By Liliana Cifuentes | April 10, 2023
The New York State Writers Institute hosted its third annual Albany Film Festival last Saturday, April 1. The festival – which kicked off its first year as a hybrid event featured outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic – had a relatively large attendance of approximately 1,000 guests.
“This is the first time it’s been this big. It was a large turnout,” Pete Tedeschi, a graduate student who has been volunteering for events facilitated by the Writers’ Institute since 2018 said. “Hosting the event during Admitted Students weekend was a great idea because it really highlights the community and shows what it can mean to be a Great Dane.”
From author Joyce Carol Oates in conversation regarding the film adaption of her novel “Blonde” to the screening of director Joseph Juhn’s “Chosen,” the festival welcomed actors, acclaimed novelists, as well as a myriad of directors and local filmmakers to facilitate discussions and share their visual works.
“We get a lot of input from our team, faculty & staff at UAlbany, and also our community of filmmakers,” Paul Grondahl, Director of the NYS Writers Institute said. “We aim to bring together both the local filmmaking community, along with notable filmmakers with extensive credits, and we always showcase the work of our talented alumni filmmakers and actors.”
It was evident the festival aimed to highlight a diverse array of experiences that are often reflections of the filmmakers who create, direct, and act in these movies. In a conversation with local filmmakers Sky Hopinka and Jeffrey Gibson after screenings of their short films, they described using the art of film to share some of the experiences they have had as members of indigenous communities. Gibson mentioned using Choctaw, a Native American language in the Muskogean language family, to connect with his grandfather.
When asked about the inspiration behind hosting an annual film festival, Grondahl mentioned wanting to expand upon the classic film series that has been integral to the institute since its founding in 1983.
“We’re now in our 40th anniversary season. Since we started the Albany Book Festival in 2017 and made it an annual fall event, we also wanted an annual community-wide spring event,” Grondahl said. “Our niche is that we explore the intersection between writing and film and celebrate storytelling on screen.”
In an interview, Grondahl also emphasized the opportunities for current and future students who aspire to work in the film and entertainment industry.
“We want to expand our short film competition and make that one of the focal points of next year’s film festival,” Grondahl said. “It brings together a lot of young and aspiring filmmakers, including high school students from around the Capital Region, as well as UAlbany students and students from other colleges.”
The event culminated in award-winning actor Stephen Lang, alongside filmmakers Keith Beauchamp, Julie Dash, Amy Carey Linton, and James Schamus receiving the Ironweed Award for Exemplary Achievement in Film. The awards are named after the novel of the same title, which was written by William Kennedy, the institute’s founder.
To watch the featured films and learn more about the guests who attended the film festival, visit the NYS Writers Institute’s website.