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  • NYS Writers Institute

Coming up: Our inaugural Albany Film Festival!


Movie fans, filmmakers, and authors are invited to join the NYS Writers Institute at the inaugural Albany Film Festival, an eclectic program of virtual and in-person events exploring the intersection of writing and film to be presented April 24 through May 3.

“The Albany Film Festival will celebrate the rich heritage of filmmaking in the Capital Region, inspire young filmmakers to tell their stories and reinforce the connection between storytelling and cinema,” said Paul Grondahl, director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany. “This inaugural event is revamped and rescheduled due to the pandemic. After a terrible year, we need the uplift and shared experience of the Albany Film Festival more than ever."

While many of the 2021 film festival events may be viewed online, a pair of innovative events are being offered that will safely bring film-lovers into the community for live, in-person events.

The 2021 Albany Film Festival will feature:

Online panel discussions, workshops, and conversations with film producers, filmmakers, and screenwriters at

The Ironweed Award for Exemplary Achievement in Film, to be presented to five recipients with pre-recorded interviews available to watch online starting Satuday, May 1:

  • Kasi Lemmons, actor (“Silence of the Lambs”) and director (“Harriet” and “Eve’s Bayou”)

  • James Ivory, co-founder of Merchant Ivory Productions (“A Room with a View,” “Howard’s End,” “The Remains of the Days”)

  • Samuel Pollard, director and film editor (“MLK/FBI,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Jungle Fever,” “Clockers,” and the forthcoming feature documentary “Counting the Ballots”)

  • Rosie Perez, Oscar-nominated actress (“Fearless,” “White Men Can’t Jump,” “Do the Right Thing”) and

  • Darnell Martin, director of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “I Like it Like That”

The NYS Writers Institute Night at the Drive-In will be held 8 p.m. Thursday, April 29, at the Malta Drive-In Theatre.

The two screens at the drive-in will feature a collection of short films along with

“Cadillac Records,” the 2008 film about the Chicago blues scene directed by Ironweed Award winner Darnell Martin and starring Beyonce and Adrien Brody;

“The Honeymoon Killers,” the 1970 cult classic about a pair of lovers on a killing spree written and directed by the late UAlbany professor Leonard Kastle, ranked #3 on Steve Buscemi's "Top Ten" favorite film list;

and “Impact: Mobility and Modernity Reconsidered,” Skidmore College Professor Rik Scarce’s documentary on the barefoot running movement that won the Audience Choice Award at Austin Indie Fest in November.

“Passages,” a spectacular multimedia display will illuminate the night sky and exterior of the 195-foot-wide facade of UAlbany's Science Library building.

Using powerful projection mapping technology, the immersive light show will present a narrative of the Capital Region’s cultural legacy and the history of major movies filmed on location in the area. Showings will be held 8:30 through 11 p.m. Friday, April 30, through Monday, May 3. Registration required due to COVID restrictions. See website for details.

World premiere of “Karen or Bust,” a feature film set in the 60s written, produced, and directed by Don Rittner and featuring many actors and locales in the Capital Region, will be held online 7 p.m. Saturday, May 1.

"Our festival will focus on the role of storytelling in filmmaking as we discover new ways to expand the mission of the Writers Institute and to foster conversations that elevate audiences and artists alike, while enriching our community," said Grondahl.

All Albany Film Festival events are free and open to the public. In keeping with safety protocols, the "Passages" display on the University at Albany campus requires advance registration.

For more information and the complete schedule of events, visit

The NYS Writers Institute would like to thank our sponsors who made the Albany Film Festival possible:

Premier sponsors: Chet & Karen Opalka, The Towne Law Firm, P.C., UAlbany Speaker Series.

Presenting sponsors: June M. DeSorbo, Film Albany, a division of Discover Albany, Times Union, The Touhey Family Foundation. Supporting sponsors: Ellen Jabbur, New World Bistro Bar, O’Connell & Aronowitz /, The Swyer Family Foundation, University Auxiliary Services.

And Friends: Add a Zero Productions, CDTA, Skip Casano & Bella Pipas, Brown & Weinraub, PLLC, Pernille Ægidius Dake, Foy Fund, Paul & Mary Grondahl, David & Lauren Hayes, Honest Weight Food Co-op, William & Mary Jean Krackeler, Cecilia Lauenstein & Ronald Nadeau, Betsy Lopez, H. Carl McCall and Dr. Joyce F. Brown, Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP, Servico Inc./ Scott Schuster, Herb and Cynthia Shultz, UAlbany William L. Reese Emeritus Center, and Hon. Leonard A. Weiss.


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