In a lengthy ceremony that brought out some seminal figures in independent film, the Woodstock Film Festival handed out its honors Saturday night in somewhat nearby Kingston, NY with Cruz Angeles’ “Don’t Let Me Drown” winning the prize for best narrative feature, while Jenna Rosher’s “Junior” took best documentary feature. Woodstock also turned the spotlight on two pivotal figures of American cinema, giving producer Ted Hope its Honorary Trailblazer Award, while director Richard Linklater received its Honorary Maverick Award. Both took the moment to offer their assessment of the transitional state of independent film.
“I am afraid we might lose this glorious and diverse and ambitious film culture,” said Hope Saturday night before a large crowd that gathered for the 10th annual festival’s awards event. “We might lose both that community and the opportunity to evolve it into a true force for social change if we don’t all start to act in new ways.” Hope has frequently voiced his opinion of late that producers must embrace new technology and mediums of distribution, including a recent film financing conference at the Toronto International Film Festival. “He’s angry, political, resolute, determined, and yet he’s calm,” said Tribeca Enterprises head Geoff Gilmore when introducing Hope. “You have to be tough – but yet he loves film…”
WFF opened its 10th event Thursday night with a screening of Oren Moverman’s “The Messenger.” The festival welcomed the director and cast members including Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster who took part in the round of parties and social events common at any festival. “Woody Harrelson – he knows how to have fun,” said Meira Blaustein to a round of laughter Saturday night.
Blaustein recalled the creation of the Woodstock Film Festival on stage at the awards ceremony, saying another Hudson Valley town was initially the sight of the festival that eventually landed in the fiercely bohemian – yet clearly prosperous – Woodstock, NY. “Ten years ago, in 1999, my partner and I were thinking of doing a film festival, not knowing the amount of work it was going to take. It was going to be the New Paltz Film Festival, but it just didn’t work. Then we heard about this creative community that celebrated music, painting, sculpture and theater, but it needed film…”
A one-time resident of the Hudson Valley, actor Ethan Hawke sat through the awards ceremony to introduce director Richard Linklater as this year’s Honorary Maverick recipient.
“If there’s something I could ask for, it would be to do one more movie with Richard Linklater. He is very special to me,” said Hawke to a room of applause and some audible, “awws.” Hawke has worked on six projects with the Austin-based director, including 2004’s “Before Sunset” with Julie Delpy.
While the mood of the American independent world seems to mirror the general malaise of the U.S. still reeling from the effects of a long recession, Linklater expressed a rare positivity in his speech reflecting on the film community he has worked with for two decades. “There is a bedrock of optimism [here],” said Linklater. “People talk about negativism, but these are people who are trying to create – these are people of optimism.”
2009 Wodstock Film Festival winners:
The Lee Marvin Best Feature Narrative Award: “Don’t Let Me Drown” by Cruz Angeles
The Maverick Award for Best Feature Documentary: “Junior” by Jenna Rosher
The Maverick Award for Best Animation: “The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!” Jake Armstrong, animator
Diane Seligman Award for Best Short Narrative: “Adelaide” by Liliana Greenfield-Sanders
Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography: Juan Carlos Rulfo for “Those Who Remain”
James Lyons Award for Best Editing of a Feature Narrative: Andrew Hafitz for “Don’t Let Me Drown”
James Lyons Award for Best Editing of a Feature Documentary: Kate Hirson and Jessica Reynolds for “Garbage Dreams”
Honorary Trailblazer Award: Ted Hope, presented by Geoff Gilmore
Honorary Maverick Award: Richard Linklater, presented by Ethan Hawke