Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Indie Films Alive & Well in the Berkshires
I just returned from my annual visit to the Berkshire mountains of northwest Massachusetts and southwest Vermont. This area, which has long embraced writers and artists such as Herman Melville, Norman Rockwell and Nathaniel Hawthorne, has now become a haven for independent filmmakers who are trying to reach a wider audience. Throughout the region, theaters and film festivals are giving indie films a chance. Peter Biskind, the former editor-in-chief of American Film magazine (and my former boss) lives in upstate NY, close to the Berkshires, and has been active in trying to grow support for such films through festivals such as FilmColumbia (www.filmcolumbia.com), which he helps program. Best known for his book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock-n-Roll Generation Saved Hollywood," Biskind more recently has written "Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film." Other festivals include the Williamstown Film Festival (www.williamstownfilmfest.com), the Northampton Film Festival (www.niff.org) and, a bit further south, near the Catskills, The Woodstock Film Festival (www.woodstockfilmfestival.com). A handful of theaters in the Berkshires are also embracing independent films. These include the Crandell Theatre (www.crandelltheatre.com) in Chatham, NY; Images Cinema (www.imagescinema.org) in Williamstown, Mass.; The Triplex Cinema (www.thetriplex.com), which offers both independent films and higher profile commercial films in Great Barrington, Mass; and the summer-only Little Cinema at Berkshire Museum (www.berkshiremuseum.org) in Pittsfield, Mass. An official Berkshire Film Festival is being planned for next year (possibly to be held at The Triplex) in the southern Berkshire region. It seems natural to me that an area with such a long history of inspiring artists would now open its arms to leading edge filmmakers.