SYRFILM morphs again: film fest stakes out October slot next week

From the start, the folks at SYRFILM -- short for the Syracuse International Film Festival -- have been flexible thinkers. Not content to worry that Central New Yorkers might not support a yearly international film festival that leaned heavily to the international, they set about making this a cinema-friendly region. This has taken many forms, from screenings in all sorts of venues all over the map, to school projects for local students, to residencies for visiting filmmakers, to trips to the far side of the globe to pursue new international partners, to showcasing upstate New York film, to joining with local indie filmmakers to launch the budding Syracuse Film Office, to free outdoor "drive-in" screenings downtown, to initiating now-signature events like the live jazz performances of new scores for classic silent films.

SYRFILM has been held for half a dozen years now at the end of the spring college semester. Each year the festival has edged a few days forward or back, dancing around local final exams and East Coast rival festivals like Rochester's High Falls Festival and New York's Tribeca. Last year the festival expanded to encompass two full weekends, though was this really did was split the program into an initial regional showcase with a day off to take a breath -- Monday -- before the international folks arrived. And last spring the festival organizers, who lost staff in budget cuts, decided to move to a fall slot in 2010 -- a wise and sane response to keeping the festival viable by making it more manageable on several fronts.

Last spring Owen Shapiro, SYRFILM's founder and artistic director, said, "We'll do a little something in October to make a transition and stake out the time slot."

That "little something" occurs next week in two parts that intriguingly meld the most commercial aspects of filmmaking (a technology expo for the equipment geeks) with panels of scholarly commentary and master classes in sound design, adding several special screenings at strategic moments and topping it all off with an extravaganza fund-raiser of Salsa dancing at the Hotel Syracuse's Persian Terrace that includes a costume contest called Dress Like a Star.

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