The Woodstock Film Festival is another story. With its “fiercely independent” tagline, Woodstock continues to stick to its guns, programming breakout features made on shoestring budgets from both emerging and established directors. Conspicuously absent are Hollywood-filled casts and sweeping crane shots. Instead, the festival champions more modest fare, such as the quiet portrait of a rural logger or the empowering story of a group of spurned grandparents.
Blaustein said the festival’s “fiercely independent” motto set the bar for the Woodstock’s integrity. “We coined it in the very beginning, and it defined us,” she said. “It is something we are able to carry over from year to year.”
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Canvassing the area, Blaustein noticed that there was a small, disparate community of filmmakers living in the woods, “but they barely knew each other, and they were working elsewhere,” she said. The town had a small movie theater; otherwise, the presence of cinema was basically non-existent. “We started coming and talking to people,” said Blaustein, “and everyone was like, That’s an amazing idea! Where have you been all our lives?” The community treasured the memory of Albert Grossman, the manager responsible for discovering Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan, and residents said that a festival such as Woodstock would honor his legacy. “The fit was so right,” said Blaustein. “It was obvious from the get-go.”
This is staggering for an industry comprised of 9 percent female directors, and Blaustein knows it better than anyone. “These statistics are very impressive,” she said. “And these are good films!” Though Blaustein admittedly cares about the gender parity issue, she didn’t bend over backward to enforce it in this year’s lineup. “I did not set out to create this kind of ratio,” she continued. “It formed itself. It happened on its own merit.”
Through a collaboration with the Dutch consulate, Blaustein noticed that narrative feature submissions by women were far more common overseas. Of the three Dutch feature narratives she programmed, two were made by women. “Generally speaking, it was more natural for the international submissions category to have works by women filmmakers, especially in narrative,” said Blaustein. “So when it came to American narratives, I gave women a little bit more attention.” This meant that Blaustein reached out to organizations such as Film Fatales, which supports women in film, to help identify promising narratives made by female directors.
“As film festivals, we have this platform to support certain demographics,” said Blaustein. “As an individual, I have very little power. But as the Woodstock Film Festival, I have a platform. I’d like to use it for good.”
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