ACTION! Woodstock Film Festival opens today

By Hallie Arnold , Freeman staff

WOODSTOCK - Brisk tickets sales, a rush of last-minute preparations and an influx of filmmakers and their retinues marked the final day before the fourth annual Woodstock Film Festival, which begins today and runs through Sunday.

"Everything is going well," festival co-founder and director Meira Blaustein said on Tuesday. "More people are calling and saying they're coming. We have a huge amount of filmmakers, with their actors and producers. We expect a much higher participation with filmmakers this year than ever before."

More than 130 films, seminars and concerts are scheduled for the five-day festival, with samplings from larger-budget indies featuring such stars as Katie Holmes, Olympia Dukakis and Aidan Quinn, to quirky, off-beat productions with casts of characters that include an Elvis jumpsuit, cats fashioned from chenille pipe cleaners and a pair of amorous rooftop chairs.

In keeping with festival tradition, the first act of this five-act production will be musical. Bluegrass musician Peter Rowan, who, with many of his musical contemporaries, is featured in the documentary "Bluegrass Journey," will perform with locals Jay Ungar and Bill Keith tonight at The Spotted Dog in Catskill Corners, state Route 28, Mount Tremper. Buddy Merriam and Back Roads are the opening act.

"We're very honored because it's in tribute to 'Bluegrass Journey,'" said Columbia County filmmaker Ruth Oxenberg, who, with her husband, Rob Schumer, made the film. "The (concert), which we actually produced with the Woodstock Film Festival, is really a sort of once-in-a-lifetime combination of artists."

After the concert, a reception will be held next door at the Catamount Café to honor the many local filmmakers participating in the festival. About 25 of the films in this year's festival have local connections, part of the festival's overall mission to create a supportive and creative film community in the region and to foster that by promoting the area as an ideal location for filming and post-production.

This year, even the local post office is getting into the act. Woodstock Postmaster John Aizstrauts said his facility will offer a festival cancellation mark all day Friday.

"We noted that the Woodstock Film Festival is certainly a significant event, and the Postal Service doesn't mind partnering with the community," Aizstrauts said. "Hopefully, this will lead to further cancellation events in the future."

The Woodstock Film Festival runs through Sunday. For scheduling and ticket information, call (845) 679-4265 or visit on the Internet.