2005 Newsletter

DOCUMENTARIES AT WOODSTOCK 2005

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THE AMERICAN RULING CLASS
Directed by John Kirby
USA / 2005 / 100 minutes

Is there an American ruling class? And if there is, how do I join? That's what our two hapless Yale grads, Mike and Jack, want to know. Lewis Lapham, the jaded socialite-cum-muckraker editor of Harper's, is Mike and Jack's guide in this star-studded journey through America's establishment. We get to meet Kurt Vonnegut, Walter Cronkite, Mike Medavoy, Robert Altman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Vartan Gregorian, Martin Garbus, Bill Bradley, Larry Summers, James Baker, Pete Peterson, Hodding Carter, and even the small but insistent opposition voice of Pete Seeger. Mike attempts to find out whether a good banking job is all that his future holds for him and Jack tries to decide whether his offer from Goldman Sachs is the right first step to take. Written by Lewis Lapham, and under John Kirby's direction, the film is an over-the-top sketch, with some good hard pokes at the complacency of this nation's elite college graduates, and an occasionally surrealistic touch. The film provides more evidence that there's plenty of energy in the melding of documentary and fiction. Will Mike give up his chance at the Great American Novel and take that banking job? Should he? Whatever your answer, you'll love to hear from these mentors in the ruling class - which might or might not exist. Judge for yourself.


ANYTOWN USA
Directed by Kristian Fraga
USA / 2005 / 93 minutes

NEW YORK PREMIERE
IN COMPETITION

Political tempers heat up as fierce opposition, passionate support, and old-fashioned mudslinging characterize the race for mayor between three candidates in a two-party system, where two of the three politicans are legally blind.
"This study of a microcosm of a town in suburban New Jersey and its election for mayor refuses to take sides. Director Fraga explores the race from every angle and lets you make your own decision for who the best man is in this smart documentary that always keeps you intrigued."
(Michael Lerman)

"Hilarious and endlessly quirky... ANYTOWN USA mixes the humor of the best Christopher Guest movies with both the scrutiny and pathos of a political satire." (Steve Snyder, Minnesota Daily)


BE HERE TO LOVE ME: A FILM ABOUT TOWNES VAN ZANDT
Directed by Margaret Brown
USA / 2004 / 99 minutes

NEW YORK PREMIERE

Townes Van Zandt is widely recognized as a true songwriter's songwriter, a musician whose brilliance and lyrical insight made him popular amongst true fans and other musicians. Having released dozens of albums since the mid-1960s, Van Zandt, who died in 1997, solidified his place in America's musical pantheon. BE HERE TO LOVE ME i is an artful, expertly directed portrait of Van Zandt's life and career and features Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Guy Clarke, and Kris Kristofferson, among many others.


THE BOYS OF BARAKA
Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
KENYA, USA / 2005 / 84 minutes

IN COMPETITION

THE BOY OF BARAKA is a stunning coming-of--age story that follows a group of extraordinary 12-year-old boys from the most violent ghettos of Baltimore who leave everything they know to attend an experimental boarding school in the most rural corner of Kenya, East Africa. An emotionally explosive journey shot over three years, the film zeros in on a group of brave kids who are willing to cross the ocean to chase an opportunity, boys with a fierce determination to fight the label of "throwaway." "As triumphant as it is touching, this heartwarming docu-saga follows a group of inner-city Baltimore kids who are taken from the worst neighborhoods and picked to attend a private school in Kenya, East Africa. Watching the lives of these vibrant characters change for the better is possibly the most exhilarating and uplifting experience you will have in the cinema this year."
(Michael Lerman)


BRUCE & ME
Directed by Oren Siedler
USA / 2004 / 55 minutes

NEW YORK PREMIERE

Oren is a documentary filmmaker and a violin teacher. Bruce is an outlaw who has seen the inside of more jails and owns more fake credit cards and aliases than a con-man out of a Hollywood movie. Oren lives a quiet life by the sea in beautiful Byron Bay, Australia. Bruce is either on the road avoiding the law or holed up in his hideaway in hillbilly country, USA. Their connection: Bruce is Oren's father.
"'Going straight was my way of rebelling,' says Sidler, of growing up with a criminal father. Insightful and sometimes painful, BRUCE & ME is a very personal video journal."
(Barbara Pokras, A.C.E.)


