In Woodstock, NY this weekend, and in a few nearby towns, organizers staged the 6th annual Woodstock Film Festival, offering a lineup boasting some of the best from a number of recent festivals along with a selection of premieres. Adam Rapp's "Winter Passing" and Shane Meadows' "Dead Man's Shoes" kicked off the festival last Wednesday and the event closed Sunday night with Steve Buscemi's "Lonesome Jim" and Atom Egoyan's "Where the Truth Lies," but not before a number of awards were presented.
Duncan Tucker's "Transamerica", a Weinstein Company acquisition that debuted at the Berlinale this year was the audience's favorite narrative feature, while Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's "Boys of Baraka," festival favorite this summer that debuted at SXSW (and is still seeking distribution) was the favorite doc of festival-goers. The film is a coming-of-age story about a group of boys from the ghettos of Baltimore, MD who move to a boarding school in Kenya.
Another pair of film's seeking distribution was selected as award winners of the juried awards. Jurors Peter Saraf, Anne Walker-McBay and Fisher Stevens chose Ian Gamazon's "Cavite," which debuted this year at SXSW as the narrative jury prizewinner. The low-budget film is the story of a man who goes home to the Philippines and becomes entangled in a kidnapping plot that is revealed to him in short mobile phone calls. Kief Davidson's "The Devil's Miner," a look at two young Catholic miner boys in Bolivia who believe they protected underground by the devil, another Tribeca premiere, won the doc jury award. Jurors Nancy Abraham, David D'Arcy, and Brett Morgan selected the winner.
A town with a tradition of 60s music and tie-dyed t-shirts, Woodstock seems to be a haven for those with independent spirits and an alternative mindset. In a local newspaper a writer bemoaned the iPod as a device ruining human interaction, while on the streets some of the free spirits sat on the sidewalks playing music, and another stood silently holding up two fingers as a simple peace symbol, for hours on end. It was hardly a surprise the music-oriented docs drew festivalgoers to the fest's intimate venues.
Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary's "Favela Rising," an uplifting doc about the challenges of turning lives around in the toughest Rio slums is filled with great music and packs a powerful dramatic twist that resonated with many moviegoers. THINKFilm and HBO have nabbed the film for distribution in theaters and on TV. Gabriel Shalom's "Instrumental" looks at the lives of people who build their own musical instruments and it was preceded by Sascha Paladino's "Party for the People" which looks at the links between rockabilly music and communism in a Northern Italian town.
Another music program was a showing, without few seats to allow dancing, featuring a special screening of Saul Swimmer's "Concert for Bangladesh." Other music docs screened in Woodstock included Margaret Brown's "Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt," Philip Di Fiore's "Stranger: Bernie Worrell On Earth," and Greg Whiteley's "New York Doll." At the nightly parties, live music was a staple, offering a solid roster of performers.
A range of New York film insiders made the short trip north along the Hudson River to Woodstock for the festival, mostly to participate in weekend panel sessions, among them Picturehouse's Bob Berney, THINKFilm's Mark Urman, producer Ted Hope from This Is That, attorney Steve Beer of Greenberg Traurig, and former UA chief Bingham Ray were among those who talked about the state of the film business at popular panel discussions. The event's narrative and doc feature programmers, working together again this year with other festival organizers, were Ryan Werner of IFC Films and Tom Quinn from Magnolia Pictures.
The festival honored an insider this year, creating the new Honorary Trailblazer Award, presented to John Sloss of Sloss Law and Cinetic Media by actor Ethan Hawke. Actor Aidan Quinn honored filmmaker and actor Steve Buscemi with the Honorary Maverick Award.
Among the other award winners, Steve Furman's "Ride of the Mergansers" won the short doc award, P.J. Raval was awarded the cinematography prize for his work on Kyle Henry's "Room," John Dilworth's "Life In Transition" won the best animation prize, Javier Fesser's "Binta and the Great Idea" won the best short film award, Ian Olds' "Two Men" won the best student short prize, and Mark Winitsky and Joe Shapiro won the editing award for their work on Robinson Devor's narrative feature "Police Beat" and editor/director Jeff Zimbalist was honored for his editing of "Favela Rising."