By MIKE CHAIKEN
When the Tribeca Film Festival opens in New York City this month, there will be some big names from television and movie showing their work.
Danny DeVito, Michael Rapaport, and Matthew Modine are all showing their films.
There also are a slew of documentaries, including one on Andy Warhol and another about the changes in New York’s Little Italy over time and yet another about Auschwitz.
But, the international film festival, which was launched by Robert DeNiro in 1988, also has a little local Connecticut flavor in the form of a documentary called, “The Carousel.”
“In the small town of Binghamton, New York, there spins a 1925 carousel that once inspired Rod Serling and has since become a portal into the Twilight Zone,” says the description of the 12 minute film on the festival’s website, TribecaFilm.com.
The director of “The Carousel” is Burlington, Conn.’s Jonathan Napolitano, whose work has been on “The Today Show” and “National Geographic Magazine” and who works locally for NBC News.
And the cast list for “The Carousel” includes Cortlandt Hull of Bristol and William Finkenstein of Plainville (and formerly of Bristol).
To be selected for the Tribeca festival—and to secure four screenings as well is “really huge,” said Hull.
“Just the fact Jonathan was able to get it in there and approved and they told him they want it for a world premiere,” said Hull. The festival wanted an exclusive showing. “That’s really nice. I’m so happy for him.”
“It’s a really poignant documentary,” said Hull.
Hull, who is best known for the city’s Witchs Dungeon display each Halloween at the Bristol Historical Society at 98 Summer St. and the Hollywood at the Bijou film series at society, explained how a Bristol resident found himself in a documentary about a carousel in Binghamton.
“In 2011, I had done all the scenic paintings for the Rod Serling carousel in Binghamton N.Y. at Recreation Park,” Hull said.
“Napolitano decided he wanted to do a documentary about the carousel and the connection with Rod Serling,” said Hull.
“What’s unique about this carousel is it was an inspiration for Rod Serling to write one of his best episodes called, ‘Walking Distance,’” said Hull.
The Rod Serling Foundation (RodSerling.com) quotes from the episode, “‘There’s nothing quite as good as summer and being a kid,’ Martin Sloan smiled in the hot July sun of Homewood, USA. He hadn’t been back in twenty-five years. The calliope, the merry-go-round, the cotton candy the park. Bittersweet sounds, scents, images. Nothing quite as good, ever. And nothing had changed. This wasn’t just a Sunday drive for Martin Sloan. Perhaps he didn’t know it at the time, but it was an exodus. Somewhere up the road, he was looking for sanity. And somewhere up the road, he found something else.”
Hull said Serling had ridden the carousel in Binghamton as a boy. “So it was special to him.”
“Even when he made the episode out at MGM Studios in Hollywood, he made sure they rented an exact replica of that carousel,” said Hull.
As part of Napolitano’s documentary work—besides interviewing Serling’s daughter Anne, Hull said they interviewed Finkenstein—whose firm WRF Design of Plainville—handled the restoration of the Binghamton carousel. And they interviewed Hull, who as part of Finkenstein’s team, painted the top of the carousel.
“My inspiration was, one, Rod Serling was born in Binghamton, rode the carousel as a young boy and he wrote the episode, ‘Walking Distance,” said Hull. “It was just natural that I thought we do all the scenic paintings related to various episodes of the ‘Twilight Zone.’… And Bill Finkenstein thought it was a great idea. So did the powers-that-be in Binghamton.”
Hull himself has a long relationship with carousels. Besides the one in Binghamton, he also participated in the restoration of several others in that region. Also, one of his paintings is part of the collection at the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol.
“That is absolutely the biggest painting I’ve ever done it’s 20 feet wide, 16 feet high. And it’s an entire amusement park. I have a carousel, fun house, a roller coaster, and a Ferris wheel— so it’s quite detailed,” said Hull.
Hull said Napolitano’s goal is to shop the documentary to other film festivals and, in time, turn it into a full documentary.
Once all of that is accomplished, Hull said, “We would like to show it here (at the Bristol Historical Society as part of the Hollywood at the Bijou series).”
And, said Hull, “Eventually, (Napolitano) does want to show it here. And he wants to show it up at Binghamton as well.”
“The Carousel,” which was part of the “Shorts in Competition: Documentary” section, will be screened at Tribeca on April 14, 19, 21, 23.
For more information, and for tickets, go to TribecaFilm.com
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.