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Woodstock Film Festival, Empire State Film Festival

Film buffs are faced with an embarrassment of riches in upcoming days—and, no, we’re not talking about release of the new Tom Green and Adam Sandler movies. Two whopping independent-film festivals touch down in the area soon, one right here in Albany and one just a short hike down the road, and they’re promising to challenge attendees’ notions of filmmaking and film-festival organization.

For the past two years, the Woodstock Film Festival (running today, Thursday, through Sunday) has been expanding its programming to be a more inclusive arts festival—without skimping on the film, of course—and the schedule for this year’s festival is a perfect match for a location best known for another famous festival. “The establishment of Focus on Music is particularly appropriate given the history of the town of Woodstock, long known as a musical Mecca of all genres,” says Woodstock Film Festival director of development Laurent Rejto. Accordingly, Focus on Music will present films about music and musicians, and will “actively explore music in film, with emphasis on film scoring, composers labs and sound-and-vision workshops.” There will also be live performances and new music videos by “top directors.” And this is all in addition to the more time-honored approach of presenting big-shot indie filmmakers talking about making big-deal indie films.

Musical highlights will include a performance by Arlo Guthrie (pictured) & Friends celebrating the legacy of Arlo’s dad, Woody Guthrie. The performance is inspired by the Woody biopic Bound for Glory, which will be screened “to honor the artistry and social consciousness of its cinematographer, Haskell Wexler.” Wexler will be on hand to enjoy the tribute, as will the film’s producer, Harold Leventhal, onetime manager of Pete Seeger and the Weavers, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

Phish bassist Mike Gordon will present his film Rising Low, which documents the banding together of 25 well-known bassists to record with Gov’t. Mule after the death of that band’s bassist, Allen Woody. The presentation will also feature a concert by a number of musicians, including King Crimson bassist Tony Levin.

Into the Night: The Benny Mardones Story is pretty self-explanatory if you recall the Top 10 hit of 1980; if you don’t, it’s the tale of a one-hit wonder’s ascent to fame, sudden fall and the years of struggle to regain the public eye. Mardones, a Syracuse native, will perform at the screening, his first performance in the area in quite some time.

Another documentary, Standing in the Shadow of Motown: The Story of the Funk Brothers, relates the saga of the underknown “master musicians behind the famous ‘Motown sound,’ who played on more No. 1 hits than Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones combined.” The film features Funk Brothers performances with Chaka Kahn, Bootsy Collins, Ben Harper, Joan Osborne and others.

On the less explicitly musical front, actor-director Tim Robbins will be on hand to receive the honorary Maverick Award, and directors Jim Jarmusch and Jonathan Demme will screen new works.

The Empire State Film Festival, which will run at the Egg from tomorrow (Friday) through Sept. 28, goes the more traditional route in terms of programming, but organizers believe the work shown will offer more than enough food for thought: One film in particular, Zero Day (pictured), seems likely to generate visceral response; a film by Niskayuna native Ben Coccio, it was shot in part in his hometown and Albany. One of the festival’s artistic directors, Jon Galt, says of Zero Day: “With barely any funding Coccio created a breathtaking look into the world of angst-ridden American adolescence. Although it is fictional, this movie is so frighteningly believable that one festival screening committee actually called the FBI to report a heinous crime.”

The festival boasts a number of feature films and documentaries, and the directors of many of these films will be on hand to personally screen their work; there are also two full evenings of short films scheduled on Sept. 24-25.

The Woodstock Film Festival takes place at various venues in Woodstock, beginning today (Thursday, Sept. 19) and running through Sunday. For exact scheduling and ticket information, call (845) 679-4265, or visit www.woodstockfilmfestival.com.

The Empire State Film Festival takes place at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) beginning tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 20) and running through Sept. 28. Tickets are $7 per film, $12 for two films on the same day, $25 for five films chosen in advance. For more information, including an exact schedule and film descriptions, call 473-1845 or visit www.empirefilm.com.

Harvest & Craft Festival

It’s family fun in the sun this Sunday at the annual Harvest & Craft Festival, sponsored by the Capital District Community Gardens. Held on Eighth Street in Troy, the festival features a children’s activities pavilion with a variety of fun activities: life-size cartoon characters, clowns, a petting zoo and pony rides, arts and crafts, and more. Aside from the kid-oriented fun, there will be a variety of foods for sale, a farmers’ market, and vendors selling crafts and baked goods. Plus, there will be live music on the main stage.

The Harvest & Craft Festival will be held this Sunday (Sept. 22) on Eighth Street between Hoosick and Jacob streets, Troy, from 11 AM to 5 PM. Call 274-8685 for information.


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