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Film Columbia Festival 

Laura Linney and Bill Murray star in Hyde Park on Hudson, which will be screened at the Film Columbia Festival, October 17 through 21. Photo by Nicola Dove.

Laura Linney and Bill Murray star in Hyde Park on Hudson, which will be screened at the Film Columbia Festival, October 17 through 21. Photo by Nicola Dove.

Chatham, New York, may be a small town, but it has world-class credentials when it comes to film. October 17–21, the town will host the annual Film Columbia Festival, bringing national, international, and local films together for five days. Now in its thirteenth year, the festival is programmed by Executive Director Peter Biskind and Laurence Kardish, and only screens prereleased films. The films play at the Crandell Theatre and the Morris and Tracy memorial halls in downtown Chatham. “We purposefully keep the venues close together, so that the energy stays really close and vibrant,” says Festival Director Calliope Nicholas. The result is a unique festival that has both an international sophistication and a small-town charm.

This year the festival has a record number of filmmakers on hand to discuss their work. The film programming includes a mix of dramatic, controversial, and entertainment films in full-length and short forms. This year there is also a script reading, part of the festival’s first-ever Screenwriting Lab. Festival crew and filmmakers will attend a party Friday night at the Peint O’Gwrw Pub at 36 Main Street. The festival’s beloved short animation series is back and scheduled for Saturday at 1pm. Curated by Gary Leib, the animator of American Splendor, these animated shorts are not for children. With over 30 films to choose from, there is something for everyone. Says Nicholas, “We have so many strong films. The hardest thing will be for people to choose which ones they want to see.”

Film Columbia begins Wednesday, October 17, at 3:30pm with Ticket to Paradise (Boleto al Paraiso), part of an exchange program with the Havana Film Festival. That evening Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s first credited directorial effort, will be screened. Quartet is an adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s play about a retirement home for classical musicians and stars Maggie Smith.

Director Alex Gibney (Client 9, Taxi to the Dark Side) returns to the festival with Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. The documentary, which screens Thursday night, examines the Catholic Church’s pederasty scandal through the case of Lawrence Murphy, a priest accused of abusing more than 200 boys while working at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee between 1950 and 1974. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September. Gibney will be on hand for a panel discussion following the screening.

Bill Murray plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson. Directed by Roger Michel, the historical drama tells the story of King VI’s visit to Roosevelt’s country estate in 1939. Laura Linney plays Margaret Suckley, Roosevelt’s distant cousin and love interest. Olivia Williams plays Eleanor Roosevelt. The film screens Friday night at 8:45pm. What might seem like a strange casting decision works, according to Nichols. She says Bill Murray “is FDR. He really got him perfectly.”

Two other films with local resonance are playing on Sunday. Writer-directors Melanie Shatzky and Brian M. Cassidy are represented by Francine, their feature-length debut. Shot in the Hudson Valley, Francine stars Melissa Leo as a recently released convict trying to rebuild her life. Rochester-area resident Shira Evergreen tells the story of a Tompkins County energy initiative in her documentary feature, Empowered. Living in one of the cloudiest and least windy counties in the United States, the people of this Finger Lakes community implement sustainable energy technologies.

All this and more. Check the festival website for complete details. Tickets went on sale September 30 and can be purchased online and at the Crandell Theatre. Individual ticket prices range from $10 to $15. Be advised that some screenings are expected to sell out. The Saturday morning children’s program is free.
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