The stars were out Friday night at Studley Theatre for the second annual New Paltz Film Festival. Hosted by the festival’s CEO and director Allyson Ferrara and Creative Director Danny Asis, the festival featured 11 submissions by local filmmakers. The festival’s selections were incredibly diverse, featuring documentaries, music videos, comedies and dramas, just to name a few. The first film fest was held last year at Water Street Market and had been in development long before its debut.
“I had this idea a little over two years ago,” Ferrara said. “New Paltz is a super art saturated town, but after I got out of SUNY there was really no place for me as a filmmaker to share my own content aside from the Internet. That sort of formed that idea of New Paltz Film Festival.”
The film festival has changed venues between last year’s screening and now, moving from Water Street Market to Studley Theatre. The change was made due to Studley being a more cinematic venue compared to where they were set up last year. It was brought on through the partnership between the Unison Arts Center partnership and SUNY New Paltz. Due to the Film Festival also being partnered with Unison, they were able to secure the venue.
For Asis, the festival was ultimately about the community. “It sounds a little cheesy, but it’s literally true,” Asis said. “I just love connecting again with everybody, even with the sponsors. Having people back you up, even monetarily or just supporting you is really incredible, because that means you’re part of something.” Indeed, the festival itself was backed by many community venues, such as Taco Shack, Fuschia Tiki, and McFoxlin’s, just to name a few.
“When you bring so many people together, it’s not just an event [where it’s like] ‘Oh, I’m doing an event,’ it’s like everyone’s behind it,” Asis said.
For next year, Ferrara hopes to expand the film festival even further, like including smaller, sister events throughout the year and even an event for young filmmakers. However, she definitely wants the yearly film fest to be the tentpole for the smaller events.
“I want to have this third annual festival just be the big one,” Ferrara said. “I think we are considering opening up our criteria for who can submit, whether it’s just for filmmakers in New York or opening it more to the east coast. I would love to make it a multi-day-event and that way we can include more of the films that we receive and more filmmakers can have the chance to be a part of it.”
With that being said, here are some of my favorite films from the Festival.
Violence — Christian Meola
Violence is a horror film and runs a bit shorter than the other films screened, clocking in at just over six minutes. However, Violence packs a lot in its brief runtime, packing a very disturbing story of abduction and a cycle of violence that doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop any time soon. A woman (Katherine Ambrosio) finds a troubling photo of a bound woman while shopping at a supermarket, and very quickly finds herself at the mercy of the abductor. The film also makes use of photography, with dark shots of the house that add to the overall dread of the film.
The Parable of the Disappearing Recliner — Elisabeth Gray
The Parable of the Disappearing Recliner is a dark comedy about a man named Frank retrieving his items from his ex-wife, Donna. However, Donna claims that his items have just disappeared for no clear reason. A lot of the humor just comes from how awkward it is dealing with an ex; Frank really just wants his stuff back and Donna’s trying to rekindle something in the relationship. Of note, there’s Christian undertones throughout the film that really convey the sense of loss and redemption that a break-up can cause, and tie in nicely with the missing furniture being a metaphor for their love life.
Straight on ‘Til Morning — James Abrams
Straight On ‘Til Morning is a romantic drama and a retelling of Peter Pan through the lens of a modern American suburbia, packed with LGBTQ+ themes. Starring Abby Perm as Wendy, a young woman going through the motions of the high school routine, and Mackenzie McCreery as Peter, as a transgender man and a high school drop-out. The two slowly grow close together over the course of the film and eventually turns into a full-blown romance. The film also isn’t afraid of showing the flaws of the relationship, however; while Peter is a free spirt, he abandons Wendy in the cold after their encounter, not aware of the strain that caused between the two of them. It really emphasizes the tragedy of how young romances can end. The film also makes great use of lighting, with excellent night shots lit only by a bonfire.
Julian Got the Part — Yuta Silverman
My favorite and winning film of the festival, Julian Got the Part, is about a young man (Rodrigo Lopresti) attending a party in celebration of him getting the part for a feature film… at least at first. It slowly turns into a character study of a serial liar, as every lie he builds at this party comes toppling down on him, the biggest one being that he lied about getting the part. The film is impressively shot in one take with the camera sticking very closely to Julian, giving the film an incredibly claustrophobic feel. The acting in this film is impeccable, with Lopresti as Julian being an obvious highlight. He portrays Julian as someone you can dislike greatly, but also pity. It’s clear that his lying stems from his own poor self-esteem.
In Spring’s Return — Allyson Ferrara
In Spring’s Return is a short drama film directed by Ferrara and stars Ferrara and Asis in the leading roles. The film opens up rather mysteriously, with the man driving the woman to an undisclosed location. However, it is quickly revealed that the woman is in fact, a hallucination and deceased, and the man is scattering her ashes into a river as her last request. It’s a simple premise but executed well with its tight cinematography and solid acting.