Sunday, October 17, 2021

Film Fest drew crowds; some take-aways

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Director Chad Rabinovitz tells The Chronicle that more than 1,000 people purchased passes for this year’s fourth annual Adirondack Film Festival, Thursday to Sunday, Oct. 17 to 20, in downtown Glens Falls. Last year, the festival sold about 700 passes, he said.

Film Fest success — Saratoga filmmaker Charlie Samuels, left, won Best Feature for Virgin Blacktop, his documentary about his group of friends, The Wizards, who started skateboarding together in the 1970s. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

“More important,” Mr. Rabinovitz says, festival volunteers counted a total of 6,692 people in seats at the weekend’s nearly 70 screening blocks.

Venues were, indeed, packed for most of the screenings I attended. Even at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, they were bringing extra chairs into Crandall Public Library’s Community Room for the “Laugh Therapy” block of short films.

Here are some of my take-aways:

The Film Festival gets people talking more than any event I can think of — even parent organization the Adirondack Theatre Festival. It’s not “Did you like that, wasn’t it great…how’re your kids doing?” It’s: “What did you see? Here’s what I thought. What do you make of it? I thought this…” All weekend, I overheard and was engaged in conversation about the films.

‘Walking the Plank’ was a huge hit. Not a movie, but the festival’s virtual reality experience — Richie’s Plank Walk, where you feel like you are in the open air 80 floors above street level — was a “wow.”

Grown adults, captains of local industry, professionals of all sorts, average folks such as myself and total strangers were buzzing: Did you do it? Did you make it? Did you jump off? Anyone who got near it had a story, many breathless in the telling.

‘Jojo Rabbit’ was the coup of the festival, a preview screening of the just-released satire about a gung-ho little boy in Nazi Germany that I’ll bet gets an Oscar. Fox Searchlight sent a representative to observe our audience reaction. It was overwhelmingly positive, mixing laughter, horror and tears. They maxed out the Community Room at Crandall Library, and would have shown it in the larger Wood Theater except the library is the only venue with the state-of-the art digital projector required.

Packed house for ‘Jojo Rabbit’ — The final screening of the Festival maxed out the community room at Crandall Public Library. A provocative satire set in Nazi Germany, starring Scarlett Johansson and others, it won the Festival’s new Grand Prize.

‘The Pretender,’ James Falco’s “new noir” thriller about a love triangle and a mysteriously seductive woman, filled the Wood Theater on opening night but fared less well than the Plank. It was a “get” for the Festival, shot entirely in and around Albany, provocative and beautiful but flawed. It also got a lot of people talking, assessing, considering. I found it stylized, measured, maddening — and was glad to have seen it.

‘Badhaai Ho,’ the “New Bollywood” comedy from India, was a charming, slickly realized, highly accessible, sweet story about a middle-aged couple who get pregnant — raising the eyebrows of neighbors and family, and embarrassing their two grown sons. Hugely popular in India, it could be a break-away hit here as is, or fodder for a smart American remake.

Besides the post-screening talk for this, the festival’s “International Passport” movie, they added a pre-show buffet by Karavalli Indian restaurant of Saratoga, served alongside Bollywood music videos.

‘Extra Ordinary,’ a horror comedy from Ireland, mashes Ghostbusters and The Exorcist with the Whoopie Goldberg-Patrick Swayze relationship in Ghost. It reaches its predictable outcome via the most outlandish and surprising route, a huge pleasure that had me laughing out loud while covering my eyes, gory but camp, with gags that make you say “ew.”

‘Lake Anywhere,’ partly filmed in Schroon Lake and environs, I only got to see the first half-hour or so. I found it nicely acted, a scary thriller I’m hoping will swing our way again.

‘This Bra is Killing Me’ takes every woman’s complaint to its extreme edge, vamping on innumerable horror movie clichés over its brief six-minute run time.

‘Anxiety’s Wilma,’ another short, is one of the best depictions I’ve seen of what it is like to experience anxiety, served with dark, deadpan humor.

The documentary ‘Minor League Mecca’ about Albany Patroons basketball, had extensive interviews with coach Phil Jackson who credits this gig with creating his career, and Jim Coyne, the Albany pol who got sent to prison on corruption charges associated with building the then-Knickerbocker Arena for the team. It was too long a movie, but illuminating.

Filmmakers love Glens Falls and this festival. In person and online, the artists talked about how well they were treated, and how rare it is to play to a full house and appreciative audiences.

Can we see the films we missed elsewhere? “Most of them, no,” Mr. Rabinovitz said: Some will hit streaming platforms such as Netflix; many others will not.

Copyright © 2019 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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