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Owen Suskind - Animator and the inspirational subject of  LIFE, ANIMATED

Owen Suskind - Animator and the inspirational subject of LIFE, ANIMATED

LIFE, ANIMATED is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. This emotional coming-of-age story follows Owen as he graduates to adulthood and takes his first steps toward independence. The subject of his father Ron Suskind’s New York Times bestseller, Owen was a thriving three year old who suddenly and inexplicably went silent – and for years after remained unable to connect with other people or to convey his thoughts, feelings or desires.  Over time, through repeated viewings of Disney classics like THE LITTLE MERMAID and THE LION KING, Owen found useful tools to help him to understand complex social cues and to re-connect with the world around him. 

LIFE, ANIMATED evocatively interweaves classic Disney sequences with verité scenes from Owen’s life in order to explore how his identification and empathy for characters like Simba, Jafar, and Ariel gave him a means to understand his feelings and allowed him to interpret reality.  Beautiful, original animations offer rich insights into Owen’s fruitful dialogue with theDisney oeuvre as he imagines himself heroically facing adversity as a member in a tribe of sidekicks. Owen’s story is a moving testament to the many ways in which stories can serve as a means of persevering through the dark times, leading us all toward the light. View a special clip from the film here.

Roger Ross Williams, Academy Award Winning director of  LIFE, ANIMATED

Roger Ross Williams, Academy Award Winning director of LIFE, ANIMATED

"My films have always been about championing the outsider – this is what makes filmmaking such an exciting adventure," Says filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, "With LIFE, ANIMATED, I wanted to tell an incredible story but I also wanted to create a space that would offer insight into Owen Suskind and other people living with autism. Owen is a unique person for many reasons, chief among them are his emotional openness and scrupulous honesty. His vision of the world is extraordinary because he is unencumbered by many of the world’s social cues whose main purpose is to restrict behavior and curb spontaneity. And that's very refreshing to me. What Owen has done by living his life immersed in myths and fables is find a way to dissect the world and in so doing he has come to an incredibly wise and rich understanding of the human condition. What Owen draws from these classic stories is an understanding of the world that is as deep and complex as it is inspirational and instructive. It was important to me to get inside Owen's head and tell his story from his point of view. Too often the world looks askance at people who are outside of society's mainstream; this film is about looking at one of these outsiders in great detail, but from the inside, looking out at the world. The process of making LIFE, ANIMATED expanded my vocabulary as a filmmaker, translating Owen's unique way of seeing the world into pictures and sound that help us better understand a truly extraordinary individual."

Screening is courtesy of The Orchard.

The WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL is set to announce the unveiling of its official 2016 poster this July at the Elena Zang Gallery, 3671 NY-212, Shady, NY. The event is free and open to the public. Date and time will be announced shortly.

Past poster artists for the Woodstock Film Festival include Joy Buran and Noelle Melody (2015), Michael Dubois (2014), Scott Michael Ackerman (2013), Bill Miller (2012), Kathy Ruttenberg (2011), Portia Munson (2010), Milton Glaser (2009), Karen Whitman (2008), Peter Max (2007), and many others.

Following the unveiling, signed limited edition prints and posters, as well as t-shirts, hats and commemorative merchandise will be available for purchase at THE FILM CENTER at 13 Rock City Road, Woodstock, NY or on the Woodstock Film Festival website

The Woodstock Film Festival will celebrate its 17th Anniversary, on October 13-16, 2016.

honors Ron Nyswaner and Philippe Petit


The Woodstock Film Festival proudly honored two local luminaries -- Ron Nyswaner and Philippe Petit -- at its SPIRIT OF WOODSTOCK CELEBRATION on June 4 in a beautiful estate overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir.

The SPIRIT OF WOODSTOCK celebrates the roots of the Hudson Valley — its natural beauty, iconoclasts, art, culture, innovation, and the river that flows through and connects it.

"Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who contributed to this very special event," stated Woodstock Film Festival co-founder and executive director Meira Blaustein. "What made this year’s Spirit of Woodstock celebration particularly magical was the nature of the honorees -- a world renowned tightrope walker and a first class screenwriter -- and the spectacular backdrop of the Ashokan Reservoir and the Catskill Mountains."

"What a wonderful evening – such deserving honorees, great friends, perfect weather, and fabulous volunteers to make the event go off without a hitch." added Woodstock Film Festival board president Lauri Andretta, who introduced the event. Meira Blaustein then introduced actor Tim Guinee (Hell on Wheels), who delighted the crowd with a hilarious presentation to friend and mentor Philippe Petit.

