Adirondack Films Highlight Farms, Prisons and a Sense of Place at 2nd Annual Lake Champlain International Film Festival

Lake Champlain International Film Festival
The renovated Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh is once again going to put downtown Plattsburgh into the limelight. The beautiful Greek Revival theatre has retained all its original 1924 character from brass lights, red velvet seats to stained glass “exit” signs as the perfect backdrop for the 2nd annual Lake Champlain International Film Festival (LCIFF) November 13-15, 2015.  

According to filmmaker Simon Conroy, though he’s been making films for years, this year marks the second time one of his films will go up on the big screen in a film festival. Conroy’s film, Grass Farm Chicken is just one of over ten films highlighting the Adirondacks and New York’s North Country. 

“The whole theme of this year’s festival is really about place, getting to know your place and a place around the world,” says Conroy. "We zeroed in on the prison theme to open up a conversation about the prison system. One of the films [The Visitors] focuses on the prisoners’ visiting family members while Aaron Woolf’s film, [Thanksgiving in Prison] about one of the oldest prisons was started before he ran for congress."  

The Strand Theatre, Plattsburgh
Conroy’s film Grass Farm Chicken along with Iranian Saman Hosseinpuor’s Autumn Leaves, selections of the upcoming Mountain Lake PBS documentary Arts in Exile: Tibetan Treasures in Small Town America, as well as an experimental film from 1921 Manhatta and Burgh are part of the free opening reception on February 13 from 7-9 pm. There will also be Q&A sessions with Mountain Lake PBS’s Paul Larson and the Burgh’s Julia and Michael Devine. 

“There is a composer living in Plattsburgh [Lawrence Dolan] who has written a new soundtrack for the film Manhatta, a silent film,” says Conroy.” People are going to able to see a film created about New York 100 years ago, but with new sound.  Some entries are curated films while other films are new. There are entries from SUNY Plattsburgh and Middlebury students. One SUNY alumnus is coming from Japan to present his film.”

Lake Champlain International Film Festival
Schedule for Friday and part of Saturday
“Filmmaker Jason Torrance was interested in having a film festival last year and other people from the Plattsburgh Renewal Project saw the potential,” says Conroy. “This year we added the university [SUNY Plattsburgh] to the program. We have a beautiful area and this beautiful old theatre. We want to attract people and let them know about this interesting place to show their film. Last year I made a film that was shown at the festival and the more I filmed the more I got involved. I really would like to help to give Plattsburgh a more bold place on the map.”

This year LCIFF is excited to welcome filmmaker Jennifer Podemeski to close the festival on November 15 in a free public performance. Podemeski is coming from Toronto to show her nationally recognized film about three generations of a Canadian Cree family. After the awards ceremony she will be on hand to present her feature film Empire of Dirt as well as conduct a Q&A for any interested parties.

Saturday morning the LCIFF has slotted a free family-friendly morning of film shorts. Selections include silent films, animations as well as a documentary Wild Vision highlighting the work of Adirondack photographer Carl Heilman by filmmaker David McCullum. The afternoon blocks are broken into themes including Agriculture, It’s Complicated, Documentary and New Cult Films.

Lake Champlain International Film Festival
Schedule for Saturday evening and Sunday. 
“I mentioned before that this film festival has a theme of place. The Agricultural Blocks feature farms around Essex County,” says Conroy. “Reber Rock Farm really inspired me. What they are doing is similar to going to Brooklyn and seeing that change from empty buildings to a rebuilt community. That is what is happening around Essex. These young farmers have come in and swept out the old farmhouses, taking them from vacant to vibrant. You get to see how some of these farmers started working at one farm and broke away to start their own.”

Conroy raises beef and has been at the forefront of the local food movement. During his tenure he has encountered obstacles with people humanely raising chickens. Now Reber Rock Farm has conquered those issues and his film hopes to demonstrate that “it can be done and it is being done.” 

Conroy states, “The films chosen for the Prison Block talk about displacement. Having a prison in a town creates a vibe that makes people think about the prison industry. All the publicity from the prison escape brought to light how the culture changes with a prison in the community. Agriculture is the just the opposite, from a sense of place. Throughout history in the North Country there have been farmers. When the prison industry came the young farmers left to get jobs with better pay. There was a pull away from farming. Now it is coming back.”

There are 11 countries represented at this year’s festival: USA, France, Germany, India, Ghana, Serbia, Sweden, Canada, Spain, Iran and Japan.  The complete schedule for the Lake Champlain Film Festival can be found here. Admission: Individual tickets for each two-hour film block/$5; All-Access (two day) festival pass/$20, Two All-Access (two day) festival passes/$30. There are three free events as well: Friday, November 13 Opening, Saturday, November 14 Short Film Showcase and Sunday, November 15 Closing Awards/Screening. 

© Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time™ guidebook series. Adirondack Family Time™guidebooks have easy, short Adirondack family hikes for ADK kids, parents, retired, seniors, dog-owners, Adirondack swimming holes, Lake Placid Olympic activities, Adirondack trivia, Adirondack horseback rides, Adirondack snowshoe family trails and more. Look for the Adirondack family guidebooks online or bookstores/museums/sporting good stores. Diane is currently working on the next Adirondack Family Activities™ guide.