Alec Baldwin made an appearance at the Woodstock Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 13, where his latest movie, Blind, had its U.S. premiere. The film has some notable names attached to it — co-star Demi Moore; director Michael Mailer and screenwriter John Buffalo Mailer, both sons of Norman Mailer — but it didn’t take long for the conversation to steer toward another of Baldwin’s great performances: as Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.
Speaking to fest attendees following the screening, Baldwin joked, “I just want to say that Donald Trump said he would donate $1 million to the Woodstock Film Festival if you gave me an award that would keep me here on Saturday night this weekend.”
No such gift came to pass, and Baldwin did make it back to New York City for his Saturday curtain call. Meanwhile, those who traveled to the Hudson Valley outpost got to see over 120 films from 21 countries from Oct. 13-16 as the 17th annual fest showcased a wide range of narratives, documentaries, shorts, animations, premieres and industry panels.
On a weekend when former Woodstock resident Bob Dylan was being celebrated as a Nobel laureate, filmmakers, actors, producers and writers communed for movies shown in Woodstock as well as the nearby towns of Rhinebeck, Rosendale and Saugerties. The festival’s fun-filled Maverick Awards Ceremony & Gala was held in nearby Kingston, and selected director Oliver Schmitz’s Shepherds and Butchers as the Best Narrative Feature. Matthew Millan’s powerful Stronger Than Bullets won best documentary feature, and the best animation award went to Andy Kennedy for Slow Wave. The World Cinema Award was given to the beautifully impressionistic narrative Neruda, directed by Pablo Larrain.
Some interesting films that did not receive awards included Lorenzo Pisoni’s autobiographical documentary Circus Kid, first-time director Dorie Barton’s observant narrative Girl Flu, Jen Heck’s politically persuasive documentary The Promised Band, Jim Jarmusch’s music documentary on Iggy & The Stooges Gimme Danger, and actress Brianne Berkson’s comic performance stood out in Bad Vegan and the Teleport Machine.
In recognition of outstanding achievements, actor Ben Foster presented writer, director and producer Oren Moverman with the Fiercely Independent Award; filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu presented industry stalwart David Linde with the Trailblazer Award, and documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Woodstock’s own Leon Gast — best known for his documentary When We Were Kings and co-directing (with Jerry Garcia) The Grateful Dead Movie. In a humble and inspiring speech that included recollections of being challenged by Muhammad Ali and being dosed with LSD by The Grateful Dead, Gast, who just turned 80, said he hoped to be the first documentary filmmaker to make a film at the age of 100. Gast’s new film, Woodstock — A Love Poem, closed out the festival on Sunday night.
In a sweet twist at the industry-oriented awards ceremony, young Adam Blaustein-Rejto — son of festival co-founders Meira Blaustein and Laurent Rejto — addressed the assembled audience. “Stories and relationships, they are necessary for our survival in a global society which has a culture that supports oppression and dehumanization,” he said. “Stories are a glue that can keep us together in a world that doesn’t seem to want us to love and understand each other.”
Honoring the young and the old, endorsing community, advocating inspiration and lauding humanitarian gestures — all sentiments that sum up Woodstock and its “Fiercely Independent” film festival, quite well.