Salt City Screenings

Local film festival kicks off this April with more than 90 films from across the globe. This piece also ran in the Spring 2009 issue.

By Stephanie Chen

There’s Tribeca, Sundance, Toronto, Cannes – and then there’s Syracuse.  On April 24, the Syracuse International Film Festival will kick off its sixth year at the Palace Theatre on James Street.  Out of 480 submissions, the festival features 95 films from Syracuse born-and-raised talent and those abroad in countries like Macedonia, China, Austria, Korea, Taiwan, Iran and India.

“Each film is a totally different slice of culture,” says Deborah Borenstein, the festival’s manager.  “They transcend ages and backgrounds, and it creates a buzz.”

And people have definitely been talking.  Five years ago, the festival ran for only three days with a handful of films.  This year’s 10-day event will start with a jazz performance of J.C. Sandford’s score from the 1925 version of Ben Hur before screening the selected films at LeMoyne College, the Landmark Theatre, the Everson Museum and the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology.

Buy tickets, grab popcorn and get ready for some artistic and cultural flavor in the Salt City – you won’t want to miss these films!

“Old Partner” (2009)
South Korea’s Chung Ryoul Lee directs this documentary about life in rural Korea.  The starring couple, a feeble old farmer and his aging ox, brought audiences to tears in Korea and got rave reviews at its 2009 Sundance debut.  As the couple, along with the farmer’s nagging wife, approaches the end of their lives and 40 years of loyal companionship, a hilarious yet sad story unfolds about love and loss after a lifetime together.

“Mozart in China” (2008)
East meets West in this fairy tale of music and friendship by Austrian director Bernd Neuberger.  Young Danny, the son of Austrian puppeteers, travels to China to spend the summer with his friend Li Wei, and with his help, the family restores an old shadow theatre, an ancient form of storytelling in China.  When the boys learn they’re in danger of losing it to a greedy hotel chain, Danny’s marionette Mozart, magically comes to life at night to woo the theatre’s shadow princess, a delicate paper puppet, putting on a heartwarming show.

“Fashion” (2008)
The devil truly wears Prada when Indian filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar captures the fashion industry’s unique mix of hell and haute couture in all of its sequined glory.  Former Miss World Priyanka Chopra plays small town girl Meghna Mathur, an aspiring model, in this romantic drama about glitz and glamour on the ruthless runways of Mumbai.  Following her idol, supermodel Shonali Gujral (played by Kangana Ranaut), Mathur struts her way to the top, entangling herself in sex, drugs and the biz.  But, as Heidi Klum says, “One day you’re in – the next day, you’re out.”

“Famous in 31 Days (2008)
John Gerard, a local reporter from Syracuse, becomes a one-man show – shooting, directing, producing – in this film that follows his cross-country path of destruction to achieving 15 minutes of fame.  From giving his business card to Matt Lauer to running after the “Governator” in California, Gerard had one goal in mind: get on Jay Leno’s “The Tonight Show.”  When his film debuts at the film festival, he might get more than his 15 minutes in Syracuse.  “It’s actually about rejection, and I haven’t wanted to show it,” says Gerard, recalling rebuffs from celebrities, Toronto and Cannes.  “I’ve been waiting until I have an audience, and now I will.”

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