THE CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH
Directed by Saul Swimmer
USA / 1971 / 99 minutes

SPECIAL SCREENING

This is a special screening / dance party.
The Concert For Bangladesh was the first benefit concert of its kind in that it brought together an extraordinary assemblage of major artists collaborating for a common humanitarian cause - setting the precedent that music could be used to serve a higher cause. The concert sold out Madison Square Garden and along with the Grammy ¨ Award-winning triple-album boxset, and the feature film, has generated millions of dollars for UNICEF and raised awareness for the organization around the world, as well as among other musicians and their fans. It is therefore acknowledged as the inspiration and forerunner to the major global fundraising events of recent years. To quote the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "George and his friends were pioneers."

Besides George Harrison himself, the concert film features some of his friends, including: Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell and Billy Preston. Performances include Here Comes The Sun, Something, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, My Sweet Lord, Just Like A Woman, Blowin In The Wind and A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.


THE DEVIL'S MINER
Directed by Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani
USA / 2005 / 82 minutes

IN COMPETITION

THE DEVIL'S MINER is the story of 14-year-old Basilio Vargas and his 12-year-old brother Bernardino, as they work in the Bolivian silver mines of Cerro Rico, which date back to the sixteenth century. Through the children's eyes we encounter the world of devout Catholic miners who sever their ties with God upon entering the mountain. It is an ancient belief that the devil, represented by hundreds of statues constructed in the tunnels, determines the fate of all who work within the mines.
"A tender, compelling and visually magnificient view of life in a remote Bolivian mining village."
(Nikki Goldbeck)


FAVELA RISING
Directed by Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary
BRAZIL, USA / 2005 / 78 minutes
In Portuguese with English subtitles

IN COMPETITION

FAVELA RISING documents a man and a movement, a city divided, and a favela (Brazilian squatter settlement) united. Anderson Sa is a former drug-trafficker turned revolutionary in Rio de Janeiro's most feared slum. Haunted by the murders of his family and many of his friends, Sa uses hip-hop music and Afro-Brazilian dance to rally his community to war against the violent oppression enforced by teenage drug armies and sustained by corrupt police. At the dawn of liberation, just as collective mobility is overcoming all odds and Sa's grassroots AfroReggae movement is at the height of its success, a tragic accident threatens to silence the movement forever.

"Lyrical and powerful, this gripping story of Anderson Sa, a product of the favelas (Brazilian squatter settlements) is both a social and a music documentary. Sa blends hip-hop with Afro-Brazilian dance to create AfroReggae, a grassroots movement to combat poverty, crime and police corruption. At the height of it's success, a tragic accident threatens to silence the movement forever..."
(Barbara Pokras, A.C.E.)


INSTRUMENTAL
Directed by Gabriel Shalom
USA / 2005 / 65 minutes

WORLD PREMIERE

Bradford Reed, Thomas Truax, Bart Hopkin, and Art Harrison are four musicians who make their own special electro-acoustic instruments. INSTRUMENTAL is a poetic meditation on the lives of these instrument builders and the musical worlds they inhabit. Through interviews and performances, the instrument builders are presented in the context of their homes and workshops, as well as in the surrounding urban, suburban, and rural environments.
"Fascinating musicians who build their own eccentric instruments are explored in this smartly handcrafted documentary from Bard College student Gabriel Shalom. Using personal and musical interviews, electrifying concert material and found footage, Shalom feeds our curious appetites with an engaging look into the true inspiration behind the creation of these instruments and the music they make."
(Michael Lerman)


LEARNING TO SWALLOW
Directed by Danielle Beverly
USA / 2005 / 90 minutes

New York Premiere
IN COMPETITION

LEARNING TO SWALLOW follows Patsy Desmond, a charismatic artist with bipolar disorder, as she struggles to rebuild her life after a suicide attempt destroys her digestive system. This intimate and rivteting documentary takes us on her rocky quest for redemption, where it's a slim margin between life and death.
"LEARNING TO SWALLOW is a harrowing roller-coaster ride through the life and mind of Patsy Desmond. Her voiceover narration is relentlessly honest and contains not a shred of self-pity. Patsy's triumph over physical and emotional obstacles is truly inspiring. Like its subject, this is lean, well-sculpted filmmaking."
(Barbara Pokras, A.C.E.)


