(CHATHAM, N.Y.) – A focus on Cuban cinema and premieres of new films by Ken Loach, Pedro Almodovar, Paul Verhoeven and Columbia County’s Courtney Hunt are some of the highlights of FilmColumbia 2016, offering an extraordinary lineup of international feature, documentary, independent, short, and children’s films from Saturday, October 22 through Sunday, October 30, at venues in Chatham and Hudson, N.Y.
The films will be shown at three venues: the historic Crandell Theatre, the anchor of the festival’s screenings, and the Morris Memorial community center, both in Chatham, and at the Hudson Opera House in Hudson.
FilmColumbia 2016 will get underway with a special James Ivory Tribute and Kickoff Celebration on Saturday, October 22, benefitting FilmColumbia and the nonprofit Chatham Film Club, which owns and operates the Crandell and produces the festival. The event begins with the screening of a newly restored, 25th-anniversary edition of the classic Ivory-Ismail Merchant film, “Howards End,” introduced by Ivory, at 2 p.m., followed by a cocktail party and silent auction at 5 p.m. Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins, the film was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, and won three, including Ruth Prawer Jhabvala for Best Adapted Screenplay and Ms. Thompson for Best Actress.
Hosts for the cocktail party include Julianna Margulies, Parker Posey, Richard Dreyfuss, Ruth Reichl, Stephen Lang, Patrick Milling Smith, Charles Randolph, Rupert Wyatt, Brian Swardstrom, Samantha Mathis, Lauren Ambrose, Scott Cohen, Anastasia Traina, Peter Riegert, Karen Allen, Courtney Hunt and Gaby Hoffmann.
The films that will be showcased each evening of the festival include a newly restored masterpiece of Cuban cinema and the latest offerings from three of the most celebrated directors of our time — Ken Loach, Pedro Almodóvar and Paul Verhoeven — as well as Columbia County’s acclaimed Courtney Hunt.
The extremely popular Saturday evening Sneak Preview, which remains classified until show time, will offer one of the most important English-language movies of the year and, like last year’s preview, “Spotlight,” which won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture, is sure to garner multiple major award nominations.
“We’re very pleased to be able to showcase Cuban cinema this year as many people begin to explore and appreciate the rich film culture of a country that hasn’t been very accessible until now,” said Peter Biskind, executive director and artistic director of FilmColumbia. “On the other side of the coin, we’re also happy to offer more comedies this year so the audience doesn’t go away feeling the world is ending.”
FilmColumbia 2016’s evening features are:
Monday, Oct. 24: Salute to Cuban Cinema
In acknowledgement of the recent thaw in American-Cuban relations, the first day of FilmColumbia 2016 will be dedicated to Cuba’s remarkable film history. Monday evening’s “double play” will feature a pair of the best known shorts from Santiago Álvarez — “Now” (1964), about segregation in America, featuring Lena Horne, and “LBJ” (1968), a scathing riff on the Vietnam War — followed by “Memories of Underdevelopment,” Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s 1973 masterpiece and the first film of the Cuban cinema renaissance to gain international recognition. Set in 1961, soon after the Bay of Pigs invasion, “Memories of Underdevelopment” shows us the revolution through the eyes of a Europeanized Cuban intellectual who sees little and understands even less; it manages to be pro-revolution while still acknowledging the pain, disruption and loss that accompanies such a major upheaval.
Tuesday, Oct. 25: “I, Daniel Blake”
This year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, “I, Daniel Blake,” directed by Ken Loach, is a devastating story about a carpenter entangled in the British welfare system, an institution so maddeningly irrational that it is hard to escape the conclusion that it has been designed not to work by a succession of Conservative governments. Loach’s career is a testimonial to his devotion to the working class that has given him the stories and characters of one powerful film after another. This one supplies plenty of answers for anyone wondering why Britain voted for Brexit.
Wednesday, Oct. 26: “Lion”
This powerful drama that wowed audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival introduces us to five-year-old Saroo, a street urchin who is adopted by an Australian couple. As an adult, Saroo embarks on a seemingly quixotic quest to find his biological mother and brother among India’s one billion people. This story, starring Dev Patel (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”), Oscar winner Nicole Kidman and Oscar nominee Rooney Mara, is guaranteed to make strong men weep.
Thursday, Oct. 27: “Julieta”
Pedro Almodóvar’s lively, luminous and seamless adaptation of three short stories from Alice Munro’s Runaway marks his jubilant return to fabulous melodrama. In gorgeous, sunny Spain, the relationship between a mother and daughter unfurls over a generation and through several life changes. It’s a film that tickles the eye and tricks the mind. “Julieta” played the Cannes, Toronto and New York film festivals.
Friday, Oct. 28: “Elle”
At 78, Paul Verhoeven, who has made popular hits including “Basic Instinct,” “RoboCop” and “Starship Troopers,” as well as foreign-language classics like “Soldier of Orange” and “Black Book,” concocts here a darkly comic masterwork on a subject so unlikely — rape — that his accomplishment is simply amazing, as well as controversial. Isabelle Huppert plays a woman who will not allow herself to be victimized by life’s unexpected, often violent, tragedies. Hers is an astonishing performance of such tensile agility that it is easily worthy of an Oscar. The film played the Cannes, Toronto and New York film festivals.
Saturday, Oct. 29: Sneak Preview
Sunday, Oct. 30: “The Whole Truth”
What is a lawyer to do when his client confesses to murder, but refuses to tell his side of the story? The defense fishes, delays and plays cat and mouse with the prosecution in hopes that it can trap hostile witnesses into contradictions and lies that impeach their testimony while waiting for the shocking revelations that are sure to come. Directed by Columbia County’s own Courtney Hunt, whose stunning debut feature, “Frozen River,” screened at FilmColumbia, “The Whole Truth” boasts an outstanding cast that includes Keanu Reeves, Renée Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jim Belushi.
Tickets for the “Howards End” screening, cocktail party and silent auction are $150 per person and go on sale Thursday, September 22. (No Gold or All Film festival passes will be accepted for this special event.)
Tickets go on sale to Chatham Film Club members on Saturday, October 8, and to the general public one week later, on October 15. To purchase tickets, visit FilmColumbia 2016.
Tickets for FilmColumbia 2016 screenings can be ordered online at FilmColumbia 2016 beginning October 8 for Chatham Film Club members and October 15 for the general public. Screenings of the Children’s International Film Program, at the Crandell and the Hudson Opera House, are free.