In Its 15th Year, FilmColumbia Branches Out — To Hudson
By Jamie Larson
It’s movie time in Columbia County and this year the FilmColumbia Festival is celebrating its 15th year by expanding its offerings to a venue in Hudson for the duration, October 22-26. Of course, the festival remains centered where it all began, the Crandell Theatre in Chatham and other venues in the town but organizers and film buffs alike are excited about the growth and the opportunity to share more of the year’s best independent films.
“Film Columbia has grown tremendously and coming to Hudson seemed like a natural progression,” says Calliope Nicholas, in her 13th year as festival director. “And it’s an amazing venue. We love the Hudson Lodge [above], and its ballroom seats 200.”
Nicholas says the new location outside of Chatham will expose the already extremely popular festival (in other words, “buy your tickets now!”) to a new audience as well as add convenience for film buffs in Hudson.
The list of offerings this year in films, panels and programming is longer than ever and includes some one-time-only opportunities to see something truly unique.
FilmColumbia always provides a selection of worldwide darlings like Foxcatcher, the true story of a deranged and obsessive member of the Firestone family, played by Steve Carell, who becomes dangerously obsessed with a wrestler, personified by Channing Tatum. Already there is Oscar buzz surrounding Carell’s performance, as well as for the restrictive performance of Michael Keaton as a washed up actor trying to regain professional and emotional relevance while still haunted by his former, career-defining role as the titular Birdman.
Aside from those and a few other indie tent poles like The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch, FilmColumbia’s eclectic lineup ranges widely from under the radar to obscure to quirky to abstract.
“Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing Timbuktu” says Nicholas of the prescient drama by seminal African filmmaker Abdarrahmane Sissoko. Set in Mali, the story focuses on a family trying to survive in their once diverse city when it is invaded by Jihadists who then impose extreme Islamic law.
Nicholas also highlights a documentary on the menu, Red Army. It’s a clever look at the story left untold about “the miracle on ice” Olympic hockey game when scrappy American players defeated the evil Soviet super-team. Red Army tells the story of the real human members of the Soviet team through their anxiety- fraught existence as near-literal weapons of the Cold War and what their lives became after they failed their empire. This is recent history and interviews with the players and others involved in the events cast a new light of compassion on this much-discussed moment.
Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language 3D may just be the most anticipated film at the festival by those who travel in circles where these types of things are anticipated. Called no less than “the most original voice in world cinema” by festival promoters, Godard, now 83, has produced a 3D movie like no other, layering words, images, sounds and ideas to show how language in all forms fails us. The film, we are told, is about all that and perhaps also serves as a love letter to his dog.
On Sunday, October 26 FilmColumbia will also host a local filmmakers program at 11 a.m. at the Hudson Lodge, showing short films like Hector is Gonna Kill Nate, from Columbia County resident Ari Issler. There are two offerings from Hudsonians: The Lady of Larkspur Lotion by Sergio Rico and Crazy Assed White Boy, by David McDonald, who will also lead the filmmaking panel at 1 p.m. following these and other local shorts.
The support of local filmmaking is as important to FilmColumbia and its host organization, the Chatham Film Club, as the movies on screen. To that end they’re offering two chances—one in Hudson on Saturday and in one in Chatham on Sunday—for local screenwriters to attend a screenwriting panel with actor Scott Cohen. The word “panel” doesn’t give the opportunity justice, as working and prospective local screenwriters will have the opportunity to workshop their pieces. Cohen, along with local and NYC actors, will be available to do live read-throughs of 5 to 10 pages from participants’ scripts, followed by audience discussion. While certainly a bold prospect for any artist, it’s a real and exhilarating exercise that is as fun to watch as it is informative for the writer.
From Sundance to Hudson, FilmColumbia is bringing together the best in independent films and filmmaking once again this year. The festival is as relevant and vibrant as ever and the new venue in Hudson should serve as a most elegant theater… and proof that Columbia County knows movies.