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The Litchfield Hills Film Festival Finds a New Home, and a New Name

Rural Intelligence Arts When Frank and Patrice Galterio launched the Kent Film Festival in 2006, they didn’t even know how to run a projector. The couple was more than a little surprised, and relieved, when upwards of 400 people showed up for the Festival’s maiden run of 45 films over two days. It was immediately clear that the Galterios were on the right track with their mission to bring great, under-the-radar films to Northwest Connecticut.

Attendance and programming have grown ever since, and in response the Galterios have increased the Festival’s capacity, first by moving its base from the tiny village of Kent’s Community House to New Milford’s Bank Street Theater in 2010. This year they’ve again relocated the Festival to what they believe will be its permanent home, Torrington, and renamed it the Litchfield Hills Film Festival.

During its run from June 28 to July 1, the Festival will screen about 80 films – culled from thousands of entries from around the world, including documentaries, features, and shorts – at three venues: the historic Warner Theatre’s Nancy Marine Studio “Black Box” Theatre; the auditorium at Torrington City Hall; and an empty storefront at 73 Main Street that has been converted into a “pop-up” cinema and registration area. And since it wouldn’t be a festival without parties, there will be three receptions in the Warner Theatre: on opening night, Friday night, and Saturday night.

While the Festival’s size and scope have expanded, the Galterios intend to maintain its local flavor. That’s not difficult in a region that many notable actors call home. Kevin Bacon, Meryl Streep, and the late Lynn Redgrave are among the area’s celebrity residents who have participated in years past.

Rural Intelligence Arts Campbell Scott, known for his leading roles in high-quality films such as The Spanish Prisoner, Roger Dodger, and Big Night, which he co-directed, and who is about to go big again in the role of Richard Parker, Peter Parker’s father, in the summer blockbuster The Amazing Spider-Man, is a regular. This year he returns to offer a sneak peak of his new film, Company Retreat, a spoof of reality TV, described as a hilarious cross between Survivor and The Apprentice, which was filmed in Torrington. Company Retreat screens on Saturday, June 30, at 7:15 at the Warner Theatre, followed by a Q&A, and then a gala to celebrate Scott’s new work and his career.

The Galterios note that part of the mission of the Festival is to help develop local filmmakers by exposing them to eager, savvy audiences and to increase the Festival’s educational aspect by expanding it into a two-week enterprise, with ongoing workshops and classes on creating short films. Throughout the year, the Galterios hope to partner with the Warner to present new work by local directors, including Gabe Napoleon from Kent, a volunteer with this year’s festival whose two-minute short, Process, explores the process of drawing through stop-motion animation. Napoleon’s film is included in one of ten distinct programs of shorts. (Napoleon is in the top photo, at right, with the Galterios, center, and fellow volunteer Amanda Asrelsky, at left.)

Rural Intelligence Arts Patrice Galterio, an accomplished graphic designer, notes that this year’s festival has a rich documentary component, including a series of four films focusing on veterans’ issues that will be screened Sunday, July 1, at Torrington City Hall. Among them are American Veterans: Discarded and Forgotten, about the ongoing problem of homelessness among the nation’s veteran population, and Eleven, featuring interviews with 11 veterans of military conflicts ranging from World War II to the current conflagrations in Iraq and Afghanistan. These films cover issues that are close to the heart of Torrington residents who have seen a disproportionate number of their young men – and, more recently, women – answer the call to serve in the military. 

Rural Intelligence ArtsOther slated documentaries include #whilewewatch, a film that follows the Occupy Wall Street movement from its beginnings in New York City’s Zuccotti Park to the current day; Whiskey & Apple Pie, a cross-country journey featuring interviews with Americans in their 70s and older; Knocking on Death’s Door, which explores nuclear disasters around the world; and Dislecksia: The Movie, which spotlights success stories of dyslexics, a selection that holds specific appeal to Festival co-founder Frank Galterio, an artist, photographer, and filmmaker who has learned to overcome this affliction and even use it to his advantage. Many filmmakers will be in attendance to participate in Q&As after the screenings of their work.

Patrice Galterio says that over its six-year history, the Festival’s success and growth has meant a lot of work, leading her to seek out new venues that would be able to accommodate more films and larger audiences. She realizes that it’s a good problem to have, and one that has a happy resolution. “The festival will actually be a little bit easier this year because the venues are set, our projection is great, and the Warner is taking care of selling tickets,” she says. Speaking of which, full Festival passes cost $99 and include access to all films and events. Day passes are available for $29, and single-film tickets cost $9. Party animals can also buy passes to the receptions for $20 each.

Rural Intelligence ArtsGalterio is sanguine about the success of the Litchfield Hills Film Festival, and she thinks this cultural happening will prove a boon to its new home. “We live here in the Northwest Hills and we love it,” she says. “The main thing the festival needs is a good theater, a space. There are a lot of filmmakers who are on the level of the Campbell Scotts of the world who want their movies shown with great sound and great video. We have to have great venues, and I feel like Torrington has so many cultural community things going on that we’re really part of something. It’s going to be the next Great Barrington.” – Michael Marciano

The Litchfield Hills Film Festival
June 28 - July 1
Torrington, CT
Films will screen at The Warner Theatre, City Hall Auditorium, and The Main Street “Pop-Up” Theatre.

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