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May 5, 2014

Catskill Mountains Film Festival showcases talent near, far

By Cheryl Petersen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Close to 200 films were showcased over the weekend at the Catskill Mountains Film Festival in Delhi. 

“This is the festival’s second year,” said Jerry Pellegrino, CMFF committee member. “We started last year with a mini-test. This year it’s a full-blown, first-class operation.”

Jointly sponsored by the State University College of Technology at Delhi and the Greater Delhi Area Chamber of Commerce, the festival fulfilled its mission of showcasing New York filmmakers and a new generation of local young talent.

“The film festival here in Delhi was first spearheaded by a local videographer, Jessica Vecchione,” Pellegrino said. “It now has a board and committee consisting of local professionals from the film industry, administrators, and an excellent staff.”

Film submissions for the festival streamed into Delhi from January to March. 

“I reviewed all 177 of the films,” said Mary Burns of Treadwell, a member of the submissions committee. “It’s been a very exciting and great experience.”

Editor Tony Breuer, also from Treadwell, juried films submitted to the documentary category. 

“The younger generation has a good sense of storytelling and of film literacy,” Breuer observed. “Some of the films were a little rough on the edges, but you can tell the filmmakers were raised with cameras in their hands and they know how to edit.”

Breuer knows something about the genre; he received the International Documentary Association award for his film “Kassim the Dream,” and was part of a team honored with an Emmy award for his work on the PBS television series “Reading Rainbow.” 

The CMFF opened Friday. Screenings began at 1 p.m., and a VIP reception followed. 

“Filmmaking doesn’t just happen in California,” Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, commented at the reception. “This festival shows people that New York is a great area to live and work in.” 

Screenings continued on Saturday and Sunday in three theaters at SUNY Delhi. Off-campus venues included the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville and the Walton Theatre.

Day and weekend passes were purchased before and during the CMFF event. 

“Not everyone signed in, but each day we saw almost 100 signatures,” said Raegan Reed of the Greater Delhi Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nick DeCandio and Matt Ruscher came from Poughkeepsie to watch their film, “The Tiger Faced Man,” screening. 

“I wrote the script for a screenwriting class I took while attending SUNY Purchase,” Ruscher said.

DeCandio produced the film. 

“We filmed for four hours using hired actors from Craigslist, and friends,” said DeCandio, who together with Ruscher edited the film down to four-and-a-half minutes.

Although many of the films were produced locally, other films came from as far away as Indiana and Scotland.

“The film from Scotland caught the CMFF off-guard,” said Laura Stewart, co-chair of the CMFF logistics and budget committees. “The film was recorded in a European format. The submitters were contacted and they brought a format used here in the United States.”

The weekend event included a panel discussion, awards ceremony, and screenwriting workshop.

Invitations for participation were accepted by award-winning journalist, David France, and the first African American director to win an Oscar Award, Roger Ross Williams, who came from his home in Roxbury to introduce his film, “God Loves Uganda,” at the Catskill Mountains Film Festival.

The festival drew praise from one director, who traveled up from New York City with the film “That’s what she told me.” 

“I’ve been to at least 20 festivals, and the CMFF doesn’t feel like a second year festival,” Kim Cummings noted. “It’s very well run, very organized. I didn’t experience any technical glitches and communication from the filmmakers side has been terrific.”