Heading into its ninth session with no signs of slowing down, the Syracuse International Film Festival offers another hard-to-resist weekend for art-house-lovin’ movie mavens, with directors, parties and special events that bring a global flavor to the Salt City. With Owen Shapiro, the fest’s artistic director and a film professor at Syracuse University, again at the helm, a good time should be had by all.
The 2012 blowout, which runs Thursday, Oct. 11, through Sunday, Oct. 14, features 43 separate movie programs at various venues. Each program runs about two hours, many with a main feature and a short subject or two.
Screening locations are headed by Eastwood’s Palace Theatre, 2384 James St. (463-9240), again functioning as the movie mothership, plus downtown support from Jazz Central, 441 E. Washington St. (479-5299) and the Bristol IMAX Omnitheater within Armory Square’s Museum of Science and Technology (MOST), 500 S. Franklin St. (425-0747). Campus shows take place at Watson Auditorium, 316 Waverly Ave., and Herg Auditorium in the Newhouse 3 complex, 215 University Place, both on the SU Hill, and Le Moyne College’s Grewen Auditorium, 1419 Salt Springs Road (445-4350).
The fest begins on a somber note on Wednesday, Oct. 10, with a daylong tribute to the late SU student Bassel Shahade, who was killed last May in Syria, where he returned after leaving the university’s film program to train citizen journalists in his homeland. This year’s festival is dedicated to Shahade, as well as to peace and social justice. A memorial service will be held at SU’s Hendricks Chapel at 10:30 a.m., followed by a 2 p.m. symposium at Maxwell School’s Public Affairs Room. A screening of several Shahade short films takes place at 7 p.m. at Crouse College’s Setnor Auditorium, plus a concert from Syrian musicians Malek Jandali and Mohamed Alsiadi. Tickets are $25 for adults, $12 for students, with proceeds to be used for a film festival award.
Next come some big kahunas. Acclaimed actress Karen Black will be one of several recipients of a SIFF Sophia award, with screenings on Thursday at the Palace of her recent movie Maria My Love (7 p.m.) as well as a 35mm print of director Robert Altman’s 1982 adaptation of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (9:30 p.m.). Between the movies, Black, who is unable to attend, will preside over a Skype-broadcast question-answer session, and you can bet that someone is bound to ask about her 1975 cult TV-movie Trilogy of Terror. Another Black flick, the 1970 drama Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson and the classic chicken-salad sandwich diner scene, will also be screened in a 35mm print on Friday, Oct. 12, midnight, at the Palace.
Also snagging a Sophia will be Ron Perlman, who is currently tearing up the TV ratings charts with the Fox biker soaper Sons of Anarchy. On Saturday, Oct. 13, the Palace will host two 35mm showings: Perlman’s environmental drama The Last Winter (9:30 p.m.) and his iconic turn as the cigar-chomping comic-book hero Hellboy (midnight). Perlman can’t make the Syracuse scene either, so a Skype-broadcast interrogation will be sandwiched between these movies, and maybe he’ll give up some details about his new thriller 13: Game of Death, which he is currently filming with SIFF judge Tom Bower (and yes, he will be here).
Aside from Bower, other judges include longtime festival buddies such as directors Robert M. Young and Rob Nilsson and newbies like Dennis Christopher, who long ago was the townie bicyclist in 1979’s Breaking Away, and will next be in multiplexes at Christmastime for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Nilsson will also partake in two separate showings of his films Stroke (Friday, 9:45 p.m., Palace) and What Happened Here (Saturday, 7 p.m., Palace), with follow-up discussions.
One of the festival’s major lures is the annual screening of a silent gem, featuring a new score commissioned by the festival and performed live by an ensemble from the Society for New Music. This year offers a work by Italian composer Gian-Luca Baldi, who will underscore the laugh-out-loud comedy of director-star Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 frigid farce The Gold Rush, the one with the Little Tramp and the dancing potatoes. The Palace screens the classic on Friday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m., and the evening also features a 9:15 p.m. reception with Baldi, who was mentored by spaghetti western composer Ennio Morricone; a separate $10 admission will be charged. And throughout the weekend, a selection of silent short subjects will be sprinkled amid various programs, featuring long-ago works by Mack Sennett, D.W. Griffith and pioneering animator Windsor McCay.
Special screenings with a Syracuse connection include director Steve Rash’s likable lacrosse flick Crooked Arrows (Sunday, 1 p.m., Palace), with production input and supporting players from the Onondaga Nation. Le Moyne professor Michael Streissguth weighs in with his documentary Record Paradise (Sunday, 11 a.m., Grewen), about Maryland vinyl collector Joe Lee. And it wouldn’t be a SIFF weekend without a Disney-Pixar feature, as Toy Story 3 takes over the large-format canvas at the MOST on Sunday at 1 p.m.
More key events to remember include the annual Carol North Schmuckler New Filmmakers Showcase (Sunday, 1 p.m., Herg Auditorium), featuring eight short subjects created by students at SU’s Visual Performing Arts program. (The late Schmuckler not only ran the showcase, she also was a community theater veteran on local floorboards.)
Over at Le Moyne, 13 films will be presented as part of the sixth annual “Peace Cinema and Social Justice” showcase as the series expands to two days, on Saturday at noon, 2 and 5 p.m., and Sunday at 12:30, 2:30 and 5 p.m., at Grewen Auditorium. Also getting a festival expansion is the “Imaging Disability in Film” series, now spread over two days: three separate Watson screenings on Saturday at 1, 3 and 5:15 p.m., plus a 3 p.m. Sunday showing of the Down’s syndrome drama Girlfriend at Jazz Central, and a 3:30 p.m. Sunday screening at the Palace of the Asperger’s syndrome-themed Mary and Max, a clay-animated cartoon with voices by Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The festival wraps on a high note with the outstanding Canadian documentary I Am Not a Rock Star (Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Palace), which chronicles eight years in the life of Marika Bournaki, from a 12-year-old classical piano prodigy to her ivory-tickling success as a 20-year-old international phenom. Director Bobbi Jo Hart notes the sacrifices made by Marika, who basically surrendered her childhood for her career (the opening shot of the child flying a kite on a beach seems to parallel what the young boy lost in Citizen Kane), as well as her artistically thwarted parents (dad wanted to be a concert musician, mom a ballerina), who divorce along the way. Hart will answer questions afterward, and Bournaki will also be on the Palace stage for a mini-recital.
Single-admission tickets are $8, with AARP members sliding in for $6. A full festival pass, good for all film programs as well as the special events and parties, costs $125, while a pass that covers only the movies is $80. A $10 ticket is needed for attendance at each party, as well as the Karen Black and Ron Perlman events. Ducats for Friday’s Charlie Chaplin movie and the Sunday closing event for I Am Not a Rock Star, both at the Palace, are $15 for adults, and $10 for students and AARP members.
Tickets are being sold at the festival headquarters, 124 E. Jefferson
St., and at the screening venues. For more information, call 443-8826
or visit filminsyracuse.com.