Passing Ellenville to Hold New York Premiere at the 15th Annual Woodstock Film Festival

Passing Ellenville

The documentary short film, Passing Ellenville will have its area and New York State premiere at the 15thAnnual Woodstock Film Festival (WFF), October 15th – 19th, 2014. The film will screen at the Orpheum Theater in Saugerties on Saturday, October 18th at 7pm and Sunday, October 19that the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock at 2:45pm as part of the inaugural LGBTQ Focus at the festival.

Co-directed by Gene Fischer and Samuel Centore, Passing Ellenville follows two transgender youths in Ellenville, NY through their transition.  James, female-to-male, comes from a history of abuse and a string of family problems. Ashlee, male-to-female, struggles to align her orthodox Jewish faith with her transgender identity.

Begun as a photographic essay in 2012 by photographer Gene Fischer, Passing Ellenville was filmed in the small economically-depressed town over an 18-month period. “We wanted to show a side of transgender life in the United States that is simply not seen in mainstream media,” said Fischer, who is co-director and executive producer. “Passing Ellenville shows a slice of humanity that is rarely shared in film, television or traditional film festivals.”

“We are so pleased to have our New York premiere of the film at such an important film festival, just 40 miles from where the film is set,” said co-director and cinematographer Centore. “In many ways, the town of Ellenville and all its struggles is the third character in the film.”

This intimate portrait of humanity is both inspiring and unsettling as the viewer is brought into the daily challenges of what it means to be transgender and young in a rural, conservative setting while also trying to survive on government assistance and facing transphobia, verbal abuse and threats of violence. 

The film will precede Queens and Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo, directed by Matt Livadary, and is part of the WFF Focus on LGBTQ films.

American Commune; Community Endures.

janet mundo renaI’m kind of a documentary film snob. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to my devout followers. At the core of this blog is a truth-seeking, information-obsessed critic who loves thought-provoking and controversial films. I really can’t get enough of them, but I’m usually terribly selective, and this sometimes makes or breaks my motivation to write a review.

I couldn’t wait to write this one.

American Commune is thought-provoking. It deals with controversial subjects (60s counterculture, etc.) It’s rich in all the characteristics a good documentary should possess, but it has something none of the others do: the power to completely disarm even the most ruthless film elitist of any and all criticism(s) within the first 10 minutes.

The Mundo sisters have brilliantly edited and narrated a haunting tale — their tale — of the intentional community; The Farm. The film is part biopic, part social documentary, and 100% affecting. For lack of a more eloquent way of expressing my emotions, I’ll just say this: I’m a fairly emotionally charged individual, but I can’t remember the last time I cried, sobbed, shook my head and wanted to hug everyone around me (and all at the same time), ever. American Commune is honest; it lacks the preachy, self-righteous, and sometimes obnoxiously impassioned point of view commonly found in the 21st cent. documentary, and sticks to what happened and why.

Just the facts.

In 1971, Nadine and Rena Mundo’s parents were among the 300 founding members of The Farm, a project led by Stephen Gaskin, and spouse (mother of “authentic midwifery”) Ina May Gaskin. The group (consisting of early 20-something “free love” seekers) travels from San Francisco to the outskirts of Nashville to set-up a completely sustainable community committed to spiritual living and self-sufficiency. The utopian socialist experiment thrived until 1985, when the farm’s income fell short of sustaining its survival. Interspersed among segments of stills, video footage and a powerfully quiet and humble narration, is the story of one family who struggles to interpret their identity among their prematurely chosen hippie existence.

American Commune is a well-researched (8 years, in fact) film that includes the use of carefully selected archival footage, as well as some enchanting 2D to 3D conversion of stills. The film triumphantly captures the enduring legacy of community.

And I personally can’t wait to see what the Mundo sisters will do next.

American Commune  just celebrated its East Coast Premiere at the 14th Annual Woodstock Film Festival.

Get a Job @ 2nd Annual Kingston Film Festival; A return to funny.

GetAJob-HawaiiTheatreThese days, an air of déjà vu can be found hanging over my head at the movies.

Not tonight.

True, the Hawaii-set comedy evokes “Dumb and Dumber,” and countless other Peter Farrelly movies, not to mention vintage screwball favorites like: “It’s a Mad, Mad World,” but it also has at its center a uniquely compelling narrative that captures the Hawaiian free spirit.

Get a Job, Hawaii’s first major motion picture comedy, is fresh and charming. It’s only “downfall” (if you want to call it that) is it’s lack of predictable and snarky catch phrases that the Apatov/Farrell funny factories continue to churn out. It’s comedy in the purest sense of the word; a return to funny as it was meant to be — without pretense.

I would like to thank Writer-director Brian Kohne, and actors Eric Gillom and Willie K for keeping it so very “feel good.”

Congrats on your East Coast Premiere!