DOC NYC 2019: Narrowsburg


Narrowsburg tells one of those stranger-than-fiction stories that could honestly make the translation from documentary to narrative feature.

Think about it.  This is film is telling the story of a long con.  If you’re one of the people who lived it, it’s an experience that you probably don’t want to live through again.  Narrowsburg was going to be the “Sundance of the East.”  Or so the small town’s citizens were being told from festival organizers.  Not only would the town see a film festival get launched but also production on a gangster movie had people up in heels.  Who wouldn’t want to be involved in a film?!?  Small towns dimply don’t get this kind of opportunity.  And yet, the story of Narrowsburg evolves into something beyond belief.

French film producer Jocelyne Castellano started working with the Hollywood Film Festival sometime after moving in 1989.  With her husband, Richard, the two would eventually move to this small town in upstate New York in 1998.  He had been in a few films, including Whacking Cows and Analyze This.  Naturally, he made the decision to turn to acting.

What does the pair do upon their arrival?  They make plans to start an acting school.  An acting school may be one thing but it’s not anywhere close to the ambition that would soon follow.  The pair would also start up a film festival in Narrowsburg!  This is where it gets even more ambitious.  Production would soon start on Four Deadly Reasons, a gangster film that would put this small city “on the map.”

The city just wasn’t ready for the Narrowsburg International Independent Film Festival.  When they brought in actor Pat Cooper to roast the Castellanos, one could only see the writing on the walls.  Four Deadly Reasons wasn’t even close to being finished.  When a premiere was held at the Tusten Theater, none of the citizens were shown in any of the footage let alone any Narrowsburg footage at all.  Jocelyne and Richard would start to see their downfall because of the failure.  It would prove to be devastating for them–Richard went to jail while Jocelyne would make a run for it.  The whole idea is simply too good to be true.

The sad thing?  This isn’t even the end of their story.  Jocelyne bails for Queens, where she later starts up the Queens International Film Festival.  Surely, there’s nothing that can’t go–wait, nevermind.  More people would lose money because of their getting ripped off.  You start to ask who is really running things.  Maybe Richard was put out to be the fall guy?  There’s so much to ask but we might never get answers.

An addendum to this whole ordeal is that Four Deadly Reasons would finally get a premiere.  This time, during the Tribeca Film Festival.  Oh, it wasn’t coming without a twist!

If there’s a lesson to be taken away from Narrowsburg, it’s that one shouldn’t make these kind of promises in a small town.

DIRECTOR:  Martha Shane

Narrowsburg held its New York premiere during DOC NYC 2019. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.