The Women of Woodstock
This weekend, the Woodstock Film Festival celebrates it’s 22nd year. Last year there were Drive-ins and virtual screenings and the show still went on. This year, director and co-founder, Meira Blaustein and staff, have kept the virtual component to invite in those who aren’t ready for the festival in-person experience.
It takes a village to take over a village, or for this festival, three villages: Woodstock, Saugerties and Kingston. The volunteer army was out in force and predominantly female. From Press Coordinator, Abby Shaffer to intern Emma Shaw running the Tinker Theater door to the gals hosting the Greenhouse catering at the White Feather Farm—these women were the friendly face of the festival. It’s so important to celebrate them and their ilk as they are the backbone of all film festivals.
Woodstock has a great track record with films featuring social justice themes and a champion of women filmmakers. This year was a strong one for great documentaries directed by women as well as feature films. Their third film at Woodstock, “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” was a labor of love for Emily and Sarah Kunsler. Inspired by a talk, Sarah heard by the film’s lead, Jeffrey Robinson, the sisters set out to retrace Robinson’s own experiences and expand his eye-opening research with in-person interviews. The result is a moving indictment of the work still to be done to build a more just and equitable society in America. It won the Best Documentary Feature Award at the Woodstock Film Festival. Outstanding for a film that had it’s first screening at this festival!
Filmmaker Therese Shechter took a more personal approach in her third documentary. “My So-Called Selfish Life” starts with a personal realization of a child-free life became a look at how the concept of family is such an underlying social construct. A discovery of how Pronatalism is not only a bedfellow of Capitalism, it’s also a cornerstone of Patriarchy. A heart-warming look at how personal choices can shape our societies. Forget the white picket fence; we can build our own idea of home and family.
“Julia” from another filmmaking duo, Betsy West and Julie Cohen, celebrates the passion of Julia Child. An epicurean feast for the eyes, “Julia” reveals how one of our most beloved chefs started late in life and became a media sensation. Her amazing life was possible with the help of a feminist husband and she too, lead a life sans children as a celebrated cookbook author who traveled the world. A must-see for all foodies and feminsts. The filmmaking team also have the film, “My Name is Pauli Murray” winning accolades at festivals too. You can watch that film on Amazon.
“Petite Maman” from French filmmaker Céline Sciamma is a lovely meditation on the mother/child bond. The setting in a woods near a lake looks so similar to the Woodstock landscape and made seeing it in the Fall in this town, gave the screening a lovely synchronicity. Using magical realism to let a grieving child reach out to soothe her frightened mother at the same age was achieved with creative sets and period-appropriate toys and clothes. A beautiful story that may not have the emotional punch of her Oscar-nominated “A Portrait of a Woman on Fire”, this quiet film has a lingering sense of wistfulness.
The Woodstock Film Festival continues till October 3rd and many films can be still streamed. Support women filmmakers and see their wonderful films.