Crowd pleasers: Syracuse International Film Festival co-founders Owen Shapiro and Christine Fawcett-Shapiro share some laughs at the fest’s 2007 closing ceremonies. (Michael Davis photo)
Now marking its fifth edition, the Syracuse International Film Festival continues to cast a worldwide web in search of global goodies. Under the auspices of festival artistic director Owen Shapiro and managing director Christine Fawcett-Shapiro, this year’s fest mushrooms to a 10-day, two-weekend event jam-packed with guest speakers, music-oriented specials and movies, movies and more movies. The fun begins on Friday, April 25, and runs through Sunday, May 4, with Central New York-themed showcases during the first weekend (there will be Baldwin sightings!), salutes to Israeli and Russian cinema and a second-weekend blowout with more flicks than you can shake a projectionist at.
The 2008 festival had to tweak its roster of 35mm screening rooms. Last fall’s shuttering of the Westcott Cinema didn’t help matters; in fact, don’t expect this once-essential art-house venue to run movies any time soon. Yet Gifford Auditorium, located at HBC Hall adjacent to the Syracuse University Quad, will again be threading up its projectors. The shows will also go on at downtown’s Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St.; Eastwood’s Palace Theater, 2384 James St.; Everson Museum of Art, 401 Harrison St.; Armory Square’s Bristol IMAX Omnitheater, located within the Museum of Science and Technology (MOST), 500 S. Franklin St.; Delavan Art Center, 501 W. Fayette St.; Syracuse Center for the Performing Arts, 728-730 E. Genesee St.; and the Redhouse, 201 S. West St.
Meanwhile, the Hotel Syracuse, 500 S. Warren St., is getting back to its roots. In 2006 and 2007 the hotel’s Persian Terrace was retrofitted with a screen, chairs and a projection booth housing two separate 35mm projectors for the reel-to-reel presentations. This year, the Hotel Syracuse is moving on up, all the way to the Grand Ballroom, where it was discovered that behind one of the room’s mirrored walls was a long-ago projection booth with two portals for the equipment. Work is currently being done to install the 35mm projectors in time for the May 2 shows.
Ninety separate programs will be spread out across these venues. Each program runs about two hours, many with a main feature and a short subject. Some of the festival’s more popular movies and shorts will run twice, but most will only be shown once, so plan accordingly. Alas, the spooky thriller Lonely Joe, filmed last year in Solvay and the offices of the Syracuse New Times, will not be ready for its festival close-up.
The festival’s outdoor drive-in theater also returns for another year. A 24-by-32-foot canvas will hang from the side of Armory Square’s Atrium garage, with patrons encouraged to park for free in the lot at the corner of South Franklin and West Fayette streets. Clear Channel will air a limited broadcasting signal for car radios, while a sound system cranks out more audio for sidewalk passers-by. A one-hour program of family-oriented shorts will run continuously on Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, 8:30 p.m. to midnight, with different films each night. Nearby Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant will deliver refreshments to your wheels.
The 2008 festival will continue its annual exploration of modern music and old movies. On Saturday, April 26, 7 p.m., at the Everson, a screening of Yasujiro Ozu’s 1933 drama Woman of Tokyo will be accompanied by members of the Society for New Music performing a new composition by Wayne Horvitz (you were expecting maybe Deep Purple?), who will serve as pianist and conductor. The society will also perform Argentinian composer Martin Matalon’s scores for two surrealistic entries from Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou (1929) and the classic documentary Las Hurdes (Land Without Bread) (1933). Un Chien Andalou, a collaboration with Salvador Dali that was known stateside as An Andalusian Dog, is still remembered for its eye-popping (wink, wink) shock value and even received bijou bookings in the early 1970s as a bizarre “head” movie.
And D.W. Griffith’s 1928 Battle of the Sexes will unspool on Saturday, May 3, 7 p.m., at the Palace, with a new score performed by the Cuong Vu Trio, including bassist Stomu Takeishi, drummer Ted Poor and composer-trumpeter Vu.
Special programs include a spotlight on video art by auteurs with Salt City connections on Saturday, April 26, 9:30 p.m., at the Everson (474-6064). Films addressing war and peace will unspool on Sunday, April 27, at noon, 3 and 6 p.m., at Le Moyne College’s Grewen Auditorium, 1419 Salt Springs Road (445-4100). And make time for the annual Carol North Schmuckler VPA New Filmmakers Showcase on Friday, April 25, 9:30 p.m., at Gifford Auditorium, featuring cinema created by students of SU’s Visual Performing Arts program (see rundown of films at Lights! Camera! Auteurs!).
The festival’s free forums include “American Indian Filmmakers’ Perspectives,” on Thursday, May 1, 10 a.m. to noon, at Syracuse Stage, 820 E. Genesee St. (443-4008), a Four Directions Media-sponsored confab with James Lujan, Chris Eyre, Georgina Lightning and American Indians in Film and Television founder Sonny Skyhawk. And another round of “New Technologies in Animation” takes place Friday, May 2, 10 a.m. to noon, with Pixar ’toon experts Dylan Brown and Cynthia Slavens at the Bristol IMAX Omnitheater (425-9068).
The 2008 Syracuse International Film Festival officially kicks off on Friday, April 25, 7 p.m., at the Palace, with a screening of the family movie Flyboys and a question-answer free-for-all afterward with The Celebrity Apprentice star Stephen Baldwin. Feel free to ask him what Donald Trump’s hair is really like.
Single-admission tickets are $8, with seniors and students discounted to $6. Ducats for the opening night ceremony at the Palace on Friday, April 25, 7 p.m., are $10, with students and seniors paying $8; the closing night awards ceremony and reception at the Palace on Sunday, May 4, 7 p.m., costs $15, $12 for students and seniors. The Battle of the Sexes program is $15, $12 for students and seniors.
A full festival pass, good for all film programs as well as Battle of the Sexes and the opening, world cinema and closing ceremonies costs $125, while students and seniors can snag them for $110. A film buff pass, which includes access to movie programs only, is $75, with seniors and students charged $70. A four-pack set of tickets for any four flicks costs $28.
Tickets are being sold at Emerald City Video, 3208 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt; Sound Garden, 124 Walton St., Armory Square; and festival headquarters at downtown’s Hotel Syracuse, 500 S. Warren St. For more information, call 443-8826 or visit www.syrfilm.com. Here’s a rundown of this week’s highlights, with accents on films created by auteurs with a Salt City connection; more reviews of the second weekend’s cinema slate will appear in the April 30 Syracuse New Times.
One Day Like Rain
Ivory Bastards Against Extinction
Rita Working Title