On Oct. 13, the Woodstock Film Festival opened it’s 17th edition with a star-studded feature about a narcissistic author, written and directed by Norman Mailer’s sons, and a music documentary featuring some of today’s hottest musicians interpreting some of the earliest recorded American music on an exact recreation of the first electrical recording machine.
On opening night, Alec Baldwin was in fine form, exuding generosity and humor in a Q & A at the Woodstock Playhouse after Blind, written by John Buffalo Mailer and directed by Michael Mailer, who calls the film an “adult love story.” Baldwin plays Bill Oakland, an embittered writer who has lost his sight and his wife in an automobile accident. When he falls in love with a socialite (Demi Moore), who reads to him as a community service punishment and part of the plea bargain when her husband is jailed for insider trading, his heart opens and his creativity returns. American Epic: The Sessions, the last film in a trilogy, features artists such as Elton John, Nas, Jack White, Taj Mahal, The Alabama Shakes, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, among others.
The festival, created by Meira Blaustein who is still hands on and runs the show albeit with a fine staff and local volunteers, features films in half a dozen venues around this arty community which every October puts on it’s finest fall foliage to welcome film buffs and industry folk alike. This year there are films — narratives, documentaries, shorts, — from 21 countries including a fine slate of features from the Netherlands and panels on film production, music in film, feminism in the Middle East and one with visionary producer and studio head David Linde who will be presented with the Festival’s 2016 Trailblazer award by Alejandro G. Inarritu, one of the many filmmakers championed by Linde.
Amber Tamblyn will make her feature film directorial debut with Paint It Black; young local teenager Zelda Adams again steals scene after scene in her family’s latest heartbreaker of a film, Halfway to Zen; Actor Ben Foster will present the Fiercely Independent Award to writer, director, producer Oren Moverman and Woodstock resident and documentary filmmaker (When We Were Kings) Leon Gast will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Barbara Kopple. Other notable films include Jim Jarmusch’s documentary on Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Gimme Danger; Pablo Larrain’s Neruda, starring Gael Garcia Bernal; Cannes sensation Loving, a feature about the struggles of an interracial couple in Virginia in the 1950s; and Mickey Lemle’s moving documentary, The Last Dalai Lama?