Local film festival shines spotlight on socially conscious films

Preview: The Syracuse International Film Festival to screen local and international films in various city locations.

Featuring the central New York premiere of a variety of films from all around the world, the ninth annual Syracuse International Film Festival will deliver four days of cinema bliss for casual movie lovers and film aficionados alike. 6 Syracuse-based venues, including the Palace Theater, the Watson Theater and the Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse 3, are slated to screen 124 films over the course of the festival.

“Peace and Social Justice,” the focus of this year’s festival, was inspired by the tragic death of Visual and Performing Arts Graduate student Bassel Shahade, who was killed in Homs, Syria while training citizen journalists to use video in order to document the violence in his home country.

“Bassel’s honesty, personal integrity, and love for peace and opportunity were acutely felt by all who knew him. He was a model fighter for peace and social justice,” says Artistic Director Owen Shapiro in a letter included within the festival program.

Laila and Edward Audi, the founders of the festival’s new Bassel Shahade award, are sponsoring the “Peace and Social Justice” events and screenings. The award is given to select filmmakers who address critical peace and social justice issues in their craft.

Another prize, the Sophia Award, is presented annually at the Syracuse International Film Festival to distinguished members of the film industry. This year’s recipients are actor Ron Perlman, actress Karen Black and director Rob Nilsson. Presentations of selections of their respective films will be accompanied by question and answer sessions by those being honored. Nilsson will be live in attendance for his Q&A; Perlman and Black will be conducting theirs via Skype.

For your convenience, we have made a few selections of noteworthy screenings and presentations taking place during this year's Syracuse International Film Festival. A complete festival listing can be viewed in the official program.

Preview Spotlight: Wednesday, Oct. 10

The festival will commence on a reverent note, with Wednesday being declared “Bassel Shahade Memorial Day.” The day will begin with a memorial service for Shahade at Hendrick’s Chapel at 10:30 a.m., followed by a symposium on Bassel and Syria in the Maxwell School Public Affairs Room. The symposium will include a screening of several of Bassel’s short films.

That evening, a concert by Syrian composer and pianist Malek Jandali and Arabic composer Mohamed Alsiadi will take place in the Setnor Auditorium. The musical performance will be accompanied by a screening of a selection of short films by Bassel.

Preview Spotlight: Thursday, Oct. 11

- Opening Night begins at 8 p.m. with the world premiere of Jandali’s music video for his composition Emessa (Homs) at the Palace Theater. The video, which features a fantasy narrative revolving around a boy attempting to liberate a group of imprisoned children from the clutches of an evil ruler, will be followed by the presentation of a pair of movies starring veteran actress Karen Black. The screening of Maria My Love at 8:15 p.m. will precede a question and answer session with Karen Black conducted over Skype. Robert Altman’s film Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean will start soon afterward at 10:45 p.m.

Preview Spotlight: Friday, Oct. 12

- As part of the “Le Moyne College Presents: Silent Film and Music” series, Charlie Chaplin’s silent classic Gold Rush will be presented at the Palace Theater at 7 p.m. with an original score. Commissioned by the Festival, Italian composer Gianluca Baldi and members of the Society For New Music will perform the score live. Baldi will be present for a Q&A after the performance.

- San Francisco-based director Rob Nilsson will be in attendance in the Palace Theater as a special guest during a screening of his film Stroke, starting at 9:45 p.m.

Preview Spotlight: Saturday, Oct. 13

- “Le Moyne College’s Peace and Social Justice Showcase” begins at 12 p.m. at the Grewen Auditorium with screenings of the Indian film Dream, the Syrian film Just Two Steps, and the Israeli documentary One Day After Peace.

- The “Imaging Disability in Film” series, sponsored by SU, will screen the American documentary Dislecksia: The Movie in the Watson Auditorium at 3 p.m., which  thoroughly explores dyslexia and the scientific progress going into its treatment through the lens of dyslexic director Harvey Hubbell.

- San Francisco-based director Rob Nilsson will be in attendance in the Palace Theater as a special guest during a screening of What Happened Here, starting at 7 p.m.
- A showcase of films spotlighting classically trained actor Ron Perlman takes place at the Palace Theatre starting at 9:30 p.m. with a screening of The Last Winter, followed by a Skype question and answer session. The night closes with a midnight showing of the Benecio Del Toro directed cult film Hellboy.

Preview Spotlight: Sunday, Oct. 14

- The Carol North Schmuckler New Filmmakers Showcase, which features films produced by SU Transmedia students, will take place on at the HERG in Newhouse 3 at 1 p.m.

- The Australian claymation film Mary and Max, showcasing the penpal relationship between an ostracized little Australian girl and a middle-aged New Yorker with Asperger’s syndrome, plays at the Palace Theater at 3:30 p.m.

- I Am Not a Rock Star, a Canadian documentary that follows the story of 20-year-old world class concert pianist Marika Bournaki, will screen at 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Theater. It will be followed by a Q&A with the director and Bournaki, after which Bournaki will perform a mini recital live.


For admission details and more information about the Syracuse International Film Festival, visit their official website or view the festival program.

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