Woodstock Film Festival: Capsule Reviews | Film | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Woodstock Film Festival: Capsule Reviews 

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*Once in a Lullaby Dir. Jonathan Kalafer

As privatized schools and gutted budgets continue to undermine American education, this film sounds a note of hope. Staten Island chorus teacher Gregg Breinberg is Mr. Schu from "Glee" times 10; his drive gets his fifth graders a spot on the 2011 Oscars. Intimate portraits of the students show them veering from age-appropriate mischief to diva-caliber aspirations. Unabashedly heartwarming yet with a healthy dose of the bittersweet for balance. Newjerseypictures.net

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One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das Dir. Jeremy Frindel

The journey of Jeffrey Kagel from neurotic Long Island Jew to Kirtan singer Krishna Das is a rutted road that demanded extreme spiritual faith. But Das remains modest about his achievements, explaining that he sings "to clean out the dark places in my heart." He has done likewise for hundreds of thousands of fans globally for over four decades. This film lovingly untethers the man from the myth. Onetrackheartmovie.com

Only the Young Dir. Jason Tippet & Elizabeth Mims

Ignition Skate Ministry lures new converts to their tent with tacos, chips and water, hoping to "show them the love of Jesus Christ through skateboarding." This is the flipside of Larry Clark's world, though the beautifully wounded gene pool seems the same. Dramatically gorgeous cinematography and a keen eye for the smallest human detail grounds this slacker opus, even when the narrative starts to wander off. Onlytheyoungfilm.tumblr.com

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*Pretty Old Dir. Walter Matteson

This big-hearted, life-affirming film chronicles the Ms. Senior Sweetheart of America Pageant, held annually since 1978 in Fall River, Mass. Women too vibrant for assisted living demonstrate their charms and talents to vie for a sash and crown. Offstage, they candidly discuss their motivations for participation year in and out with a level of self-awareness that is equally joyous and bittersweet. Sarah Jessica Parker executive produced this crowd-pleaser. Vimeo.com/35121236

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Rolan Makes Movies Dir. Anton Verstakov

The Quentin Tarantino of Tuva, a republic in Russia, lives in a yurt with his extended family and makes low-budget, violent action films with his friends. Rolan seems undeterred by his modest talent and aspires to fame on a global level. Whether you are inclined to admire or pity him—and there's ample justification for both—this rambling film is as oddly engaging as its subject.

*Shepard and Dark Dir. Treva Wurmfeld

Many successful people cut off those who knew them in humbler days. Yet some retain old friends to keep themselves honest. For iconic playwright Sam Shepard, that person is Johnny Dark. A half century later, their friendship continues, but not without fits and starts. As the pair works to edit their combined correspondence for a college archive, the process throws into relief the divergent paths their lives took and the bonds that link them forever. This perceptive film looks unsparingly at lions in winter and how the past both nurtures and holds us hostage.

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*Words of Witness Dir. Mai Iskander

The revolution in Egypt's Tahrir Square unfolded with epic impact and captivated the world. On the inside was Heba Afify, a 22-year-old female journalist reporting for the independent newspaper Almasry Alyoum. This white-knuckle documentary follows Afify on her beat as the struggle plays out in real time, but also watches her debate family members on the role of a woman in the new Egypt. An impressive achievement. Wordsofwitness.com

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The World's Finest Chef, (Verden Bedste Kok) Dir. Rasmus Dinesen

The winner of the Bocuse d'Or, the culinary equivalent of the Olympics, is neither a raging egotist nor a screaming maniac. Charming and boyish, Rasmus Kofoed rides a skateboard to unwind. But in the kitchen, he morphs into an artist, creating multi-tier gourmet meals that look as sublime as they taste. This fawning film offers no revelations, but energetically chronicles the preparation for the 2011 competition.

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