Film Festival Shines Spotlight on Nonfiction Works

A still from 'Very Semi-Serious'

A still from ‘Very Semi-Serious’

(WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass.)  – Wind-Up Fest, the rebooted version of the Williamstown Film Festival, kicks off on Thursday, October 15, with “Olmo and the Seagull,” directed by Petra Costa and Lea Glob, followed by an opening night party with Northampton music favorites And The Kids offering up “apocalyptic pop” along with The Sun Parade. The festival will also include filmmaker Luke Meyer (“Breaking a Monster”), Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert (“The Sixth Extinction”), New Yorker cartoonist Bruce Eric Kaplan (BEK), award-winning cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, radio man Scott Carrier (“This American Life”), dancers Monica Bill Barnes & Anna Bass, and more. Events take place throughout Williamstown and North Adams, at various locations on the Williams College campus, at MASS MoCA, Images Cinema, and at restaurants and other venues.

Author Elizabeth Kolbert

Author Elizabeth Kolbert

The festival’s new focus is on nonfiction in multiple platforms, not limited to film. While it still showcases new film – in this case, documentaries – it also includes authors, cartoonists, dancers, podcast producers, and others working in nonfiction platforms.
As previously announced, Steve Lawson ended his sixteen-season tenure as artistic director of the Williamstown Film Festival earlier this year. The 2015 festival is curated and overseen by new creative director Paul Sturtz and managing director Sandra Thomas.
Featured on Friday, October 16, is “Very Semi-Serious,” presenting a candid look at the New Yorker and the cartooning legends and hopefuls who create the iconic cartoons.
A screening of Laurent Bécue-Renard’s “Of Men and War,” a groundbreaking collection of recovery stories from American Iraq veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, takes place on Sunday, October 18.



Monica Bill Barnes

Monica Bill Barnes



Thursday, October 15th, 2015


’62 Center for Theatre and Dance

5:30 pm | Opening Night Reception


7:00 pm | Olmo and the Seagull

Directed by Petra Costa and Lea Glob

87 minutes; followed by a conversation with director Lea Glob


Goodrich Hall

9:45 pm | Opening Night Party

Featuring music by And The Kids with The Sun Parade


Friday, October 16th, 2015



2:30 pm | The Wide, Wonderful World of Wind-Up with Abandoned Goods + additional shorts

Variety Show and Film

Abandoned Goods directed by Pia Borg and Edward Lawrenson

122 minutes (total); followed by a conversation with Shawn Rosenheim about outsider art


Gramercy Bistro

5:00 pm | Festival Benefit Event



7:30 pm | Very Semi-Serious

Directed by Leah Wolchok

83 minutes; followed by a Show & Tell with cartoonists BEK and Liana Finck and a reception by Lickety Split


North Adams Elks Lodge 487

10:30 pm | Late Night Party

Featuring Secret Lover and Samuel James


Saturday, October 17th, 2015


Images Cinema

10:00 am | Short & Sweet

Stories, live and cinematic, with treats


’62 Center for Theatre and Dance

12:00 pm | Radio 1-2-3


3:00 pm | Uncertain

Directed by Anna Sandilands and Ewan McNicol

82 minutes; followed by a conversation with Elizabeth Kolbert and the directors on nature out of balance


5:30 pm | Song from the Forest

Directed by Michael Obert

96 minutes; followed by a Show & Tell with musicologist and philosopher David Rothenberg


8:15 pm | Breaking a Monster

Directed by Luke Meyer

93 minutes; followed by a Q&A with Luke Meyer


Goodrich Hall

10:30 pm | Dance Party

Featuring Wishbone Zoe and Seratones


Sunday, October 18th, 2015


Goodrich Hall

10:00 am | Bloody Mary Brunch


11:30 am | Show & Tell: Kirsten Johnson on Filmmaking Ethics


’62 Center for Theatre and Dance

1:00 pm | Of Men and War

Directed by Laurent Bécue-Renard

98 minutes; followed by a conversation with Laurent Bécue-Renard and Kirsten Johnson


5:00 pm | Live Documentary: Greetings on Behalf of the People of Our Planet!

With Sam Green and David Cerf

75 minutes




Olmo and the Seagull

A journey through the labyrinth of a woman’s mind, Olmo & The Seagull  tells the story of Olivia, a free-spirited stage actress preparing for a starring role in a theatrical production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. As the play starts to take shape, Olivia and her boyfriend Serge discover she is pregnant. Olmo plunges us deep into the creative process and asks us what is real, what is imagined, and what we celebrate and sacrifice in life.


