The Adirondack Film Society’s Cuban “Connection”—author and film historian Jeremy Arnold—and the story of how, working closely together, they were able to obtain, from Cuba, the new movie Esteban and the appearance in Lake Placid of its director & co-producer, serve as the perfect illustration of the many vital collaborations undergirding this year’s Lake Placid Film Forum.

Lake Placid, NY—If the operative word of this year’s Lake Placid Film Forum (LPFF, Version 16.0), which runs from Wednesday, June 7, through Sunday, June 11, at multiple venues here in the Olympic Village, is—as Fred Balzac, Operations Manager of the LPFF’s presenting organization, the Adirondack FEsteban imageilm Society, contends—“synergy,” the perfect illustration of it is the story of how the screening of the new Cuban feature film “Esteban” (Sat., June 10, 6 pm, Palace Theatre) and the in-person appearances in Lake Placid of its director, Jonal Cosculluela, and co-producer, Maritza Ceballo, all came about. For indeed, the real story behind this year’s edition of the Adirondack region’s premier film-related invent, now celebrating its 16th anniversary, are the many collaborations undergirding the Film Forum—extending north and south from Plattsburgh to Albany and from as far away as the very-much-in-the-news country of Russia.

 

The project began, as many great ones do, with a simple idea: “Why don’t we bring a film from Cuba?” thought Nelson Page, AFS Vice-Chair and Chairman of the Fort Lee (NJ) Film Commission, out loud in a conversation with ChairJohn Huttlinger following the 2016 LPFF. “Relations between the U.S. and Cuba are thawing and travel and cultural exchange are rapidly opening up, and the time is right for the Film Society and Film Forum to do their share.”

In other words, what better way to help enhance cultural understanding between these two nations is there than speaking the international language of cinema?

Next to enter the widening conversation was Jeremy Arnold—film historian, online contributor to Turner Classic Movies (TCM), author of the 2016 TCM tie-in book The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter AND long-time summer resident of Lake Placid. Mr. Arnold and the AFS had first connected prior to LPFF ’16, during which the film authority hosted an “’Essentials’/Film Classic’” screening of The Third Man, one of the 52 movies featured in his generously illustrated and copiously documented book. Among the three of them, messrs. Arnold, Page and Huttlinger saw that the International Festival for New Latin American Cinema was happening in Havana in December 2016. The AFS board members asked Mr. Arnold if he’d be interested in attending the festival, and Jeremy answered, in essence, with the proverbial response that precedes so many great undertakings: “Why not?”

Travel to Cuba by citizens of the United States remains no simple task, and Mr. Arnold, acting as a kind of special agent on behalf of the AFS—not to mention with all the diligence and perspicacity of a skilled historian—had to jump through several hoops in making the necessary arrangements. (Indeed, similar hoops have had to be jumped through to bring director Cosculluela and producer Ceballo to the shores of continental America; but, we’re jumping ahead of ourselves!) In short, Jeremy met all of the requirements of both the U.S. and Cuban authorities and quickly found himself in beautiful, sunny Havana for the film fest.

The film tells the story of nine-year-old Esteban and his single mother, who struggle to make ends meet in modern-day Havana. But when the boy finds himself drawn to piano music emanating from thEsteban image 4e house of an embittered teach, he becomes determined to pursue his new passion—even if it means going behind his mother’s back. With an original score by Grammy Award-winning jazz great Chucho Valdes, Jonal Cosculluela’s directorial debut was filmed on location in his native Havana, and it stands as a gentle, inspiring tale of nurturing one’s gifts and overcoming obstacles to transform multiple lives.

During the film festival, Jeremy met and rather quickly bonded with both Jonal and Maritza—so much so that inviting them to come to Lake Placid was a natural. Needless to say, bringing citizens of Cuba to the United States remains no less of an undertaking than the reverse process that brought Mr. Arnold to the Latin American powerhouse. However, long-story-short, fast-forward to June 7-11, 2017, and the inspired thinking of Nelson Page and John Huttlinger and the intrepid, trailblazing efforts of Jeremy Arnold, Jonal Cosculluela and Maritza Ceballo are all coming to fruition this week in Lake Placid. Be there, aloha!

