is his penchant for recreating the look and style of silent or early-sound-era films. Maddin drew inspiration from the films of John Paizs, experimental shorts by Stephen Snyder, Luis Buñuel’s L’Age d’Or, and David Lynch’s Eraserhead. He has stated in numerous interviews that these “were movies that were primitive in many respects. They were low budget, they used nonactors or nonstars, they used atmospheres and ideas, and were unbelievably honest, frank, and, therefore, exciting to me. They made moviemaking seem possible to me.” He has held fast to these ideals ever since. 

The conversation will be hosted by Charlie Keil, Principal of Innis College, the past director of the Cinema Studies Institute, and a professor in the history department at the University of Toronto. He has written extensively about early cinema, especially the pivotal transitional era of the early 1910s, as well as on documentary, contemporary cinema, authorship, and stardom.


hot type - screening and talk with barbara kopple and katrina vanden heuvel
saturday 10/3, 2:30pm @ bearsville theater woodstock

When a renowned filmmaker makes a film about a renowned magazine, the outcome is sure to be captivating. Barbara Kopple is well known to Woodstock, and around the globe, as the two-time Academy Award winning director of break-through films such as Harlan County USA, Woodstock My Generation, Shut Up and Sing, Running from Crazy, and more. Her latest, Hot Type; 150 Years of The Nation, is a vivid look at America’s oldest continuously published weekly magazine. With editor Katrina vanden Heuvel at the helm, as well as an impressive array of brilliant and passionate writers, the film takes us on a journey into the soul of American Journalism. With unfettered access and unfiltered honesty, Hot Type captures the day-to-day pressures and challenges of publishing a weekly magazine, as well as illuminating how the past continuously ripples through and shapes current events. It is the story of The Nation — and the nation — evolving into the future, as it is guided by its remarkable past. 

*Screening will be followed by a conversation with director Barbara Kopple and The Nation’s Publisher and Editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, joined by Robin Bronk, CEO of The Creative Coalition. 


Sunday, Oct 4

Sunday 10/4, 10am @ KLeinert James Art center


Just because you are an accomplished actor, does it mean you will be a good director? Does working as an actor help prepare you for the complicated task of directing a film? Are actors more sensitive to other actors’ needs and wants in a film production? And setting out first as a director, what skills are gained that might help you succeed as an actor? Many illustrious actors and directors have tried their hand at both roles. Some have had remarkable success in the two careers; some find they are far better at one, then the other. For the Actors and Directors panel, we have assembled a stellar ensemble of working actors/directors, who will discuss the intersection between the two disciplines and explore how sometimes having worked on both sides of the camera is a plus, while other times not so much.

Panelists: Mary Stuart Masterson, Michael Cristofer, Griffin Dunne, and Ross Partridge
Moderator: Martha Frankel


Sunday 10/4, 12 pm @ Kleinert james art center

We read so many memoirs in print, but what about memoirs in film format? What differentiates a film as a memoir, and what is it in its craftsmanship, thought process, and production that turns it into a unique work of art? The Film as Memoir panel is comprised of some of the most influential and talented filmmakers who specialize in films in the first person and have elevated the form to its highest level. Find out what motivates them, what it takes to make an impactful and successful memoir film, and how their cohorts feel about being on screen and exposed.

Panelists: Alan Berliner, Doug Block, and Gayle Kirschenbaum
Moderator: Simon Kilmurry



What is it about an animated story that can make us laugh, or shiver with fear, or well up with tears in a uniquely profound way? From hand drawn animation by independent filmmaker, Academy Award-nominee Bill Plympton, to computer animation and studio production by two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Mark Osborne, this panel will delve into the thought process behind the artistry and the intense labor that goes into creating the final pieces. The audience will be treated to special clips from the panelists’ works, including clips from Osborne’s upcoming, highly anticipated animated film The Little Prince.

Panelists: Bill Plympton, Linda Beck and Mark Osborne
Moderator: Signe Baumane


About the Woodstock Film Festival:

Hailed by Indiewire as "A true American Maverick Among Fests" and named among the top 50 film festivals world wide, the Woodstock Film Festival premieres exceptional films, hosts the most talented emerging and established professionals in the movie industry; presents A-list concerts, panels and parties, and creates stimulating, innovative programming year-round.

The Woodstock Film Festival is a non-profit, 501c3 with a mission to present an annual program and year-round schedule of film, music and art-related activities that promote artists, culture, inspired learning and diversity.

The Woodstock Film Festival celebrates its 16th Anniversary, September 30-October 4, 2015, with an extraordinary lineup of fiercely independent films, panels, concerts and special events in Woodstock, Rhinebeck, Kingston, Rosendale and Saugerties.