News Column

The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y., On the Bright Side column

April 26, 2014

By Joe Mahoney, The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.

April 26--One 14-year-old filmmaker from Indiana is being brought to Delhi by his family next week for the Catskill Mountains Film Festival. Another teenager sent his film to the festival all the way from his home in Macedonia, some 4,700 miles away. He plans to participate via Skype.

After a year of planning and preparations, the excitement for the event is beginning to peak just in time for the May 2 opening of the weekend-long fledgling festival.

Its flagship site will be the State University at Delhi campus. Out of 200 entries, a total of 100 films will be screened through May 4 at three locations -- Delhi, the Walton Theatre and the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville.

"It's going to be an amazing event because of the response of the filmmaking community," said Jessica Vecchione, the prime organizer of the festival.

The buzz has been building for films such as "Brothers of the Black List," examining the controversy and litigation that ensued after the State University College at Oneonta gave police investigators a list of names and addresses for 125 black male students after an attempted rape was reported.

The film, directed by Sean Gallagher of Westchester, is billed as "a cautionary tale of equal rights gone wrong that is relevant today more than ever."

Another production expected to get attention will be "To Be Forever Wild," directed and produced by David Becker, who led a 15-member team of filmmakers, musicians and artists based in a red cabin that had been used by the author Jack London. The film endeavors to put the people and places of the Catskills -- America's first great wilderness -- in historical context.

Also on hand for the event will be Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, who began his career as a producer of political satire on Comedy Central as well as on the series TV Nation by Michael Moore.

Scheduled to be a presenter at the festival's Saturday evening awards ceremony, Williams won an Oscar in 2010 for directing and producing the documentary, "Music by Prudence." His film, "God Loves Uganda" premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival and will also be featured at the festival, with the director conducting a question and answer session after it concludes.

The awards ceremony will also be addressed in a video presentation from actor Bill Pullman.

A series of panel discussions featuring screenwriters and other industry professionals will augment the film program.

Approximately 60 of the filmmakers whose works were accepted for the smorgasbord of 18 categories have signaled they will attend the event.

"I'm hearing that the local bed and breakfast places are getting booked," Vecchione said.

She said she also senses that scores of local residents are eager to be in the audience to take in independent productions from filmmakers ranging from novices to seasoned veterans of the craft.

"A lot of the people who are going to come have never been exposed to independent films," said Vecchione, a Hamden resident who operates Vecc Videography and has produced her own award-winning documentaries.

While the bulk of the activity will be on the Delhi campus, several films will be screened each day of the festival at the Walton Theatre. On May 3 and 4, audiences will also be treated to festival films at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville.

Those planning on attending the festival can get a discount if they purchase tickets early from the the event's web site: Advance day passes are $15, while the weekend pass is $25. Those who hold off on getting their tickets until they go to the festival will have to pay $5 more for both categories.

Vecchione said several committees of volunteers from local towns and villages have been working diligently in recent days to put the finishing touches on schedules and other preparations. Among them is Phil Lenihan, proprietor of the Orphic Gallery and Eight Track Museum in Roxbury, said the event will show just how accessible film-making is for those who attend it.

"The emphasis on young filmmakers is a real spark of genius," Lenihan said. "We've been very fortunate to have such an extraordinary collaboration of very highly dedicated volunteers working together to put on what promises to be a stupendous program."

The lead sponsors of the event are SUNY Delhi and the Greater Delhi Area Chamber of Commerce.

"New filmmakers really need a place where they can get together and find out what each other is working on," said Vecchione. "This is going to facilitate connections for filmmakers who don't have giant budgets, and that's why I think it's going to be a really big success."


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Source: Daily Star, The (Oneonta, NY)