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Welcome to "Narrowsburg," a tiny town conned out of its Hollywood dreams

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19.09.2019

Narrowsburg is a quaint little hamlet (pop. less than 500) in New York's Sullivan County, nestled along the Pennsylvania border and the Delaware Rive, about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Brooklyn. On Main Street, there's a bank and a post office; a Chinese restaurant, a car wash and a laundromat nearby. The residents describe it as "a nice place to live, but a hard place to make a living."

Martha Shane’s rollicking cautionary tale “Narrowsburg” recounts what happened to the sleepy little community back in 1998-1999, when actor Richard “Richie” C. Castellano (who had a role in “Analyze This”) and his wife Jocelyne swooped in with a plan to create a film festival and make a feature film locally (“Four Deadly Reasons”), and in the process turn Narrowsburg into the “Sundance of the East.” Long story short, money changed hands and disappeared.

According to a 2001 newspaper report, Richard Castellano pleaded guilty to four charges of attempted grand larceny in the fourth degree and was sentenced to a year in jail for "scamming local people out of several thousand dollars after taking the money to get them cards in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Castellano never delivered the SAG cards. And Sullivan County DA Steve Lungen started getting calls from people who wanted their money back."

Shane stumbled upon the story when she and a friend were pursuing the status of an unpaid equipment rental to someone at the Queens International Film Festival. The investigation led her down a rabbit hole where all the themes she wanted to explore crystalized in Narrowsburg.

“Narrowsburg” is highly enjoyable. Various locals, including Tom and Cecilia Coacci, who own the local car wash and laundromat, and former resident Zac Stuart-Pontier, who harbored acting dreams as Narrowsburg teen, describe their impressions and experiences with Richie and Jocelyne.

Shane chatted with Salon during the recent Camden, ME film festival, where “Narrowsburg” had its world premiere. On September 20, the film will screen at the Big Eddy Film Festival (the renamed Narrowsburg Film Fest) alongside the 2002 feature “Four Deadly Reasons” — starring Castellano, produced by Jocelyne and filmed in the hamlet in 1999.

You tell this story of con artistry in a prismatic fashion, layering the reality with the dreams of Richie and the townsfolk. You create not a sense of ambiguity but raise questions about what folks believed and why. Can you talk about your........

© Salon