MIDNIGHT MOVIES: FROM THE MARGIN TO THE MAINSTREAM
Directed by Stuart Samuels
CANADA / 2005 / 86 minutes

Based on former Woodstocker Stuart Samuels' 1983 book, MIDNIGHT MOVIES features the preeminent filmmakers of the genre revealing how their small, independent films went on to break all kinds of box-office records by screening at midnight shows. The documentary features David Lynch (ERASERHEAD), Perry Henzell (THE HARDER THEY COME), George Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOS), Richard O'Brien (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW), Alejandro Jodorowsky (EL TOPO), and Ben Barenholtz, who gave the films a chance to build an audience at the now defunct Elgin Cinema in New York City, home to the first screening of a midnight movie.
This fun and insightful study of the six films that inspired the brand of screening known as The Midnight Movie is a pure cinematic treat. Mixing trashy visuals with hilarious interviews full of interesting stories, Samuels rekindles the spirit of a type of interactive cinema that will not soon be forgotten.


NEW YORK DOLL
Directed by Greg Whiteley
USA / 2005 / 77 minutes

ONE SCREENING ONLY

NEW YORK DOLL relates the meteoric rise, resounding fall, and recent all-too-brief resurrection of the seminal New York glam-rock-punk band, THE NEW YORK DOLLS, but it is foremost a story about the band's amazing bassist and leader, Arthur "Killer" Kane. Director and friend Greg Whiteley follows Kane and interviews musicians, friends, and colleagues to uncover the legacy of the Dolls and their significant impact on the London music scene in the dizzying heyday of the early 1970s.
After Kane and his band bottom-out on drugs and alcohol, he disappears from music and becomes a born-again Mormon. When rocker Morrissey organizes a London reunion of the NEW YORK DOLLS, Kane prepares for an unlikely comeback. Can these musicians possibly recapture the energy and élan that made them legends in their own brief time?


OUR BRAND IS CRISIS
Directed by Rachel Boynton
USA / 2005 / 87 minutes

IN COMPETITION

In elections around the world, on every continent, American strategists-for-hire reshape the opinions of voters from behind closed doors. OUR BRAND IS CRISIS is the story of one of their elections. It follows James Carville, Jeremy Rosner and others from the Greenberg Carville Shrum firm as they travel to South America to help Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (Goni) become President of Bolivia. When the consultants arrive the country is in crisis. But Goni, they believe, is the best man to solve Bolivia's problems. With ßabbergasting access to situations that occur all the time but which we're never allowed to see, the film follows the campaign from start to surprising finish - when the consultants and the candidate are confronted with a disaster the first polls never predicted. OUR BRAND IS CRISIS is about how the world works today: it shows us how marketing can subtly inßuence our opinions on everything, from which soap we buy, to which president we elect.


THE OUTSIDER
Directed by Nicholas Jarecki
USA / 2005 / 84 minutes

THE OUTSIDER is Nicholas Jarecki's portrait of James Toback, the notorious New York movie director. For structure, Jarecki makes it his business to chronicle the production of Toback's last thriller, WHEN WILL I BE LOVED starring Neve Campbell. But THE OUTSIDER is more than a behind-the-scenes look at moviemaking; it's a Ôbehind-the-eyes' look at a forceful, magnetic personality driven by keen intelligence, shaped by undeniable creativity, forged by joyful narcissism, hammered by insatiable compulsions and nurtured by many loyal, famous and powerful friends. Like gambling on horses, ingesting 10,000 micrograms of LSD and indulging a voracious sexual appetite, making movies is a compulsion for Toback, something he simply must do. And it's something he does like nobody else.


Featuring Robert Downey, Jr., Brooke Shields, Mike Tyson, Harvey Keitel, Norman Mailer, Barry Levinson, Jim Browne, Robert Towne, Brett Ratner, Roger Ebert, Bijou Phillips and perhaps the only on-set interview Woody Allen has ever granted, THE OUTSIDER is far from hagiography. But we imagine Jim's pretty happy with it.


PRESS ON
Directed by Gillian Grisman
USA / 2005 / 77 minutes

NEW YORK PREMIERE

PRESS ON is the story of Grammy-nominated artist Robert Randolph and the spiritual tradition in which he was raised. The film follows the Pedal Steel guitar phenomenon through the first monumental stages of his professional career as he takes this unique style of music out of the church and into the mainstream with his group Robert Randolph and the Family Band. PRESS ON also traces the evolution of the Sacred Steel from its gospel origins in the House of God Church to the future of rock 'n' roll. Much of this story is told through Randolph's bandmates as well as his own family, many of whom are church deacons and elders.

