North Pole, NY, a documentary film directed by Ali Cotterill, chronicles the story of a historic Christmas theme park and the dreamers who fight to keep it open against all odds. North Pole, NY will premiere at DOC NYC on Friday, November 9th and Monday, Nov. 12th.
North Pole, NY is a revealing look at the battle for survival of one of the first theme parks in the U.S., Santa’s Workshop, located in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. The film examines the park’s legacy, the dedicated staff and loyal residents, and its current struggles to survive, despite technological shifts and economic realities, while placing it in the larger context of the history and decline of the American roadside attraction.
The film follows the development of Santa’s Workshop, founded in 1949 by visionary entrepreneur Julian Reiss, who was inspired by the beauty of the Adirondacks to build “Santa’s summer home.” In the 1950’s, following national media attention, Santa’s Workshop becomes a cultural fixture with families and tourists who flock from all over the U.S. to the Adirondack Mountains. From the immersive, village-like setting and interactive holiday attractions, complete with song and dance, Santa’s Workshop created an enchanted land of make-believe for both adults and children alike.
As area development and cultural shifts alter the landscape of the Adirondacks, Santa’s Workshop struggles to remain relevant. When a would-be businessman proposes what looks like a life-saving deal to save Santa’s Workshop, the heritage and the spirit of the historic theme park is jeopardized. Santa’s Workshop becomes a casualty of a power struggle between an opportunistic businessman and the owner. With help from local residents and town council, the community rallies around Santa’s Workshop to restore the park to its greatness.
Through it all, Santa’s Workshop remains a place where past and current staff, and generations of families remember simpler times, irony-free kitsch, and the celebration of imagination. Santa’s Workshop links us to an important time and place in history– a time of innocence. For over 65 years, Santa’s Workshop, which has its own zip code as North Pole, NY, has served as the economic driver of the small community of Wilmington, New York. North Pole, NY is a portrait of small town America. It shows both the beauty and struggle of the Adirondacks.
Director Ali Cotterill says, “My vision in creating North Pole, NY documentary was to investigate the rise and decline of theme parks and roadside attractions, which were central to my childhood development and creativity. I discovered that Santa’s Workshop was part of larger story about economic dislocation in small town America, and the ceding of childhood imagination to corporatized and digitized fun. Theme parks, and Santa Claus himself, are fueled by the magic of believing, North Pole, NY asks the question, “What will we lose as a culture if we let places like Santa’s Workshop disappear? “
North Pole, NY had its World Premiere at IFF Boston 2018, where it opened to critical acclaim. It was the Official Selection at SF DocFest 2018 and NH DOCS 2018. North Pole, NY recently won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at Indie Street Film Festival 2018.
North Pole, NY will premiere at DOC NYC during the following dates/times:
Fri. November 9, 2018 at 5:15pm at IFC Center
Mon. November 12, 2018 at 12:15pm at Cinepolis Chelsea