Enter a dark boxy, two-toned building—maroon and white— and you’ll find yourself going back to 1924 only to then be mentally sent beyond the borders of the U.S. On Nov. 15 and Nov.16 the Strand Center for the Arts hosted the first ever Lake Champlain International Film Festival. Amongst the filmmakers was award-winning documentary filmmaker and Plattsburgh State alumnus Ian Thomas Ash.

With the newly renovated theater finally being available for the Plattsburgh citizens to enjoy, film aficionados in the area put their heads together and came up with the idea of hosting an International Film Festival. Jessica Dulle, executive director of the Strand Center for the Arts, said that the reasoning for the festival was to attract tourism to the Clinton County area and also ”to help bring the community development.”

To make the festival enjoyable for film buffs of all ages, long and short movies where screened in different themed blocks such as Family Friendly, Films by Women and Science Fiction. Dulle explained that movies which made it to the screening where chosen by a panel who scored the films based on the quality of the acting, cinematography, audio and production.

One of the filmmakers that went through the scoring process was Ash. Two of his documentaries were screened on Nov. 15 and were three hours combined. The documentaries focused on the children in Fukushima and how the 2011 meltdown affected their lives. Though he had been screened at international film festivals such as the U.K.’s biggest independent film festival, the Raindance Film Festival, showcasing his work in Plattsburgh was a given. Giving back to his former home comes naturally to him.

“There’s not very much that I can do but even in some small way I would like to be able to give back. And so, it’s a great honor to be part of the festival.” Ash said.

Besides giving back to his community, the inaugural festival is exciting to him. Ash also believes that the great options of films available for the viewers makes the festival unique.

“There is really something for everyone. So, I can say that they have done an amazing job collecting films that really, I mean, even if you were in a bigger city you would have trouble finding.” Ash said. ” Yet, all the way here at Plattsburgh, we have brought films that.. people wouldn’t have an opportunity to see before.”

Dulle also explained that what makes the festival unique is what it has to offer to the citizens.

“I think what is great about it is that we are encompassing both short films and feature films. Not all festivals do that. They choose one or the other.” Dulle said.

For those who missed the festival and missed Ash’s documentaries, the Internet will not be an option anytime soon. Ash believes that films should be a shared experience rather than an isolated one. He hopes that those who missed it will come and support the festival next year, view the films, participate in the post-screening discussions and maybe even go out for a beer afterward.

“This is what it’s about. It’s about bringing people together as a community.” he said.

Email Winta Mebrahti at winta.mebrahti@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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