DoNorth

Films from Around the World Premiere in Plattsburgh

(DoNorth/Seth Thomas) The screen is black for a moment, giving the audience time to breathe. The picture comes up. A man is pressing a gun to his temple, and his eyes are squeezed shut. His struggle becomes clear when it flashes to all the people he’s killed. A clock ticks like a heartbeat, getting louder and louder each second. His finger presses and then . . . the phone rings. He answers it knowing it is time to kill again. The screen fades to black once more. In a matter of minutes a whole story has been told, and the…

A sign leads the way for visitors.

(DoNorth/Seth Thomas)

The screen is black for a moment, giving the audience time to breathe. The picture comes up. A man is pressing a gun to his temple, and his eyes are squeezed shut. His struggle becomes clear when it flashes to all the people he’s killed. A clock ticks like a heartbeat, getting louder and louder each second. His finger presses and then . . . the phone rings. He answers it knowing it is time to kill again. The screen fades to black once more. In a matter of minutes a whole story has been told, and the audience pauses before the applause starts.

The film was “Grey,” just one of the many films featured at the Lake Champlain International Film Festival.

The Plattsburgh Strand Theatre was solely known as a movie theatre for most of its history. The arrival of cinema equipment as part of their restoration called for a celebration and resulted in the first ever Lake Champlain International Film Festival. The festival happens every fall and is set to happen again mid-November 2015. The inaugural event took place Nov. 14-16 and featured films from Japan, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, Poland, Spain and many more.

However, this doesn’t mean locals didn’t get a spotlight. A block titled Local Filmmakers consisted of films made within an hour’s drive of the festival. There is also Local Voices, which showed “Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector,” a film about the history of music in the Adirondacks. What makes the event even better is that anyone can submit a film for consideration for next year’s showing. The submission process is simple and open to all films. Once the films are chosen they are sorted into blocks that make the most sense and connect the films under a unifying theme.

“I consider it a hidden gem because people who lived here their whole lives have never heard of the place,” owner Dana Poland said.

Variety was the word of the festival; a variety of places and a variety of films. Audiences were treated to a mixture of genres. Documentary, science fiction, family films, experimental and even films by women, all blocked together for maximized enjoyment. The films also came in a whole spectrum of lengths. The shortest film, the aforementioned “Grey,” was barely three minutes long while the longest, “Echoes,” was almost 90. “It’s given us plenty to discuss on the way home,” says Susan Waters with Karen Dawson agreeing as they voted on the People’s Choice award, which is given to the three most loved films of the festival as chosen by the audience, along with four committee chosen awards. The two friends drove up from Lake Placid and Saranac Lake just to see the weekend event.

Once people were there it was hard to leave; some stayed until 12:30 a.m. the first night. A fun aspect of the festival is that the audience will not know what movies are playing until the day they attend the festival. Each year will bring a whole new variety of films for visitors to enjoy. “It was more indie than anything, and I hope they keep that; it’s truly international,” says committee member Jose Torres. “My only regret was that I didn’t see more films,” says committee member Jon Chatlos. Festivalgoers don’t need to have this regret because there is a pass sold by the committee that allows people to attend the festival all weekend.

The Strand Theatre’s success from the first film festival has prompted them to make the Lake Champlain International Film Festival an annual event. If you missed the event the first time around, don’t worry. Tracy Rosenquest from the Plattsburgh Renewal Project says there’s already a great foundation for the next festival.

Issue 5: Summer/Spring 2015

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