Film is, of course, a highly collaborative art and, if the synergy that is powering LPFF’17 comes off anywhere near as well as its programmers have envisioned, it will be in large part because of the many collaborations the Adirondack Film Society has entered into this year as well as preceding years, including with:

  • Such Adirondack North Country-based filmmakers as Aaron Woolf and Savannah Woods of Mosaic Films Inc. and Ben Stechschulte (also photographer extraordinaire), resulting in the screening the Woolf-and-Woods-produced “Denial” (Sun., 6/11, 6 pm, Palace) and Mr. Woolf’s involvement as host and moderator of “North Country Shorts” (Fri., 6/9, 6 pm, LPCA), including the screening of Mr. Stechschulte’s compelling short film about a local demo derby, “Hit Me Harder.”
  • The SUNY Plattsburgh (PSU) Film Studies Minor program and the staff and board of the Lake Champlain International Film Festival (LCIFF), including Michael Devine, filmmaker and PSU professor of English and film, and Jason Torrance, filmmaker and LCIFF co-founder/heard, resulting also in “North Country Shorts,” including Devine’s “Burgh” and Torrance’s “Recluse A/B.”
  • The Albany-based Capital Cinema Cultural Exchange (CCCE)—chief among the group its founding director, Mike Camoin, whose existing relationship with producer Dmitry Pirkulov of Russia, led to a three-way collaboration resulting in the AFS bringing Mr. Pirkulov from Moscow to Lake Placid to lead, with Mr. Camoin moderating, a master class on contemporary indie filmmaking in Russia(Sat., 6/10, 2 pm, Whiteface Lodge)—part of the extended “Sleepless in Lake Placid” mastery of filmmaking program—as well as the panel discussion being spearheaded by Mike on “Unlocking Upstate Film Locations” (Sun., 6/11, 10:30 am, Whiteface Lodge), which will feature as a participant Jerry Stoeffhaas, Deputy Director of the New York State Governor’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.
  • The region’s leading human rights organization, John Brown Lives! (JBL!), including its Exec. Director Martha Swan, and the newer Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI), resulting in the screening of Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro” (Sun., 6/11, 12:30 pm, LPCA) + a post-screening panel discussion moderated by Russell Banks, novelist, screenwriter and AFS Artistic Consultant, co-presented with JBL! and ADI; as well as the screening of the critically acclaimed, true-story-based feature “Loving” (Sat., 6/10, 2:30 pm, LPCA), for which Ruth Negga was nominated for a 2017 Best Actress Oscar, co-presented with JBL!.
  • The region’s leading literary-arts-advocacy organization, the Adirondack Center for Writing (ACW), including its Exec. Director, Nathalie Costa Thill, resulting in the screenings of “Paterson” (Thu., 6/8, 6:30 pm, LPCA) + post-screening panel discussion that will include Ms. Thill and Peter Seward of one of the area’s newest arts venues, Lake Flower Landing of Saranac Lake, and the AFS Steering Committee; “A Quiet Passion” (Sun., 6/11, 3:15 pm, Palace) + post-screening panel discussion with locally based poet Roger Mitchell and AFS Artistic Director Kathleen Carroll; as well as the aforementioned screenings of “Neruda,” all co-presented with the ACW.

The above-highlighted programs are just some of the collaborations fueling and undergirding this year’s LPFF. The AFS thanks ALL of its partners in making this year’s event possible!

As in the past two years, admission to panel discussions, workshops and master classes remains free and single tickets to all screenings are $10 per person; however, this year the AFS is introducing an all-Forum screenings pass for $79, payable by cash or check made out to the Adirondack Film Society. To learn more about tickets or the program overall, please contact AFS Operations Manager Fred Balzac at (518) 523-3456 orfredbalzac@aol.com or visit adirondackfilmsociety.org.