The film also features Sacred Steel virtuosos Ted Beard, Calvin Cooke, The Lee Boys, and the Deerfield Jamboree, as well as musicians Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Warren Haynes, and The Blind Boys of Alabama.


SARAH SILVERMAN: JESUS IS MAGIC
Directed by Liam Lynch
USA / 2004 / 70 minutes

NEW YORK PREMIERE

Sarah Silverman has been compared to the legendary Lenny Bruce, and is known as one of the funniest and most provocative people in comedy. Despite the current political climate, in JESUS IS MAGIC she takes on such pitch-black topics as September 11th, unwanted body hair, and the Holocaust, and spins them into decidedly un-PC comedic gold.

 
SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS
Directed by Hank Rogerson
USA / 2005 / 92 minutes

NEW YORK PREMIERE
IN COMPETITION

SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS follows an all-male Shakespeare company working behind bars at Kentucky's Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. Take Shakespeare's final play THE TEMPEST, with its violent seas, windswept island, crucial connection to nature, and underlying theme of forgiveness, and bring it into a prison, the ultimate venue of confinement. The result is an extraordinary story about the creative process and the power of art to heal and redeem--in a place where the very act of participation in theatre is a human triumph and a means of personal liberation. SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS is a tremendously moving film, where the protagonists are not merely defined by their crimes but are afforded dignity and a fresh chance to look truth in the eye, and embrace it.
"Using Shakespeare as a metaphor for transformation, this brutally honest and compelling story of a group of extraordinary actors - prisoners who have committed heinous crimes - cast themselves and through their characters attempt a better understanding of their lives. The simple, moving score and lack of narration allow us to more fully enter their world." (BP)


STATE OF FEAR
Directed by
Pamela Yates
PERU, USA / 2005 / 94 minutes

How can an open society balance demands for security with democracy? STATE OF FEAR dramatizes the human and societal costs a democracy faces when it embarks on a war against terror, potentially without end, all too easily exploited by unscrupulous leaders seeking personal political gain. The film follows events in Peru, yet it serves as a cautionary tale for a nation like the United States. filmmakers Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy, and Paco de Onís masterfully blend personal testimony, history, and archival footage to tell the story of escalating violence in the Andean nation and how the fear of terror undermined its democracy, making Peru a virtual dictatorship where official corruption replaced the rule of law. Terrorist attacks by Shining Path insurgents provoked a military occupation of the countryside. Military justice replaced civil authority, widespread abuses by the Peruvian Army went unpunished, and the terrorism continued to spread. Nearly 70,000 civilians eventually died at the hands of Shining Path and the Peruvian military.


"Parallels abound in this meticulously constructed chronology of the ease with which Peruvian democracy, reacting to terrorism, transformed itself into a despotic, corrupt and murderous regime. Twenty years of killing came to an end only when protests spearheaded by the Human Rights Movement ousted the regime and established the Truth and Reconciliation Committee."
(Barbara Pokras, A.C.E.)


STRANGER: BERNIE WORRELL ON EARTH
Directed by Philip Di Fiore
USA / 2005 / 40 minutes

NEW YORK PREMIERE

Since writing a piano concerto at age eight, Bernie Worrell has been acknowledged as a musical genius. Using synthesizers, he invented sounds that had never before existed in the universe. His work has been imitated and copied to the point of ubiquity. His peers compare him to Beethoven, Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix. But Bernie Worrell is in danger of fading from the book of musical history.

Featuring David Byrne, George Clinton, Mos Def, Bootsy Collins, Warren Haynes and more.

Preceded by DAVE HOLLAND.


TROOP 1500
Directed by Ellen Spiro
USA / 2004 / 63 minutes

TROOP 1500 tells the story of a unique Girl Scout troop comprised of girls whose mothers are incarcerated at the Gatesville Prison in Texas. The main characters - Caitlin, Jessica, Mikaela, Jasmine, and Jessica - face harsh realities as children of incarcerated mothers. Members of Girl Scout Troop 1500, the prison troop challenges the stereotypic image of the Girl Scout as a middle-class girl in a perfectly creased uniform striving to win achievement badges in camping and home economics. While moving in ways far beyond what the Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low, could have imagined for her value-based organization in 1912, the themes of surviving in the wilderness and self reliance remain pertinent. Julia Cuba, the very hip Troop 1500 leader, works tirelessly with Dr. Darlene Grant to interrupt an insidious cycle of crime within families.


