Syracuse International Film Festival blends stories from home and abroad

The 11th annual festival kicks off this Sunday, Oct. 5, and runs for a week, incorporating domestic and foreign films from past and present.

Movie lovers of Central New York, rejoice!

This Sunday, Oct. 5, marks the start of the 11th annual Syracuse International Film Festival. The fest runs from October 5-12, showcasing movies from India, Israel and Spain. It also features local talent.

Founded in 2003 by Syracuse University professor Owen Shapiro and wife Christine Fawcett-Shapiro, SIFF has expanded over the last decade to include year-round screenings and media-centered programs.

International filmmakers, actors and directors flock to Syracuse this week to screen films (both old and new) and discuss their work. Special guests this year include Nick Cassavetes (USA), Madhur Bhandarkar (India), Dani Menkin (Israel) and Sam Lloyd (USA). A new locally produced film, Is That You?, will also premiere.

Cassavetes, a filmmaker and SU alum who will be honored at the festival, has a penchant for sweeping love stories. Son of actress Gena Rowlands and acclaimed director John Cassavetes, the younger Cassavetes has made films like My Sister’s Keeper, Alpha Dog, The Other Woman, and of course, rom-com classic The Notebook, starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

Two of Cassavetes’s older films will screen: Unhook the Stars (1996) and She’s So Lovely (1997), in addition to a newer film, Yellow (2012), starring Lucy Punch, Sienna Miller, Ray Liotta and Melanie Griffith. In a bit of a departure for Cassavetes, Yellow is a surreal dramedy about a substitute teacher with a drug habit. Cassavetes will give a talk on Tuesday at the auditorium at SU’s Life Sciences Complex.

Bhandarkar, an award-winning Indian filmmaker, is also being honored with screenings of two films: Heroine (2012), about the troubled life of a movie star, and Fashion (2008), the tale of a small-town girl in the merciless high fashion world.

Is That You? makes its United States debut at the festival. Directed by Dani Menkin, former visiting artist at SU, Is That You? features over 40 students and faculty from both the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications who took part in the production in 2012 as crew, production staff and actors. It’s the story of a middle-aged Israeli film projectionist who travels across the U.S. looking for his long-lost love.

Actress Sally Kirkland will be honored (winner of the best actress Golden Globe for Anna, The Sting, The Way We Were and Bruce Almighty).

Lloyd, an SU alum most known for his role as Ted on Scrubs, is also returning home to give a talk.

A “New Filmmakers” showcase will present some SU student work, with recent films from the Department of Transmedia BFA and MFA film program and additional films from the Newhouse television, radio and film program.

For classic film buffs, there are a few older flicks: Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last (1923), a silent film, will play with a newly composed original score by Rob Deemer, as will Mabel’s Strange Predicament, (1914), with original score by Nathalie Khoriaty.
Events are held across five locations: the Palace Theatre, SU’s Watson Theatre, Le Moyne College’s Grewen Auditorium, the Landmark Theatre and Eric Mower and Associates.

Tickets are available at each venue 30 minutes prior to the program, at the Landmark Theatre’s box office or by calling the film fest office at 315-671-2188. Ticket prices are $12 for general admission. Visit for more information.

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