The Wide, Wonderful World of Wind-Up

A new afternoon tradition: a variety show all based in nonfiction, hosted by humorist David Rees, known for his National Geographic show “Going Deep with David Rees” and his pencil-sharpening prowess. He will teach us how to do things right. Archivist Rich Remsberg presents his “History Jukebox,” an interactive game show that reveals a few of the 20th century’s forgotten flotsam and jetsam. Photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally reveals the  “Upstate Girls” of Troy, New York and musicologist David  Rothenberg accompanies us to hear new songs of the humpback whale.


Abandoned Goods

Between 1946 and 1981, patients at a rural English mental hospital participated in a pioneering art therapy program run by the artist Edward Adamson. Like a time capsule from inside the asylum, Abandoned Goods mines a rich archive of thousands of works to become a profoundly moving exploration of outsider art. The film explores the transformation of the objects in the Adamson Collection, from clinical material to revered art objects. Paired as a double-header with the variety show The Wide, Wonderful World of Wind-Up.


Very Semi-Serious

Very Semi-Serious is an offbeat meditation on humor, art and the genius of the single panel. The film takes an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the New Yorker and introduces the cartooning legends and hopefuls who create the iconic cartoons that have inspired, baffled—and occasionally pissed off—all of us for decades. Afterwards, veteran humorist BEK (Bruce Eric Kaplan) and upstart Liana Finck converse about how they mine their own lives for material.


Short & Sweet

A one-time-only event that mixes short stories, delivered live and on film, traversing a colorful land inhabited by a quack doctor, a mobile hotel, a persistent landlady, a pilfering Winona Ryder, and a hapless series of foster homes.  It starts with a how-to delivered by know-it-all David Rees (Going Deep with David Rees). Then filmmaker Penny Lane (Our Nixon) delivers the formula “Storytelling =Swindling,” a guided tour of a nonfiction hall of mirrors. A clip from her forthcoming “NUTS!” instigates an ethical/epistemological show & tell, meticulously revealing Penny’s cinematic trickery… In “One Year Lease” (dir. Brian Bolster; 11 min.) we live through the hilarious chronicles of the landlady from hell. In “Hotel 22” (dir. Elizabeth Lo; 8 min.) a late-night bus route is turned into a traveling homeless shelter. Then we hear from guitarist and storyteller Samuel James, whose improbable life has yielded many chapters. “Object” (dir. Paulina Skibi?ska; 13 min.) offers entrancing abstract images of an underseas dive, leading to an unexpected conclusion. The beautifully constructed essay film “The Blazing World” (dir. Jessica Bardsley,19 min.) reflects on where kleptomania, depression and Winona Ryder meet.


Radio 1-2-3

Scott Carrier: (30 years in my life as a radio man) After quitting his job, Scott Carrier bottomed out, interviewing schizophrenics for some medical researchers and wondering  if he was a schizophrenic himself. Then he was discovered by This American Life and became a stalwart of the show including some of its most celebrated segments including “The Friendly Man” about working for a radio legend. Three decades later, Scott is still as curious as ever and has started a podcast called Home of the Brave. He will be giving us a guided tour through his unlikely career.

Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass on 3 Acts, 2 Dancers & I (Missing) Radio Host

This American Life host Ira Glass collaborated with Monica Bill Barnes & Anna Bass to invent a show that combines two art forms that – as Glass puts it – “have no business being together – dance and radio.”  Now Barnes and Bass break free at Wind-Up, with Glass’ contribution beamed in through the miracle of audio recording.

Love + Radio (October episode premiere with Nick van der Kolk)

In the last year, the freewheeling, sometimes explicit Love + Radio podcast has had a popular breakthrough, with its listener base skyrocketing.  The show’s director Nick van der Kolk, will unveil the L+R October episode, which centers on a New Mexican cult.



