FilmColumbia Brings Indie Cinema Upstate
Hayao Miyazaki's first feature film in 10 years is a hand-drawn tale by the Academy Award-winning director. Photo Courtesy GKids

FilmColumbia Brings Indie Cinema Upstate

‘I love the lineup that we have,” said FilmColumbia Festival Director Calliope Nicholas of the festival’s 2023 offerings. “I love that we have so many films this year as far as award winners, Oscar nominations for a particular country… and we’ve got a great number of filmmakers that are coming in and doing Q&As.”

Friday, Oct. 20, will be the first of FilmColumbia’s 10 days of discussions, events and, of course, film screenings, most of which will take place at the Crandell Theatre, the home base of the festival since its beginning in 1999.

FilmColumbia is celebrating its 23rd year of curation by Co-Executive and Co-Artistic Directors Peter Biskind and Laurence Kardish, the former a film historian, critic and best-selling author, and the latter the senior curator emeritus for film and media at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“It was interesting with ‘Oppenheimer’ and ‘Barbie,’ just having the audiences come back into the theater and kind of enjoy being in the theater again,” Nicholas said. “It really does create a different type of mood as compared to watching television or streaming.”

The festival’s highly anticipated screening of “May December,” the latest from director Todd Haynes, came about “because we are honoring the producers,” said Nicholas. “‘May December’ has got some good buzz and we were really lucky to be able to bring that in on the first weekend.”

Producers Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler, who are also the founders of Killer Films, will be feted at FilmColumbia’s annual kick-off party on Saturday, Oct. 21. In addition to “May December,” which will culminate in a Q&A with Vachon, Koffler and award-winning producer, director and screenwriter James Schamus, who is also a Crandell Theatre board member, two other Killer Films productions—“Camp” (2003) and “I Shot Andy Warhol” (1996)—will be screened at this year’s festival.

“’The Boy and the Heron’ is actually kind of a funny story,” said Nicholas of the festival’s Sunday, Oct. 22, screening of the latest from Academy Award-winner Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. “One of our assistant managers, our tech guy at the Crandell Theatre, loves anime films and he’d been pushing for this film. He kept contacting them and they finally came back to us and agreed to have us screen it.”

Tuesday, Oct. 24, will feature “All of Us Strangers,” a love-story-turned-ghost-story in which the main character is visited by his parents, who were killed in a car crash when he was 12 years old. “That was one that we got in through the distributors,” Nicholas said. “A lot of this is just connections through our programmers [Kardish and Biskind] that talk and communicate with the different distributors.”

Most of FilmColumbia’s films have already debuted at other festivals. “[Kardish] ends up seeing some of the film festivals—he was up in Toronto earlier in September—and it’s through [Toronto International Film Festival' that he ends up making some recommendations, and then, of course, Peter, through his connections, as well,” said Nicholas.

A favorite feature of the festival for many is the annual sneak preview, a film that almost always ends up being an Oscar nominee, and the title of which is never revealed before showtime.

FilmColumbia’s annual screenwriting panel with actor Scott Cohen and screenwriter Anastasia Traina, both Catham residents, is also “a really popular event,” according to Nicholas. “[Participants] bring in a few pages of a screenplay, a scene, and actors will read through it and there will be a discussion afterwards.” The event has proven to be so popular that, this year, Cohen and Traina have added a second session the following day.

Commenting on the influence of COVID-19 on the festival’s recent years, Nicholas said: “I think the silver lining is that COVID has kind of shown that having that collective experience is kind of an amazing thing.”

“The community coming together for a single moment,” she continued. “I think that’s unique.”


FilmColumbia will run Friday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 29, at the Crandell Theatre and Tracy Memorial Hall in Chatham, New York. For tickets, information and a full schedule of films, go to

Irish actors Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in a new film from the director of 45 Years. Photo courtesy Searchlight Pictures

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