TRR photos by Jonathan Charles Fox

Actor Emrhys Cooper’s performance in “Trophy Boy” (which also showed at Cannes) was a highlight at the Catskill International Film Festival held in Callicoon, NY last weekend.

It’s a matter of life and death

And music… there will always be music. Every so often all three subjects collide, creating a “perfect storm” in the entertainment world. Such was the case over the last few days, as I spent some quality time in a library, celebrated a milestone with good friends at a tavern, and saw seven films all in a row at a movie theater. That’s right: seven.

My first stop was the public library in Narrowsburg, which was hosting author Robert Kopecky, who had signed on to read excerpts from his newest book, “How to Get to Heaven (without really dying.)” I did zero homework beforehand, but was intrigued by the title, which one has to assume is a riff on the old Broadway show “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” I could be wrong, since it is a fairly esoteric reference, but as many of you know, I’m rarely (LOL) mistaken.

Kopecky shared personal accounts of three (count ‘em, three) near death experiences (NDE) he has had, causing him to examine his spiritual path, explore his inner demons and re-examine his moral compass, leading him on a journey that continues to this day. “I felt fantastic,” Kopecky says in his book of observing his “dead” body from a bizarre vantage point. “Then it got strange.” I’ll say. That said, the author was compelling in describing the events that led up to writing the book, and his audience, including me, were rapt as he addressed some heady topics like life after death, world religion, meditation, angels, devils and God.

He used the word “humble” on more than one occasion, which of course, caused me to squirm in my seat as folks tittered and pointed. Well, not really, but that’s what I imagined might happen had I been observing the scene from a different “vantage point” in the room, making a mental note to call my therapist. Did the author’s erudite explanation of his otherworldly experience make me want to buy Kopecky’s book? Yes, yes it did.

I was flattered to be invited to legendary blues musician Slam Allen’s birthday party, and sent in my online RSVP checking off “plus one” to include the dog, unaware that the “party” was a public performance to be held at the Forestburgh Tavern. It kicked off the Fall Tavern Series, and everyone in the Upper Delaware River region was “invited” to attend. I ran into several friends, and one very unhappy lady who was extremely vocal about the allergic reaction she was determined to have due to being within close proximity to my hypoallergenic service dog. After I moved my seat no fewer than three times to accommodate her, the impending disaster never actually took place. The dirty looks in my general direction subsided as Slam gave a public shout-out to the Wonder Dog, while folks applauded and snapped photos of her not causing a scene. As always, Slam was amazing, amusing and downright fantastic, backed by his incredible band, before chef extraordinaire Jill Padua presented him with a beautiful birthday cake while the sold-out audience turned the tables and serenaded him.

Without hesitation, I called the Callicoon Theater’s new proprietor Krissy Smith, to inform her that Dharma would surely be with me when I showed up the next day to catch a few of the movies to be screened as part of the newly branded Catskill International Film Festival, formerly known as the Hudson Valley International Film Festival. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting her,” Krissy said sans dirty looks, and I chose a seat for myself and my hypoallergenic dog as the theater went dark and the first of several short films played across the big screen. You never really know what to expect at a film festival, which is (IMHO) part of the fun. “Good, bad, and indifferent,” as my mother used to say, usually followed by “That’s what makes the world go ‘round.” And true to form, there was a little bit of everything.

Outstanding performances from actors Richard Bird (“Thurman Comes Home”) and Emrhys Cooper (“Trophy Boy”) were a highlight, and the somewhat amusing television pilot “Vials” was an interesting departure from the normal festival fare. Although invited (along with the rest of the world) to attend the closing ceremonies, I politely declined, anxious to get home and begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), but promised festival chairman Anthony Gagliardo to return next year.

All in all, a grab-bag of events kept me off the streets last week and I’ll do my best to not annoy anyone over the next few days. No guarantees, of course. That wouldn’t be prudent, all things considered.


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