March 3, 2024

Rivertown Film’s 20th Anniversary



20 years ago today-September 15th, 2001, to be exact – the Rivertown Film Society was born. The timing was auspicious because there had been a tragic and unprecedented attack on the United States – and on New York City in particular — only three days earlier. The country, New York, and the world were sent reeling on September 11th. The nation’s horrific wounds , physical and psychological, were still very raw when a determined and visionary group of film lovers based in Nyack decided to move ahead with their plans to hold the opening night of their newly formed organization, the Rivertown Film Society at BOCES in Nyack. Though a launch party might have seemed counter-intuitive at the time, it turned out to be exactly what the Rockland community needed to begin healing. Art brings people together, and reminds them that, despite all the cruelness and ugliness in the world, there’s still beauty — and community — to be had.

As Rivertown Film’s Board began contemplating how to commemorate our upcoming 20th anniversary, we were very much aware of how eerily similar the circumstances surrounding this landmark occasion were to our opening night. Now, as then, we are living in unprecedented times due to Covid 19. Once more, the world as we knew it has been upended, changed forever. Unlike 9-11, however, we’ve been instructed to “socially distance,” not come together. Rivertown Film’s goal has always been to create community, to bring people together through their love of cinema. Social distancing was never a part of our statement.

And so, given the “new normal” that this pandemic and all its variations has presented us with, we faced a conundrum. How to celebrate the optimistic, joyous roots that gave birth to Rivertown and yet observe and respect the current guidelines? We decided to send out a survey to you, our members, which proved invaluable. Based on the results, it became clear that an in-person event wasn’t an option. We spent a lot of time discussing and considering alternatives, including a virtual screening of the same film we’d shown that first night in 2001, “The Cameraman”, which wasn’t allowed. Nor was holding the event outdoors feasible. It seemed sadly ironic to us that coming together in 2021 wasn’t remotely like it was 20 years ago.

It’s because your years of support and passion for Rivertown deserve a real celebration that we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone our anniversary celebration until it’s safer, and people feel more comfortable attending in-person events. Until then, we’re planning some great virtual evenings, such as Rockland in Motion 2021, which continues our twenty year tradition of showcasing the work of local filmmakers. We look forward to “seeing” you there.

When the time’s right, we’ll have the birthday party we all deserve, together. Until then, stay safe and healthy.

Thank you!

On the following pages you’ll get an idea of how many people it took to launch Rivertown Film – before a single film was shown. It’s no different today. To enjoy independent, documentary, and foreign films, films made next door or around the world, films that introduce us to the new, reintroduce us to the old, and uncover truths about our own selves, please make a donation in recognition of our 20th anniversary.


Event host Bill Irwin giving the audience a lesson on the art of the silent clowns.