First Hudson Valley International Film Festival Brings Excitement to Monroe

A sleepy Orange County town gets the Hollywood treatment this weekend


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If you were born and raised in Monroe, then you are fully aware that it is not the most exciting town. Hey, don’t get me wrong: I love good-old “Funroe.” I’ve lived there for the past 22 years and can’t imagine being anywhere else, and I must admit, we’ve stepped up the excitement factor a bunch recently. We just opened our very own farmers’ market (it pops up every Sunday); we have a carnival that plops itself right in the center of town in August — and let’s not forget the always-popular Cheese Festival held in September.

So I am proud to add to the Hudson Valley International Film Festival (HVIFF) to that list. Held at the Hudson Valley Arts and Civic Center (locals know it as the former Monroe 6 Theater), it takes place on August 14, 15, and 16.

melissa cohen charles marinaro hudson valley arts and civic center

The Hudson Valley International Film Festival, which is held at the Hudson Valley Arts and Civic Center over the course of three day, is organized by Melissa Cohen (left) and Charles Marinaro

Founders Charles Marinaro and Melissa Cohen, both Sullivan County residents, organized the three-day extravaganza, which features independent films from around the world. Festgoers will be able to view everything from documentaries to music videos, TV pilots, and even animated shorts. Films feature stars from major flicks like Maleficent, Flight, and Star Trek, as well as popular TV shows like Mad Men, True Detective, and CSI.

The weekend officially kicks off with a red carpet soirée from 6-8 p.m. Attendees will want to grab a seat for the debut of the fest’s pièce de résistance, Savior. Written and directed by Marinaro, the film follows a young homeless man as he rises to power in the crime world. The film has a strong Hudson Valley presence with locations shot throughout Orange County, and features Valley actors, writers, and producers.

On Saturday, films play continuously on three different screens starting at 10 a.m. and running until midnight. Stick around for one of the many Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, listen to live music, and grab some grub. A deejay will be on hand, spinning hits throughout the weekend. “It’s basically a party every night,” says Cohen.

filming savior cast

At left: filming scenes for Savior, the Hudson Valley International Film Festival’s first screening, which was directed by HVIFF President Charles Marinaro. At right, the cast of Savior: Mike Sutton, Anthony Gagliardo, Marinaro, and Chris Matrone 

HVIFF wraps up on Sunday with more screenings during the day and early evening, followed by a red carpet closing party from 6 to 8 p.m., complete with interviewers, photographers, and videographers. And although you may not spot Brad and Angelina emerging from a limo, you’ll get close: Naomi Grossman of the TV series American Horror Story makes special guest appearances throughout the weekend, including a Q&A discussion on Saturday and actor’s workshop Sunday. She’ll also present awards to festival winners. (Be sure to catch Grossman in two of the films screened during the festival: Carnival Knowledge and Girl in Argentine Landscape.)

Ultimately, the Hudson Valley International Film Festival aims to promote quality non-studio films, television pilots, and screenplays from filmmakers throughout the U.S. and around the world. And for us locals, it adds even more to the “fun” in “Funroe.”

If you go...

Hudson Valley International Film Festival
When: Friday, August 14 to Sunday, August 16
Where: Hudson Valley Arts and Civic Center, 34 Millpond Parkway, Monroe
Cost: $8 single film viewing, $15 single-day pass, $30 weekend pass
Details: www.hudsonvalleyinternationalfilmfestival.com

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