By Jonathan Berk
The 24th Annual Woodstock Film Festival kicks off on September 27 and runs through October 1. The films will be presented at venues throughout the bucolic Hudson Valley towns of Woodstock, Rosendale, and Saugerties, with some even available online. This year's festival showcases 28 feature narrative films and 26 feature documentaries by distinguished and emerging directors, with 9 World Premieres, 7 U.S. Premieres, 9 East Coast Premieres, and 16 New York Premieres, as well as 107 short live-action films, documentaries, animation, and music videos. There is a vast pool of films to tempt festival-goers looking to catch some films that have played on the festival circuit or find something that could be the next “it” movie.
This year’s opening night film is Fair Play, written and directed by Chloe Domont, her first feature film, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and was subsequently acquired by Netflix in the festival’s biggest sale. Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke’s (Alden Ehrenreich) relationship is pushed to the brink when a new promotion at their financial firm causes challenges both in and out of the office. As the power dynamics shift, they’re left to face the price of success and the limits of ambition.
Ally Pankiw’s I Used to Be Funny had its world premiere at SXSW and now makes its way to Woodstock. The movie stars the up-and-coming megastar Rachel Sennott (Bottoms, Shiva Baby, Bodies Bodies Bodies) as Sam, a stand-up comedian and former au-pair navigating PTSD. While going through her personal struggle, Brooke (Olga Petsa), the girl she used to nanny, has gone missing. The film uses non-linear storytelling, cutting back and forth from present to past, to build tension and reveal the connection between Sam and Brooke. It’s a tense film with moments of levity all resting on the very capable shoulders of Sennott. It’s definitely not one to miss.
Brittany Snow is a familiar face on-screen in movies like Pitch Perfect and Ti West’s X, but for Parachute, she makes her directorial debut. The film also premiered at SXSW and features Courtney Eaton (Yellowjackets) as Riley in an unbelievably brave performance. Riley is just leaving rehab for what she shruggingly tells Ethan (Thomas Mann), a potential new boyfriend, she was in for “eating things… body stuff.” Extremely difficult to watch at times, Parachute’s story, performances, and message of love are undeniable. Snow’s film is both harrowing and endearing, and should be added to your schedule.
For those who are fans of animation, Bill Plympton’s new film Slide may be right up your alley. Though, Plympton’s style is far from family friendly, so go into this film with that in mind. A Western in many ways, with unique art styling the characters, Slide follows a mythical cowboy who arrives in a corrupt logging town. He falls in love with a prostitute who is fighting back against the mayor and his twin brother, whose selfishness seems to be sending the town into disarray to lure in Hollywood movie studios. The film is not quite finished, but it is a quirky experience with a style that shows great promise.
Overall, this year's WFF looks to be another great one. With tons of options for festival-goers to choose from, if you’re in the area, there is no reason not to catch one, two, or even ten. Those interested in the festival, but unable to travel, will have a limited selection of films at the festival available online. At worst, those who can’t attend the festival can keep up with the buzz about the films and add them to their watch list.
The 2023 Woodstock Film Festival runs online and virtually from September 27-October 1.
The Snake Hole
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