Festival Fever: FilmColumbia Festival, 10/17-21/12

In Chatham, the 13th annual FilmColumbia Festival kicks off on Wednesday (October 17). The five-day fest runs through Sunday (October 21) featuring plenty of hotly anticipated films, including Dustin Hoffman’s first credited role as director (“Quartet”); Bill Murray as FDR (“Hyde Park on the Hudson”); “The Sessions aka The Surrogate” (a sensation at Sundance this year); David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook”; Melissa Leo’s new film, shot in the Hudson Valley (“Francine”); and “Cloud Atlas,” a three-hour collaboration between co-directors Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) and Andy & Lana Wachowski (“The Matrix”), starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent.

On the documentary front, look for Ken Burns’ latest, “The Central Park Five” and FilmColumbia alum Alex Gibney’s third film to play the festival, “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.” Internationally, this seems to be the year of Isabelle Huppert, starring in both Anne Fontaine’s latest, “My Worst Nightmare,” and Sang-Soo Hong’s “In Another Country,” nominated for Cannes’ Palme d’Or. FilmColumbia will also screen features and shorts from Argentina, Australia, Iran, Italy and Cuba (part of an exchange program with the Havana Film Festival).

Here are a trio of our picks from the FilmColumbia Festival’s rich selection of 2012 offerings:

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“Love Orchard”
6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday at the Morris Memorial Venue
This locally made feature scripted by Chris Loken, the owner of Love Apple Farm in Ghent, is a heart-wrenching tale about the struggles of undocumented workers to find refuge in the United States. Veteran actor Jose Maria Yazpik plays a field worker who undergoes incalculable hardships trying to bring his pregnant wife from Mexico to reunite her with their two daughters who work at an unnamed farm that bears a striking resemblance to Love Apple. The heavies here are the immigration cops, and the heroes are the workers, with an assist from a courageous lawyer, played by Kristanna Loken. Despite the loaded dice, “Love Orchard” is an entertaining and well made picture, with the added attraction of Bruce Dern.

“Not Fade Away”
4:30pm Sunday at the Crandall Theatre
It’s David Chase’s eagerly awaited first feature. Chase is, of course, the man behind the justly celebrated “The Sopranos,” arguably the best television series ever. Chase grew up in New Jersey, which, circa 1964, is the setting for this loosely autobiographical narrative about a local band trying to make it big, as well as a personal story about kids on the brink of adulthood navigating a path through the generational land mines that characterized the early 1960s and beyond. Sopranos fans will welcome the return of James Gandolfini as a blustering, intolerant father angered by the shrinking horizons of his own life, frustrated by the changes around him that he neither understands nor appreciates, and envious of a future rich in possibility open to his son and his young friends. The picture is packed with great music produced by the Underground Garage’s Little Steven van Zandt, aka, Silvio Dante.

“AKA Doc Pomus”
4:15pm Saturday at the Morris Memorial Venue
A dramatic, documentary look into one of pop music’s great untold stories. Doc Polmus, who was stricken with polio as a child and was confined to a wheelchair his entire life, overweight and unattractive, nevertheless triumphed over his disability to become the unsung maestro who wrote some of the most influential songs most in the history of popular music, including “This Magic Moment,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “A Teenager in Love” and “Viva Las Vegas.” The picture brings Doc Pomus to life, and presents his world – the famous Brill Building in NYC – in vivid detail, capturing his interactions with the musicians who adored him, like Lou Reed, who adored him, and many others.

ADDITIONAL UPCOMING FESTIVALS FOR 2012:

Local Legends Live @ the Empires State Plaza Convention Center, Albany, 10/19/12 FREE

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