Reeling It In: The Syracuse International Film Festival

woman on a movie screen in front of audience

The Syracuse International Film Festival first came to Syracuse, NY 15 years ago. It was created in 2003 by Syracuse University professor Owen J. Shapiro, and his wife Christine Fawcett-Shapiro. The festival is co-sponsored by the College of Visual and Performing Arts and was created as a way for film to be brought to the community. Its goal is to engage, entertain, inform and inspire the people of Syracuse through film. The festival started off as an annual event and has now transformed into a year-round platform for screenings.

“It’s goal is to engage, entertain, inform and inspire the people of Syracuse through film.”

This year, the festival occurred from October 10th to October 14th. The event kicked off at the Redhouse Arts Center with a fundraising gala which included special guest, super-model and actress, Grace Jones. Jones, a native of Jamaica, was raised in Syracuse and finished college here before leaving for Paris to begin a career in modeling. The superstar’s new documentary, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, was shown and followed by a live stream Q&A.

However, Grace Jones was not the only exciting guest to be a part of SYIFF this year. On October 12th, the festival hosted an evening with Jeremy Garelick. Garelick graduated from Yale University with a degree in film and theatre. He went on to work with acclaimed directors Joel Schumacher and Todd Phillips. Currently, he is well-known for his work as a producer, even though he has experience as a screenwriter and director as well. One of his most popular movies was the 2015 rom-com hit, “The Wedding Ringer,” which was shown at the SYIFF on October 12th and followed by a Q&A with the producer. Much to the audiences’ surprise, Garelick wrote “The Wedding Ringer” when he was 21 years old but, it took almost 15 years to get made. The night was full of laughter. The audience was delighted with the movie, and even more so with Garelick’s stories about the film industry.

The festival’s original schedule included showings of “Big Time Adolescence” andBanana Split,” two of Garelick’s upcoming movies that featured young and popular actors such as Dylan Sprouse and Liana Liberato. Both movies were filmed in Central New York, with backing from Garelick’s Syracuse-based production studio. Due to legal reasons the films could not be shown. Garelick apologized profusely and made up for the inconvenience by giving the audience a sneak peek of both movies.

October 12th and 13th were exciting nights because of the silent film screenings, a music video competition and one of the festival’s biggest highlights, the 48-hour Film Competition. The competition challenged teams of up to five people to create a short film in 48 hours. Each team received a prop, an action and a location to incorporate into their film. All completed films were shown and judged during the festival. Winners received up to $1,000 in cash prices.

The film festival came to an end on October 14th at the Shaffer Art Building at SU. The screenings featured short films about disability, indigenous people and films by new filmmakers, some of which were works done completely by students. Many of the volunteers at the festival were also SU students.

“Film is a medium that allows creators to share their stories.”

The festival presents an amazing opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to immerse themselves in the world of film and make connections with other filmmakers. Overall, the festival is a great event because attendees get to enjoy every aspect of film, from watching screenings to meeting directors and everything in between. In today’s world, it is important to support international films and festivals such as SYIFF because film is a medium that allows creators to share their stories and audiences to watch and enjoy.

The festival is a non-profit organization, so donations are essential to ensuring the festival continues year to year and providing filmmakers with more opportunities to to become successful in the film industry. If you would like to support the festival, donations can be made online or sent directly to SYIFF’s offices.

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