In the haunted, southern gothic town of Uncertain, Texas, hunched on the Louisiana border, desperate men battle their demons. “May I defeat my greatest enemy, myself,” one intones in prayer. The demons take many outward forms: marauding wild boars that ravage the countryside, noxious weeds (Salvinia molesta) that choke Caddo Lake at the center of the region’s economy, drug and alcohol problems that torment them and those around them, and fits of violence that burst forth and ricochet through their lives. This masterful debut feature is highlighted by memorable images—such as a search party on the water using flashlights—that reveal bit by bit, an archaeology of the human spirit. While southern noir is nothing new, this kaleidoscopic portrait of a town feels like a fresh kind of nonfiction. Afterwards, Pulitzer-Prize winning writer Elizabeth Kolbert (The Sixth Extinction) speaks with the directors about nature out of balance.


Song from the Forest

Western civilization has its discontents, including Louis Sarno, an American who three decades ago went to live with the Bayaka Pygmy clan. Sarno became deeply embedded before recording the celestial yet earthy music of his dreams. First-time director Michael Obert locates Sarno in a remote jungle, then follows him fulfilling a pledge to his son to escort him to New York City. Song From The Forest accentuates the vast gulf between cultures, as we get immersed equally in the strange and exotic ways of the dancing, chanting, hunting Bayaka and the more domesticated Americans, living like caged birds in skyscrapers. This impeccable portrait is gorgeously shot, slyly scored, and sharply edited – showing an engrossing protagonist at a crossroads.  Afterwards, join musicologist and philosopher David Rothenberg, Song of the Forest’s music consultant. In a Show & Tell “Bird Whale Bug: Music With the More-Than-Human World,” David will interact with the soundscape created for the film.


Breaking a Monster

When African American kids just entering adolescence form the band Unlocking the Truth, their Youtube videos go viral, they appear at Coachella and the Colbert Report, with their novelty leading to a mega-deal with Sony. Along for the ride is filmmaker Luke Meyer and his team, who chart the astonishing push-pull between the neophytes and the tone-deaf music industry, including their wildly mismatched manager Alan Sacks.


Of Men and War

Of Men and War situates us in the middle of a Napa Valley–based retreat center for PTSD-afflicted veterans of the Iraq war. Some rage and rail against the world’s indignities, but over time their deep humanity emerges, thanks to the efforts of pioneering therapist Fred Gusman. Deeply grounded in authentic, earthy characters, including wives and children, filmmaker Laurent Bécue-Renard gains stunning access to these fragile souls and their stories. And he and his collaborator Camille Cottagnoud have an uncannily intuitive way with their cameras, creating a uniquely fluid intimacy. Of Men and War is a big movie about forgiveness, group dynamics, trust, guilt, shame, and the value of counseling and anger management. {Presented by the Gaudino Fund of Williams College}


Live Doc: Greetings on Behalf of the People of our Planet!

For the last five years, Sam Green and his collaborator Dave Cerf have been madly recreating cinema as a live art. Green and Cerf come to Wind-Up to unleash a wide-ranging collection of short works revolving around the archaeology of pay phones, the bawdiness of the private Louis Armstrong, and much more. In these pieces, they investigate a little-visited, exotic territory where journalism, music and performance meet.  “(They) give back the sociability of a movie, by making it as live as a silent movie with an orchestra, a nineteenth-century Chautauqua lecture, a sermon or a party. Take it as an invitation to think about utopia…whatever faint aroma of paradise that might arise in a room where you hope and think and breathe with others.” (Rebecca Solnit)



Individual event prices range from $5-$15; a Fest Pass ($90) gets you access to all film screenings, Show & Tells, live music, and opening night pre-film reception; Fancy Pass ($250) includes access to ALL Fest events, including Friday’s Benefit Party.


Tickets and passes can be purchased online at; by calling the Box Office at 413-458-9700; in person in advance at the Wind-Up office at 49 Main Street, North Adams; and can be purchased at individual events.


The Box office opens a half hour before each event.



Since 1998, the Williamstown Film Festival has brought the finest contemporary films, directors and actors to the pastoral and culturally rich hills of the Berkshires. Each Film Festival season aimed to honor film’s history while concurrently celebrating the present cultural moment.


Wind-Up Fest, Williamstown Film Festival 2.0, shifts the focus to a core of world-class documentary films and their makers, while re-envisioning the festival as a celebration of nonfiction in all of its forms in a truly northern Berkshires experience, incorporating venues across Williamstown and North Adams. It is an enchanted expedition to the fiery core of nonfiction, guided by the world’s most compelling creators of documentaries, podcasts, long-form journalism, live performance and storytelling.

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