2013 Films


Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World

HARMONY introduces viewers to a new and inspiring perspective on how the world can meet the challenges of climate change globally, locally, and personally.  Narrated by long-time environmental advocate HRH Charles, The Prince of Wales, HARMONY looks at the root causes of the global problems we face and offers solutions.  From the strikingly filmed organic farms of rural India, the shrimp fields of Cajun Louisiana, and the rainforests of British Columbia, to rare archival footage of a forty-year-old HRH interviewing Al Gore about climate change in 1988, HARMONY captures an awareness that is arising in people around the globe across challenging boundaries of geography, race, religion, and socio-economic status.  The film proposes a way forward and provides the audience with a new perspective on the need to change our relationship with the planet. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmakers Stuart Sender and Julie Bergman Sender with Academy Award and Directors Guild nominations to their credit. (2012, 90 minutes).

Drums Along the Mohawk

Walter D. Edmonds’ classic 1936 best-selling novel about frontier settlers in the Mohawk Valley during the era of the American Revolution was famously adapted for the cinema by John Ford in 1939. Long unavailable in its original Technicolor, this exhilarating feature film starring Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert, Edna May Oliver, Ward Bond, and John Carradine has recently been restored to the color intended for its initial theatrical release. With references to personalities such as General Nicholas Herkimer and to regional historic events, the tale of Gil and Lana Martin on their remote upstate farm (a simple cabin) is filled with excitement, adventure, and local references. The Technicolor version is a special treat for anyone who has only seen the black-and-white versions that for years appeared on television.  (1939, 104 minutes).


This gripping and witty nature documentary offers viewers a visually stunning chronicle of one full day in the life of a meadow in the French countryside.  Utilizing special macroscopic photographic techniques that took years to design, biologists-turned-filmmakers Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou patiently and painstakingly focus their lenses on insects that become gigantic beasts, blades of grass that turn into towering monuments, and raindrops that resemble vast oceans. “An amazing film that allows us to peer deeply into the insect world and marvel at creatures we casually condemn to squishing,” says Roger Ebert, who bestowed his highest rating on the film.  “Sure to reveal a strange and transfixing secret universe, one in which even the physics of splashing raindrops looks suddenly new” (Janet Maslin, New York Times).  A multiple prize winner at the 1996 French Academy of Cinema Awards, featuring spare narration by actress Kristin Scott Thomas. (1996, 80 minutes).

Field of Enchantment (La Clé des Champs)

Two lonely children fall under the spell of a wild, deserted pond that becomes a secret kingdom. Featuring spectacular underwater visuals from French biologists-turned-filmmakers Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou (the makers of MICROCOSMOS), who have been studying and documenting the insect world for thirty-five years. “Impeccable photography and soigné score and soundscape imbuing countless everyday animals with a rare grace, as well as the slightly anthropomorphic qualities kids especially love” (Variety).  (2011, 81 minutes).

Drill Baby Drill

One day, villagers living in far eastern Poland near the Ukrainian border discover that Chevron plans to build a shale gas well in their midst, an ecologically pristine agricultural area called “the lungs of Poland.”   Veteran Polish-American filmmaker and Utica, New York, native Lech Kowalski documents the first-ever farmer rebellion against the world’s fourth largest energy corporation.  He weaves the story of their improbable struggle around events taking place in faraway Pennsylvania, the “Saudi Arabia” of shale gas mining. It’s too late to stop the energy companies in Pennsylvania, but can fifty Polish families prevail against Chevron in their tiny village? What happens is a surprise to everyone. The film poses important questions about the survival of local democracy in an age of globalized corporate power (“Why didn’t anyone ask us?!” one farmer stridently demands).  Of vital interest to citizens of central New York, where energy companies have leased land for exploration and drilling, the film captures the conflict between our need for new energy sources and our obligation to protect our land and water. For Lech Kowalski, farmers are “the new underground.” He will travel to Cooperstown from his home in Paris to present his film. (2013, 84 minutes).

32nd Black Maria Film Festival

The Black Maria Film Festival, a nationally touring juried festival for independent shorts, comes to Cooperstown. Festival founder and artistic director John Columbus presents nine original, dynamic short films which explore the land and the spirit of environmentalism:

•         Rain (Regen) by Joris Ivens, with Mannus Frånken, Netherlands.  From a giant of early cinema, capturing the spirit of a rainy day in Amsterdam.  (1929, 12 minutes)

•         Light Plate by Josh Gibson, Durham, NC.  A shimmering, hand-processed black and white poem filmed in the Tuscan landscape, where time passes in licks of light, as a storm gathers and a woman makes pasta by hand.  A lyrical essay about the relationship between tradition, modernity and food.  (2012, 9 minutes)

•         One of the Last (Uno degli Ultimi) by Paul Zinder, Rome, Italy.  Mauro is a 78-year old Italian farmer who harvests his own grapes and cherries, and climbs his olive trees to shake down the fruit.  At one with nature, Mauro wants the land to survive. (2007, 11 minutes)

•         An Architect’s Vision by Mina T. Son, Stanford, California.  A glimpse into the world of blind architect Chris Downey who lost his sight and now sees with his hands.  A powerful statement about environmental sensitivity and tactilely rediscovering one’s surroundings in a mainly visual world. (2010, 6 minutes)

•         Rooftop Bees by Melissa Lohman Wild, Sunnyside, NY.  An engaging short documentary about a quirky, retired Manhattanite who raises bees on his rooftop and sells honey. The offbeat beekeeper’s world offers insight into the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, a crisis with grave consequences for our food supply. (2007, 15 minutes)