"A unique Girl Scout Troop composed of daughters of incarcerated mothers, Troop 1500 attempts to help both to traverse the tough emotional terrain and survive in a cultural wilderness. As an intervention for the families to defeat the cycle of crime, the girls seek to better understand their mothers through tough and sometimes painful video interviews." (Barbara Pokras, A.C.E.)


TV PARTY
Directed by Danny Vinik
USA / 2005 / 90 minutes

ONE SCREENING ONLY

From 1978 to 1982, Glenn O'Brien hosted a New York City cable TV show called TV PARTY. Cohosted by Chris Stein from Blondie and directed by filmmaker Amos Poe, television went where it had never gone before. Shot in the style of its subject matter, TV PARTY is an ode to the cable television show that is as much a piece of late '70s culture as it is a definition for it. Featuring interviews with famous regulars such as Debbie Harry, Amos Poe and, of course, the host Glenn O'Brien, this documentary captures the playful spirit of this radical talk show that touches on themes of music, politics and 'sub-realism.'


UNKNOWN WHITE MALE
Directed by Rupert Murray
UK / 2005 / 87 minutes

NEW YORK PREMIERE

One morning, Doug Bruce finds himself on a train heading to Coney Island, having completely lost his memory; his name, his family and friends, and his sense of self are all simply gone. In detailing how and why this happened to his friend, filmmaker Rupert Murray has created a thoughtful and sometimes unsettling examination of who we are and how we define ourselves. As Bruce re-acquaints himself with his own life, he has to decide what and who from his past is worth remembering and what he can let go of. Slowly, a new person emerges, but one who still must face the painful experiences that may have instigated his break in the first place.


ZIZEK!
Directed by Astra Taylor
CANADA, USA / 2005 / 71 minutes

US PREMIERE

ZIZEK! trails the thinker as he crisscrosses the globe, racing from New York City lecture halls, through the streets of Buenos Aires, and even stopping at home in Ljubljana, Slovenia. All the while Zizek obsessively reveals the invisible workings of ideology through his unique blend of Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxism, and critique of pop culture. Never ceasing to observe the paradoxes that underpin our perception of reality, little goes untheorized over the course of the film, particularly Zizek's recurring themes are ideology, belief, revolution, and love. But Zizek is also unafraid to turn his critical gaze on himself, astutely analyzing his private life for the camera and contemplating his convicted relationship to his growing celebrity.


Erudite and outrageous, mixing innovative animations with uncensored interviews, ZIZEK! is both an unforgettable lesson in philosophy and a compelling portrait of an intellectual maverick.


A&E INDIE FILMS is on board for 2005 as the official documentary sponsor.

A&E Network's recently launched A&E IndieFilms, a new prime-time programming umbrella, which features the best in new independent feature documentaries. Under A&E IndieFilms, the network has established a grant for outstanding documentaries in progress, increased its Film Festival presence and will be co-branding selected theatrical releases, including feature docs acquired for airing following their theatrical runs. The network is also looking to develop and finance documentaries from the ground up.

Upcoming on A&E under A&E IndieFilms is ROCK SCHOOLwhich was featured as a special screening at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and MURDERBALL, which took a top win at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the Audience Award for an American Documentary. The film also took the Special Jury Prize for best American Documentary: editing, Geoffrey Richman and Connor O'Neill.


MARKERTEK - OUR PRESENTING SPONSOR SINCE 2001

Markertek is one of the nation's largest direct marketers of broadcast & studio recording supplies and equipment. Whether you've visited them before or recently discovered them, you'll find that their way of doing business is simple. Markertek is the best professional supply solution for customers because they are the easiest, simplest, and most efficient place to find and buy everything you need for your studio or project.


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The Woodstock Film Festival is a not-for-profit, 501 (C) 3 organization with a mission to present an annual program and year-round schedule of film, music, and art-related activities that promote artists, culture, inspired learning, diversity, and sustainable economic development through film, video and media production and exhibition. The Woodstock Film Commission promotes sustainable economic development by attracting and supporting film, video and media production.

Want to sponsor the 2006 Woodstock FIlm Festival? For info, call (845) 679-4265
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