Woodstock Is Joni coming? The volunteer party and film preview at the Bearsville Theater last night was abuzz with the hope that the Canadian chanteuse who sang about getting herself back to Woodstock more than 30 years ago would actually make it this week.
The "Fiddle and the Drum" was directed by Joni Mitchell, with the Alberta Ballet Theater dancing to social statement songs from her 1980s album "Dog Eat Dog."
Michael Lang, known best in recent years for his role in Woodstock '94, brought the film to festival director Meira Blaustein's attention.
"Thinking about what would start the festival and what would end it, who better than to start with Joni Mitchell and end with Bob Dylan?" Blaustein said to the crowd of 300 who filled the seats, balcony and outer bar.
Chrissy Glenn, owner of Pearl Gallery in Stone Ridge, worked on the film with Mitchell and spoke with the packed audience about the film's genesis and production. The powerful use of dance imagery with Mitchell's artwork and high impact musical themes made the project one Mitchell found worth embarking on.
Glenn made a surprise announcement: Though Mitchell herself will not be coming to Ulster County, her artwork will. Glenn is the exclusive dealer for Mitchell's paintings and will have a small show in Stone Ridge in the early winter before a larger tour.
The audience seemed to be free of easily recognized celebrities. It was a celebration to welcome the volunteers and staff who will work the festival over the next four days.
Arlen Baden is a regular on the film festival circuit, volunteering his way to more than 30 since his first venture in Austen, Texas, three years ago, but Woodstock is new to him. His journey began when he retired from being a guidance counselor in New York City. He showed off his layering of other souvenir T-shirts under his Woodstock volunteer shirt.
"When my van goes a 1989 Aerostar the festival trip is over," Baden said. "Then it's on to Cambodia."
One festival-goer with a full access pass dangling from his neck said he'll consider participating in the Times Herald-Record's film critic opportunity.
"I'm going to see a lot of films. So many my eyes will bleed," he said, smiling as he walked into the Mitchell screening.
Helen Ulfik and fiance Dennis Ebbing have tried to get to the film festival for years.
"We live just over in Saugerstock" she quipped. Shift work in the medical field made this year's attendance a spontaneous treat. "I love Joni Mitchell!"
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