Big turnout at the Little Cinema for 'The Secret Village'

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PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire Museum recently rolled out the red carpet for the world premiere of a movie shot locally and including more than 20 residents among the cast.

"The Secret Village" played in the Little Cinema last week to a packed house of more than 100 people, who saw parts of the county through the lens of first-time film director Swamy Kandan.

The psychological thriller focuses on a fungus poisoning, which has apparently caused deaths and mass hysteria in a small village.

"I was really impressed by how it came out," said cast member John Bard. "I looked really scary -- I scared myself."

The film's stars, Ali Faulkner, Jonathan Bennett and Richard Riehle, were featured in such blockbusters as the "Twilight" series, "Mean Girls" and "Office Space," respectively.

Various people among the audience found the film "bizarre," "surreal" and full of enough "horrifying things" to keep one up late at night.

Many people were just as thrilled to see the Berkshires on the big screen.

"We want to encourage these sorts of projects in our county," said Sylvia Allan, who brought two friends to the showing. "I enjoyed watching."

Three more showings of the film saw people attending the museum throughout last weekend and early last week.

The film created a spike in the local economy during shooting in May 2012. The website imdb.com estimates the budget at nearly $2 million.

Shooting locations included such familiar county haunts as Stockbridge Cemetery, Olivia Point, Hancock Shaker Village, Naumkeag, October Mountain State Forest and the Sullivan Station Restaurant.

"If you ever looked into the real history of Stockbridge, there's some real strange stuff that's gone on there," said cast member Carol Scott, a former Great Barrington resident. "(Kandan) picked an authentic place that actually had the air he was going for in the film."

Scott pointed to everything from ghost stories to Native American legends that are part of the town's lore.

Kandan, upon his first visits to the filming locations, recognized this immediately, he said.

"The first thing that came to mind was: ‘Oh god, this is the place I want to shoot,' " Kandan said.

A native of India, Kandan completed 28 months of film school at New York University and The Secret Village is his first feature.

Kandan, who lives in Philadelphia, learned about the Berkshires by the Boston Film Bureau, which recommended it as a potential place to shoot. The organization that promotes filmmaking in the Berkshires, Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative of Western Massachusetts, jumped at the opportunity.

"I wanted to keep the premiere local because this became such a local project," Kandan said. "The (local cast) were very cooperative and understood quickly what I was trying to do. That bond is hard to develop, and we did fantastically."

Other U.S. screenings happening this month will take the film to cities in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and California.

The film is being independently released. According to Kandan, the DVD release date is Dec. 17.

It will be available at Wal-Mart, FYE, Best Buy, other chain stores and may be accessed online via iTunes.

"The Secret Village" joins films such as "Cider House Rules" starring Tobey Mcquire, "The Human Stain" starring Anthony Hopkins, "Before and After" starring Meryl Streep and "Pretty Poison" starring Anthony Perkins -- all of which were filmed in the Berkshires.


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