By Fran Montagnino
Woodstock, New York is an idyllic setting to attend a film festival. The 2021 Woodstock Film Festival is ongoing at the time of this writing from Sept. 29 – Oct. 4. Many of the restaurants here are vegan friendly and have outdoor seating. The artistic scene is very visible. There is a museum and galleries in the town, including the Byrdcliffe Guild, where panel discussions are held. Local musicians and drumming circles play on “The Green” in the center of the town and at local venues such as the Colony.
The film festival showcases different genres every year, hosts awards, panels, and speakers.
This year I headed out to see Daughter of a Lost Bird, a documentary feature at the Bearsville Theater.
The film is a poignant story about a Native woman adopted into a white family, who reconnects with her Native identity and meets her birth mother, April. We follow Kendra Mylnechuk Potter on her journey to the Lummi Nation and watch as her newly discovered relationship with April develops amidst the history of the Lummi tribe.
There are various creative achievements in the film. The hug between April And Kendra is most notable and deepened by the subtle beat in the background, creating an emotional and quiet poetic moment. The intercutting of black and white archival footage from the Lummi people along with the dialogue of April and Kendra deepens the emotional effect of the film and history of Lummi tribe. The consistent use of close-ups throughout the film visually enhances the relationship the viewer experiences with Kendra and April, as well as our understanding of the Lummi people.
The cinematography, editing, and musical composition interweave deftly throughout the film, which was directed by Brooke Pepion Swaney, an NYU alum. The film, along with Swaney, her creative staff, and April Kowalski received a standing ovation at the Bearsville theater screening I attended! They were on hand afterward to answer audience questions, and April Kowalski standing next to Brooke Pepion Swaney told the audience this was the first time she had seen the film. She also said that it was an unbelievable honor to be in the place the story was told. It was an emotional moment for both attendees and filmmakers.
I walked out of the theater, took off my mask, took a deep breath and walked across the parking lot to Nancy’s of Woodstock Artisanal Creamery, where I had a delicious almond milk cappuccino.
Brooke Swaney received the New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) Award Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking for Daughter of a Lost Bird at the 2021 Woodstock Film Festival. The NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Narrative Filmmaking at Woodstock went to Rachel Winter for The Space Between. NYWIFT Board Member Kim Jackson presented both awards in person at the festival’s closing awards ceremony.
Learn more about the Woodstock Film Festival at https://woodstockfilmfestival.org/
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