4th Annual Albany Film Festival to Bring Film Lovers to Campus

Poster features colorful print of UAlbany campus with the words "Albany Film Festival University at Albany Saturday, April 6, 2024 NYS Writers Institute Albany Film Festival"
The 4th annual Albany Film Festival is coming to UAlbany this Saturday, with screenings and panel discussions taking place throughout the day in the Campus Center.

By Bethany Bump

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 2, 2024) — The New York State Writers Institute will host the 4th annual Albany Film Festival at UAlbany this Saturday, giving film lovers a chance to see screenings by aspiring student filmmakers and acclaimed directors, as well as panel discussions with industry professionals.

The annual event is free and open to the public, and will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. Actors, authors, directors, producers, screenwriters and movie critics will come together for a full day of screenings and discussions exploring the intersection of writing and film. At 6 p.m., a closing ceremony will be held to announce the winners of a short film contest and the Ironweed Awards.

“There's a lot going on and we like the variety of it,” said Paul Grondahl, the Opalka Endowed Director of the NYS Writers Institute. “We like that it really sticks to our original idea, which was to find our niche and to set ourselves apart by really looking at that intersection of writing and film, whether it's screenwriting, whether it's film criticism, whether it's adapting novels into films.”

Featured screenings will include:

  • “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” followed by a conversation with director Abigail Disney, a member of the Disney family, about system wealth inequalities in America
  • “Swedish Erotica (a comedy)” (2023), Richard Roundtree’s final movie, and a conversation with the film’s producer Bob Wishnoff and executive producer Larry Hummel, both UAlbany alumni
  • Spencer Sherry’s “The Monkey,” based on a Stephen King short story. Sherry will discuss how he received rights to make the film as a participant in King’s “Dollar Baby” program, which offered filmmakers the chance to adapt one of his lesser-known stories for $1, with the stipulation that the films cannot be shown commercially or for a profit.
  • The 2023 Oscar-nominated documentary short, “Black Girls Play: A Story of Hand Games,” which earned Best Documentary Short at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. UAlbany professor and ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt, a leading expert on the pastimes of Black girlhood, is featured prominently in the documentary and will lead a discussion following the screening.

The festival will also feature panel discussions with tie-ins to films shown previously throughout the semester at Page Hall. UAlbany alumnus Stephen Soucy and Oscar-winning filmmaker James Ivory will discuss their film, “Merchant Ivory,” which was shown in March. David Rosenthal, the editor of Paul Newman’s posthumous memoir, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man (2022), will discuss the iconic Hollywood movie star, whose film “The Hustler” was also shown in March.  

“You won't find another film festival like this,” Grondahl said. “It's heavy on panel discussions and conversations intentionally. You don't just come into the theater and watch film after film after film. We really wanted to bring people in to have conversations about their work."

Another highlight of the event will be a discussion on the future of movie criticism with New York Times movie critic Alissa Wilkinson and Matt Singer, author of Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever (2023). 

“It will be an interesting conversation as film critics are becoming a threatened and endangered species,” Grondahl said. “It sort of pairs with the discussion of whether there will be brick and mortar movie theaters in 20 years. So we’re looking at those kinds of issues around film.”

As a lead up to the festival, the Writers Institute held a short film contest inviting New York-based filmmakers to submit film shorts. Winners will be announced at the closing ceremony, with cash prizes for the best films in categories such as comedy, drama, documentary and experimental. The award for Best Overall Student Short Film is sponsored by The Brendan Fahy Bequette Fund, in honor of the late emerging filmmaker.

A woman with bright blue eyes, dark hair and red lips rests a hand on her chin and poses for a portrait outdoors
Jacqueline Bisset (provided)

Afterward, an Ironweed Award will be presented to British actress Jacqueline Bisset, who starred in films such as Roman Polanski’s “Cul de Sac” (1966); “Bullitt,” opposite Steve McQueen (1968); and John Huston’s “Under the Volcano” (1983). A second Ironweed Award will be presented in absentia to Luis Guzmán, who starred in Steven Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight” (1998), “The Limey” (1999), and “Traffic” (2000), and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” (1997), “Magnolia” (1999), and “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002).

Parking will be available in the Dutch Quad Faculty/Staff, Dutch Quad Resident and Podium West parking lots.  

For a full list of screenings and other festival events, visit www.albanyfilmfestival.org/