Wow. A movie star who played a gangster alongside Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal in “Analyze This” was making a movie right in the tiny Delaware River hamlet of Narrowsburg (pop 431). And it would feature locals.

That’s not all mobster-turned-actor Richie Castellano was doing some 20 years ago in Sullivan County. Narrowsburg featured a feed and grain company, barber shop, antique shops, art galleries and an opera company. Add to this, the Richard Castellano School of Acting, which the busy entrepreneur was opening. Plus, he and his wife, Jocelyn, who had moved just outside Narrowsburg, were staging a film festival to make the area the “Sundance of the East.”

Who could resist Castellano’s entreaties to get involved in projects like those, and maybe even invest some money in the movie about – what else - a mobster who moves upstate? Especially when he and the projects looked so legit that a phone would ring in the office of the Castellanos' Main Street film company and Jocelyn would say, “It’s Bobby (as in DeNiro)”?

So began the sordid saga of the late Richie Castellano, who ended up in Sullivan County jail after scores of folks like an egg farmer, a retired teacher, a former cop, a doctor and a veterinarian said he scammed them out of more than $300,000.

But Castellano was doing something else.

“He really made you believe you could be something,” recalled former Narrowsburg resident Zac Stuart-Pontier, who as a teen was convinced that acting in Castellano’s movie and working on his projects were the tickets to show business success.

Deja vu

Now, in an eerie example of real life art imitating a real life attempt at art, a film about the Castellanos' Narrowsburg film-flamming opens the 8th annual Big Eddy Film Festival Friday night in Narrowsburg at the Narrowsburg Union.

The documentary, called “Narrowsburg” and directed by Queens filmmaker Martha Shane, features footage from 1999-2000 when Castellano went from signing autographed glossies of himself to writing threatening notes to someone who might tell the cops about the money he owed them. It features recent interviews like the above one with folks like Pontier, now an award-winning filmmaker, film editor and podcast producer, as well as Narrowsburg car wash owners Tom and Cecelia Coacci, who met Castellano when he wanted to buy a gun in their bait and tackle shop, and various Sullivan folks who were ripped off by Castellano, who was also interviewed years after leaving Sullivan.

In another example of real life imitating a real life attempt at art, “Narrowsburg” will have an encore showing Sunday morning in the Tusten Theatre, where the film Castellano was supposed to make – “Four Deadly Reasons” – was screened to stunned silence during the festival the Castellanos produced. Not only was it unfinished and only 15 minutes long, it didn't feature any locals. The final version, completed without Castellano, will also be shown in the Tusten Theatre after the Friday night showing of “Narrowsburg.”

“Someone said, this is like looking into a mirror, and having a mirror behind you, so you see the reflections of reflections,” says Tina Spangler. She director of the Big Eddy festival, which is produced by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance and runs through Sunday. It offers nine features, several shorts and a panel discussion that includes Sullivan County residents Timothy Busfield and his wife Melissa Gilbert. Their film starring Jeff Daniels, “Guest Artist,” will be shown Saturday night. Other films include documentaries about a gay men’s chorus touring the Deep South and a veterinarian who treats dying dogs.

Big Eddy takes shape

Spangler, who helped launch the Big Eddy Film Festival in 2012, says it was “no easy task” starting another film festival after the Castellanos staged their tainted one. She says she hopes showing “Narrowsburg” is a “palate cleanser for us all.” That way, “we can acknowledge” the Castellanos and “move forward to embrace the exciting film festival and filmmakers we have in the area now.”

“Narrowsburg,” she says, is one of three festival films whose theme reflects the Castellano saga.

“They explore the fuzzy area between reality and illusion,” she says, citing “Guest Artist” and the documentary “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project,” about a woman who recorded TV news casts 24 hours per day, every day for 30 years.

The blurring of reality and illusion is one reason that “Narrowsburg” is more than a tale of a con artist ripping off innocent folks – many to whom Castellano illegally promised Screen Actors Guild memberships in exchange for money. Through those interviews, it explains how nearly 100 people and businesses could give money to someone who, before he resorted to threats like “you go to the police, you’re going to the morgue,” charmed them by doing stuff like walking into the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, tossing a $20 bill on a desk and saying, “Here ladies, buy lunch on me.”

“Where is the line between deceiving people and giving them something to believe in,” asks director Shane, who discovered Castellano in 2007 when Jocelyn - then called Marie - defrauded more people of more money at a festival she started, the Queens Film Festival.

Looking back and ahead

Nearly two decades after the Castellanos took Narrowsburg by storm, the film “Narrowsburg” shows that folks are still debating what really happened with the couple.

Was Jocelyn, who was jailed for grand larceny on charges related to the Queens festival and deported to France, really “the brains of the operation,” while Castellano “was just along for the ride,” as Tom Coacci says people old him. Coacci says he's not sure.

Was Castellano – who showed Shane his gun and fed her homemade Italian soup when they met in 2014 - a conniving con man or a huckster with a heart of gold?

After he got out of jail, Castellano, who was 60 when he died in 2015, called Pontier about starting another acting school.

“He was certainly a trickster and a con artist,” says Pontier, who won two Emmy Awards for editing HBO’s “The Jinx; The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

“But that’s different than the excitement he got from telling people he was going to put them in a movie. (Richie and Jocelyn) awakened this love for making movies. That’s something Richie taught me.”

Film fests on the horizon

New Paltz Film Festival

Sept. 28, 7:30-10:30 p.m. Free

Studley Theatre, SUNY New Paltz, Hawk Drive

Celebrating the cinematic creativity of area filmmakers, with nort narrative films, documentaries, music videos and more.

Manhattan Short Film Festival

Sept. 28, 7 p.m.

OBTC Great Room 101, Kaplan Hall, SUNY Orange, Newburgh

General admission $5; students 15 and older free. Tickets only at box office, from 5:45 p.m. Sept. 28.

Ten short films from around the world, selected as finalists from 1,250 entries from 70 countries. Audience votes for best film and best actor at the end of the screening.

Free parking in Kaplan Hall parking garage, enter at 73 First St., 341-4891, sunyorange.edu/culturalaffairs

Woodstock Film Festival

Oct. 2-6

Narratives, documentaries, shorts, panel discussions.

Founded in 2000 as a grassroots arts organization driven by the love of film and community, the Woodstock Film Festival has grown into one of the premiere independent film festivals in the U.S., bringing together thousands of filmmakers and film lovers over the years. This year, the festival celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Box office: 13 Rock City Road, Woodstock, 810-0131, woodstockfilmfestival.org

 Nearly two decades after the Castellanos took Narrowsburg by storm, the film “Narrowsburg” shows that folks are still debating what really happened with the couple.