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Connecticut Film Festival Debuts Next Week
By Carol King

EXCERPT from article orginally printed September 29, 2006
The first-ever Connecticut Film Festival will take place Tuesday through Sunday, Oct. 3-8 at locations in Bantam, Bethel, New Haven, New Milford, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury and Westport. More than 70 films will be screened and more than a dozen festival gatherings will be offered.

The festival was established to create a lasting cultural tradition for the state by celebrating the art of filmmaking by bringing independent and international film to the area, according to its organizers.

 "I'm thrilled that we are creating a brand new arts experience for Connecticut, one that residents and visitors alike can look forward to each fall," said Tom Carruthers, the founder and executive director of the Connecticut Film Festival. "It's like eight festivals for the price of one. This event will bring us to new heights in arts and culture, and will attract tourism and drive economic development. From the screenings to the parties to the panels, it's tailored for cinema aficionados."

The festival will open Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m., at the Garden Cinemas in Norwalk. A screening reception with the film's director and actors will follow at The Black Bear Saloon on Washington Street in Norwalk.

The festival will include films made by, and featuring, local talent. The Carriage Barn Arts Center, in New Canaan, announced that the Connecticut Film Festival will be hosting the world premiere of the new documentary film, Art in the Face of War.

Described by festival organizers as "beautifully and movingly told," the documentary features eight local area artists who are veterans of World War II.

The first screening of the film will be Friday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m., at Saugatuck Elementary School in Westport. A second screening will take place in Bethel Saturday, Oct. 7, at 3 p.m., at the Bethel Cinema. The film runs 76 minutes. Tickets for both venues can be purchased at the door or online at www.ctfilmfest.org.

Art in the Face of War was developed in connection with the Carriage Barn Arts Center's October 2004 exhibition "WWII Artists -- Front Lines to the Home Front," which featured images of World War II by 14 area artists involved in the war, including the eight veterans in the documentary.

Cecelia M. Barnett, who is the film's executive producer, curated the exhibition. The film was directed by David E. Baugnon, and shot and edited by Ed Holt, independent filmmakers from New York. The film has also been accepted into the New Hampshire Film Festival and the American Artist Film Festival in Kansas City, Mo. An additional screening at the Carriage Barn Arts Center is being planned for Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

In the documentary, the artist-veterans recount their service experience, but Baugnon explains that "the film's focus is on their use of art in journalism, as a tactical tool, and to preserve their own sanity." Baugnon was originally drawn to the project by his desire to comprehend the truth of war and to explore its effect on the artistic spirit.

As in the original exhibition, the documentary examines the war through the lens of the artists' imagery rather than historical analysis. Their images of the war - some done "on-the-spot" and others done recently from haunting memories - are highlighted in the film.

The featured artists are Victor Dowd (Westport), Syd Greenberg (New Canaan), Doug Leigh (Huntington), Howard Munce (Westport), Clark Robinson (Wilton), Arthur Shilstone (Redding), Tracy Sugarman (Westport) and Ed Vebell (Westport). All are combat veterans. After the war, each went on to a successful career in the arts. All are active artists today.

A DVD of Art in the Face of War is available for purchase. In addition to the feature documentary, the DVD's additional material includes a remarkable "stories" segment that could not be included in the main film because of time constraints.

In the "Today's War" segment the veterans express their opinions about the current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. Speeches by Munce and Sugarman at the exhibition's closing event are also included, as is a "slide show" of all the images from the 2004 exhibition. The disc can be purchased at the Carriage Barn or by calling the gallery at (203) 972-1895.