•         Kudzu Vine by Josh Gibson, Durham, NC.  Photographed in the luminous black-and-white of early cinema, this ode to the climbing, trailing, coiling and pervasive species Pueraria lobata overtaking much of the southern U.S. evokes the agricultural history and mythic textures of the South, while drolly documenting a massive environmental blunder.  (2009, 20 minutes)

•         Nile Perch by Josh Gibson, Durham, NC. A luminous black-and-white artisanal film portrait of fishermen in harmony with nature on the shores of Uganda’s Lake Victoria. (2012, 17 minutes)

•         Bloom by Scott Stark, Austin, TX. Industrial penetrations into the arid Texas landscape yield a strange and exotic flowering. Using found footage from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image of oil drilling from the first half of the 20th century, Bloom is an arresting visual experience about our dependence on fossil fuels.   (2012, 11 minutes)

•         Lionfish Delusion by Quique Rivera, San Juan, PR. An imaginative underwater neo-noir animation inspired by the invasion of the lionfish in Caribbean reefs. Fish dream and lobster claws transmutate as the sea swirls in a whimsical representation of greed, gluttony and hierarchy. Winner, top prize in animation, 32nd Black Maria Film Festival. (2012, 4 minutes)

The Black Maria Film Festival is named after the American birthplace of the motion picture, Thomas Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, NJ.  There, at the dawn of motion pictures, Edison designed and constructed the world’s first moving picture studio. Built on wheels with a convertible roof, the studio resembled a 19th-century police paddy wagon, more popularly known as a “Black Maria.”  Today, the seminal Edison studio serves as the mascot of the contemporary Black Maria Film Festival.

Over the last thirty-two years, founding director John Columbus has overseen this alternative festival, which “embraces the diversity and passion of the cinematic short form,” says the Museum of Modern Art, which saluted the Festival’s legacy in a special program.  The Black Maria Film Festival, said MoMA, “provides many directors with their earliest exhibition opportunities and discovers avant-garde and idiosyncratic talent…. and champions cinema that resides on the margins of popular culture and in the center of artists’ imaginations.”  (105 minutes total)  Featuring a local foods cocktail buffet as well as locally crafted brews and spirits.

Cooper on Film: The Three Faces of Hawkeye

Why have filmmakers turned so often to James Fenimore Cooper’s seminal novel The Last of the Mohicans? Hollywood has produced (and this is not counting the German and the British versions) three remarkably different portrayals of Hawkeye’s world:  silent in 1920, vibrant in 1936, and resplendent in 1992.  What do Cooper’s characters mean to us, and why do we return to them again and again? Peter Rutkoff, an award-winning teacher and writer, will engage the audience in ways to “read” the films, leading a lively, interactive discussion that will alternate clips with free-flowing dialogue about what distinguishes one film from another.  A rare treat for aficionados of  Cooper’s stories and the natural surroundings that inspired them. Rutkoff founded and chairs the American Studies program at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.  He is also a longtime summer resident of the Lake Otsego shore where he has nurtured a deep appreciation for the landscape that Cooper prized so dearly. (60 minutes).

Following his talk at Templeton Hall, Rutkoff will sign copies of his works, including Cooperstown Chronicles, his short story collection and Irish Eyes, his recent novel published in the spring of 2013. The open-ended discussion is preceded by a mouth-watering farm-to table-brunch at Templeton Hall, where film-goers can mingle with Peter Rutkoff and sample a glorious spread of local bounty.

Rivers and Tides

Artist Andy Goldsworthy creates site-specific earthworks, beautiful and ephemeral sculptures in the open air made of ice, mud, leaves, driftwood, stones, and twigs. In the UK, where Goldsworthy lives, this “land art” echoes with important historical and environmental implications.  Filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer shows us Goldsworthy as he fashions art in different settings, some near his home in Scotland and others in France, Canada, and beyond. “Each work grows, stays, decays – integral parts of a cycle,” says Goldsworthy.  “There is an intensity and a tension about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed. . . .” Watching Goldsworthy as he conceives, creates, and then discusses his processes, it becomes obvious that this artist has given a lot of thought not only to his art, but to the natural world in general and to the environment of the planet as a whole.  His commentary is moving and often profound. (2001, 90 minutes).

Chasing Ice

In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images that would tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk. Recipient of the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award and winner of over thirty awards at film festivals around the world, CHASING ICE is the story of one man’s mission to reverse the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet.  Directed by Jeff Orlowski, the film was screened at the White House on Earth Day, 2013. (2012, 75 minutes).

More than Honey

Bees pollinate over 80% of all earth’s plant species, and are rapidly disappearing from the planet. Everywhere, the same scenario is repeated: billions of bees leave their hives, never to return. No bodies are found in the immediate surroundings, and no visible predators can be located.  This film explores the exploitation of bees in the era of industrial agriculture and  the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder—the decimation of the world’s bee population, a crisis with hugely important consequences.  Spectacular cinematography and state-of-the art close-ups take viewers inside the hives for a primer on bee biology and social behavior. High-speed cameras and endoscopic micro-lenses deliver “eye-popping visuals” that “bring us so staggeringly up-close and personal to the bee world, 3-D would be redundant” (LA Times).  Oscar-nominated Swiss filmmaker Markus Imhoof (descended from a long line of beekeepers) crosses five continents to interview beekeepers and scientists with intriguing observations about the crisis in this ingenious and ultimately disquieting documentary. Five-time winner of “Best Documentary” in European film competitions.  (2012, 95 minutes).