Philippe is a great poet of the wire. He is an artist in the air and what he does is lift us up to be able to see our own possibilities as human beings," said Guinee. "He’s courageous enough to be the man who takes the first step out onto the wire of our communal possibility, and I am deeply honored to present a criminally insane, gloriously insane man… Ladies and gentlemen, Philippe Petit!” (listen to audio online).

Petit accepted the honor with panache, humor, humility, and a movie quiz for those assembled.

Actor / director and screenwriter Michael Cristofer adeptly pointed out how Ron Nyswaner has broken barriers with his screenplays, including A Soldier’s Girl. "Long before any of us knew the word 'transgender'  or fumbled over pronouns or which bathrooms people should use, Ron Nyswaner wrote a brilliant script about a young man in love with a woman who was also a man,” said Cristofer. “That film told a beautiful human story and, through the miracle of cable TV,  brought the issue into millions of American homes."  Cristofer also pointed out that Nyswaner’s screenplay The Painted Veil was produced in Shanghai before the Chinese opened their doors to international filmmakers and that  Philadelphia blew the doors off the aids epidemic and into our collective consciousness.

Nyswaner’s heartfelt and eloquent acceptance speech was an homage to the region and its rich mix of people, singling out some of his own mentors, including the workman who invited him to spend Christmas Eve with his family one lonely holiday season, and former Spirit honoree, Congressman Maurice Hinchey. Nyswaner also took the opportunity to call on the assembled guests to join him in supporting the Woodstock Film Festival, especially its LGBT Focus.

The evening was attended by many special guests including former David Bowie bass player Gail Ann Dorsey, composer Johan de Meij, sculptor John Kahn, and many others. 

Previous SPIRIT OF WOODSTOCK honorees include Michael Lang, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, Mark Braunstein, and Levon Helm. The Spirit of Woodstock Award, is hand-crafted by local artisan Steve Heller of Fabulous Furniture.

Click to read full release.

The 17th Annual Woodstock Film Festival is now open for submissions. Film categories include narrative & documentary features, short narrative, student short narrative, short documentary, animation, music videos, and teen films. The late deadline is June 15.

Submit your film at Woodstock Film Festival.com or via Without a Box, or Film Freeway


BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE - $5000 cash prize from Gigantic Pictures

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE - $2500 cash prize from The Bluestein Family Foundation

BEST SHORT NARRATIVE - $2,000 cash prize from Gigantic Pictures

BEST STUDENT SHORT - $1,000 cash prize from Gigantic Pictures

BEST SHORT DOC - $1,000 cash prize from Films We Like

ULTRA INDIE AWARD - $2,000 cash prize from Gray, Krauss, Stratford, Sandler, Des Rochers, LLP.
*2015 winner also received a camera from Black Magic Design

CARPE DIEM AWARD - $500 cash prize from The Vincent Jay Andretta Memorial Fund

HASKELL WEXLER AWARD -  Includes $15,000 in rental services from Panavision, NY

JAMES LYONS EDITING AWARD NARRATIVE & DOCUMENTARY FEATURES - $1,500 in services from Technicolor Postworks



All winners also receive a handcrafted trophy created by Steve Heller of Fabulous Furniture


The Woodstock Film Festival is honored to have Blackmagic Design back on board as an AWARD SPONSOR for 2016. We are very grateful to them for their continued support.

Blackmagic Design's founders have had a long history in post-production editing and engineering. With extensive experiences in high-end telecine, film and post, harnessed with a real passion for perfection, Blackmagic set out to change the industry forever. 

A company dedicated to quality and stability and focusing on where it's needed most; Blackmagic has created some of the most talked about products in the industry. World famous for their unbeatable codecs, Blackmagic envisioned truly affordable high-end quality editing workstations built upon Blackmagic software and hardware.

In November 2002, Blackmagic launched the DeckLink capture card and in doing so single handedly made working in true 10 bit uncompressed video on a Macintosh OS X™ system an affordable reality. The DeckLink card has become a market-leading product due to Blackmagic Design's philosophy of delivering "what ever it takes to give creative editors and designers the very best quality tools".


We would like to also extend a thank you to our official 2015 WFF sponsors and three advertisers who joined us for year-round Newsletter support: Mid- Hudson Limo, Sunflower Natural Foods Market, and Waterside Getaways!