Trevor Dunworth, co-founder of the Kingston Film Festival, stands outside of BSP on Wall Street in Uptown Kingston last year, which also is this year’s venue for the festival. Tania Barricklo-Daily Freeman.
KINGSTON >> Judgment day for the Kingston Film Festival has passed, and the sheep have been carefully separated from the goats.
In this case, the goats are the far superior animals.
They represent stick-to-it-tiveness in the face of challenges, said organizers of the third annual festival, which, fittingly, has adopted the infamous red goat as its emblem.
“Our tagline is ‘Stubbornly Independent,’” said co-founder Trevor Dunworth. “The goat symbolizes stubbornness. You have these indie filmmakers who didn’t have big budgets, but they stubbornly pushed forward to finish their films.”
Out of the nearly 300 submissions from all over the globe, 65 independent films have been selected for audience viewings from Aug. 14 to 17 at BSP at 323 Wall St.
For all their limitations, the filmmakers rose to spectacular heights and produced some extraordinary work, according to Dunworth and Astrid Cybele, the executive director and co-founder.
Among the ones already garnering praise are “Rails to the Catskills,” a 95-minute historical documentary filmed locally by Tobe Carey; “Cold in July,” a feature film shot partially in Kingston, starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson; and “The Dog,” a documentary directed by Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren based on the life of John Wojtowicz, who inspired the 1975 film “Dog Day Afternoon.”
Beyond that, there are several shorts, multiple features and animation, music videos and even student-produced films that will be screened over the four-day festival.
This year, organizers are merging activities on Aug. 16 with Chronogram magazine for its block party in Uptown from 4 to 11 p.m.
Together, BSP and Luminary Publishing will present live music that will include acts like Ratboy Jr., Breakfast in Fur, Ikebe Shakedown and the Kingston-based pop rockers Bishop Allen.
“It’s their (Chronogram’s) baby, but we help facilitate the party by booking the talent and doing all the sound production,” Dunworth said.
“They’ll have a beer and wine garden on the street, a dunking booth, food trucks and an art tent, but the focus, obviously is on the live music.”
Of course, the films themselves are bound to bring out those who want to think deeply and feel abundantly, and while the Kingston Film Festival may not be as well-known as its neighbor in Woodstock, it already has a huge following.
Its unofficial opening this year is a fundraiser at Cafe East on Aug. 13 that will include a screening of “In the Deep Shade,” a film by Conor Masterson about Irish band The Frames.
The festival begins in full on Thursday, with screenings from noon through 10 p.m.
Last year, the films drew close to 500 people, according to Dunworth, but he and Cybele expect that number to keep rising.
“I think the word is getting out that it’s a cool little festival,” Cybele said. “Filmmakers come and meet other budding filmmakers. We try to make it nice for them and give them exposure. Of course, the Woodstock Film Festival is a great model, and we strive to be like them, but we’re keeping ours very community-based.”
One of the ways they have done that is to give back to the city of Kingston. Last year, Dunworth and Cybele presented Mayor Shayne Gallo with a $500 check.
“Hopefully, it will be more this year, even if it’s just to put flowers in the planters,” Cybele said.
For the time being, she and Dunworth are working to spread the word about the festival.
It got started after the pair suggested such an endeavor to Gallo, who embraced the notion of a film festival unique to Kingston, they said.
Cybele, a former model, most recently served as the director of strategic partnerships at the San Diego Film Festival and has worked as a film curator.
“Basically, I find films and put them out there to all the different festivals…and I work with the filmmakers and distribution companies. I’ve developed a nice little niche for myself,” she said.
Cybele is happy to bring her know-how to Kingston, where she lives part-time. She will be flying in on Monday from California, and she knows when she arrives, Dunworth will have everything set to go.
For the festival organizers, it began in early January when they began accepting entries. Judges including Dunworth, local film critic Carl Henriquez and a handful of others have personally viewed all 300 films.
Several factors went into the selection process, including first impressions, Dunworth noted.
“If you go to a movie, you can usually tell in the first 10 minutes if it’s a quality film,” he said. “What makes any film really good is that it has to hit on every single emotional level…right on down to soundtrack.
“Because these are independent filmmakers, they don’t have huge budgets, so, in some regards, we are more open to the story. If it’s strong, if the acting is strong, we will give that film a chance.”
On top of that, it’s been a stellar year for films being shot in Kingston, Dunworth said, so that also is an important selling point.
“Just this summer there have been about four,” he noted. “The Woodstock Film Festival has really paved the way. None of the films would be coming to this area if they hadn’t.
“For me, the most important thing is that we’re showing these films, and we’re trying to ... bring in as much music as we are film.”
An unusual way that plays out this year is the Saturday evening performance of Bishop Allen, an indie rock band from Brooklyn.
It just so happens that guitarist Justin Rice stars in the award-winning comedy “Doomsdays,” which was written and directed by Eddie Mullins of Kingston.
The film—already screened at the Woodstock Film Festival and about a dozen others—will be shown at BSP on Aug. 15 at 8 p.m.
With all the excitement building, Cybele and Dunworth expect great things for the festival in the years to come.
“Actually, I see it really taking off because Kingston is becoming the place to go to in the Catskills,” Cybele said.
“You see a lot of articles in the ‘(New York) Times’…and people are coming from far away to go to our restaurants and bars. They’re really getting more and more known.”
Between all the Kingston-based festivals and new restaurants, a kind of branding is taking place that bodes well for the film festival, giving it a personality of its own, Dunworth added.
That’s where the goats shuffle back into the picture.
What started out as a symbol of vandalism in the city has grown into one of solidarity, according to Dunworth.
“Things like that make a community,” he said. “I don’t think the goat has to symbolize anything negative. I think it’s cool.”