We’re at the end of a brief but fun weekend for the 9th annual Woodstock Film Festival in upstate New York. The weather was crisp, the films were good, and the vibe was electric. I was here for myriad reasons: the documentary I produced, Trinidad, had its East Coast festival premiere, while I also sat on a panel about contemporary trends in filmmaking, and then I also served as one of Narrative Feature jurors. Our pick was Sean Baker’s Prince of Broadway, a film that all of us agreed on and all of us loved. What a great film. However, the whole program was strong, and served up hits from the year’s festival circuit. The Documentary jury winner was Jeremiah Zagar’s beautiful In A Dream, which was a SXSW 2008 premiere.
Otherwise, the festival weekend was marked by familiar faces, fun dinner parties, great conversation, and a little karaoke. I felt very lucky to witness the birth of autumn from such a great locale. And, the atmosphere of the Woodstock Film Festival is wonderfully communal. Filmmakers wouldn’t just come to the festival, they would bring their families. You don’t stay in hotels, but rather, you stay in people’s homes or in a Bed & Breakfast. Of course, getting around is hard when you don’t have a car, but you can generally find a ride from one of the friendly locals or festival staff. I had never been to this part of New York state, and it was remarkable to me how similar to feels to certain sections of Austin. Just like Austin, Woodstock has a sturdy population of hippies and former hippies, and it makes sense that a film festival could flourish with this sort of local audience.
The festival ended Sunday night with the Closing Night presentation of Kevin Smith’s latest, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which I caught in Woodstock after missing it in Toronto and Fantastic Fest. The film, which The Weinstein Company will release on October 31, is easily Smith’s best in a long time. I was fan of his last film, Clerks 2, but Zack and Miri has the kind of heart we haven’t seen in a Smith movie since Chasing Amy. Now, that doesn’t mean you should take your folks to see it with you, because it’s still raunchy and graphic and lewd. Yet, also very very funny. It was the best way to end a relaxing and enjoyable festival weekend.