This past weekend, the 24th annual Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) welcomed creative visionaries and film extraordinaires from all around the world to celebrate and share their collective appreciation for film. Originating as a small event in 2000 by filmmakers Meira Blaustein and Laurent Rejto, the festival has turned into a sought-after event, including Oscar-qualifying works in the short film categories.
According to their website, WFF “is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that nurtures and supports emerging and established filmmakers, sharing their creative voices through an annual festival and year-round programming to promote culture, diversity, community, educational opportunities and economic growth.”
Among the plethora of films shared over the four day event was a stunning feature documentary centered around promoting ways to create a more sustainable future, from filmmakers Oliver and Simon English.
The two brothers previously worked for their parent’s restaurant business, allowing them to travel and connect with people all around the globe. They began recording sporadic footage they found interesting with no end goal in mind, which ultimately turned into their documentary project. Through this process, they were discovered and granted the opportunity to begin their own production company, Common Table Creative.
From relocating to Venice, California, they were able to produce a slew of commercials and promotional content for farms and similar individuals, which caused their documentary process to take longer than usual. Over the course of 7 years, the brothers filmed and pieced together their project and initiative titled “Feeding Tomorrow.”
“We’ve also visited over 60 farms across four continents … from India, Germany, Colombia, all throughout the US, Canada, and visited with some of the most amazing sustainability experts and farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs and climate scientists all over the world,” Oliver English shared.
Making its Woodstock debut on Sept. 27, the film received an immense amount of positive feedback immediately. Two of the featured interviewees in the film had the opportunity to attend the festival and soak in the film’s success.
“I’m always a little nervous for screening because it feels like you’re showing the world your heart a little bit,” Simon English shared. “Just you and edit and then all of a sudden, it’s in front of 80 plus people in a theater with surround sound and the screen’s bright and it’s like the film is where film should be shown it’s always exhilarating.”
Unlike most films shown at the WFF, this documentary has hope for its impact on future generations, as its message is one that has lasting effects on society as a whole.
“We know how to fix our agricultural systems. We know how to grow food regeneratively for people in all communities, we know how to transition our cities, our urban spaces, our rural spaces, back into ecosystems that sequester carbon and produce food for people. We know how to do this,” Oliver English elaborated. “It is about large-scale awareness, acceptance, education, excitement, and the political will to make all of that happen.”
The filmmakers hope to have their work shown in schools and similar settings to get their message to reach a wider audience.
Among the Feature Narratives showcased was Peter Hutchings’ “Which Brings Me to You,” starring well-known actors Lucy Hale and Nat Wolff. The film is based on a book by Julianna Baggott and Steve Almond, released in 2006. It was then adapted into a screenplay by Keith Bunin.
“I had just done a movie with Lucy Hale, “The Hating Game,” and I absolutely loved working with her so when the script came along she was the first person I thought of,” Hutchings shared. “And then Nat Wolff is someone that I’ve known for over 10 years and been looking for a chance to work with and it seemed like he and Lucy would be both perfect for the roles and also great together, and we were right it worked out really well!”
Hutchings was enamored with the opportunity to debut his film on Sept. 30, as he’s a local to the venue.
“I live in the Hudson Valley so the Woodstock Film Festival is my hometown festival. I’ve had several films shown there over the years. So it’s always a great festival,” Hutchings reflected. “They do such a good job putting it on and really making it a unique experience. So I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
Unfortunately due to the ongoing writer’s strike, actors were unable to attend the festival to promote their work. This included Hutchings’ two main protagonists- Hale and Wolff, which disheartened the director as he wished they could revel in their success.
Another notable film shown at the festival was Jane Weinstock’s “Three Birthdays.” The feature narrative had showings on Sept. 30 in Saugerties, as well as Oct. 1 in Woodstock. Weinstock, director and screenwriter of the film, was ecstatic to show her film to the public.
“Woodstock is a great place. I came here when I was 10, my parents spent the summer here. So I have very fond memories and it’s a great festival, so I’m excited,” Weinstock shared.
The film was written in reflection of her own life experiences, growing up in the 70s. The cast was full of familiar names from Hollywood. Josh Radnor known for his role on How I Met Your Mother and Annie Parisse known for her role on Law and Order are just two of the wonderful actors involved in this project: it’s full of creativity and talent.
She explained that her film “takes place [in] 1970. And [she] grew up during this period. It was a really exciting, tumultuous time. It was the time of the sexual revolution, which is what the film focuses on.”
A recurring theme, the writer’s strike kept the cast from promoting the film or attending the festival, which is disheartening that they can’t share their thoughts about their own hard work.
“I totally support the strike, but it’s still very disappointing,” Weinstock stated. The film received recognition as Weinstock received the NYWIFT Excellence in Narrative Filmmaking award. It’s an incredible honor to receive such an award and it’s very heartwarming that women have their own category of awards to qualify for.
This wondrous event had its finale on Oct. 1, and received positive feedback from attendees and online viewers. Filmmakers and actors eagerly await the next WFF, as it’s a must-attend event in the beautiful Hudson Valley.