Hamilton International Film Festival goes virtual for 2020
By Mike Jaquays
HAMILTON - Traditionally, the Hamilton New York International Film Festival has brought moviemakers from all over the world to spend a week in town showing their films and sharing the intimate secrets behind their creation. This year, however, the 12th annual event will be held online only, due to coronavirus precautions.
Festival hosts Grant and Todd Slater of Slater Brothers Entertainment are former Hamiltonians who say they always look forward to being back in Central New York. They agreed they enjoy being able to introduce their former hometown to a diverse and fascinating group of filmmakers, who have always felt warmly welcomed by the people of Hamilton. But when the coronavirus closed their Hamilton venues and limited international travel, the brothers had to make other plans for this summer. “We decided pretty early in the planning process that this year we would have to make some adjustments if we want to present the festival,” Grant Slater said. “We saw so many other organizers canceling their events and for good cause. But we felt going to a virtual festival this year was the right direction for us. It gives the artist a platform to showcase their work and it gives film fans from around the world an opportunity to experience independent filmmaking.”
Todd said when the pandemic started, they started to communicate with their filmmakers on a regular basis to let them know the Slaters were taking their cues from state and community leaders and healthcare officials. As the pandemic grew and places like the Hamilton Movie Theater were forced to close, the organizers decided that the best and safest course of action was to build an online version of the festival.
“We still wanted to give all the incredible filmmakers who we had selected for this year’s festival a platform to present their amazing work and at the same time we wanted to make sure all those people in the community - and elsewhere - who were excited to take part in this year’s festival lineup had a forum to view the content,” Todd explained.
The Hamilton New York International Film Festival is available for viewing now by visiting hnyiff.com. As part of the virtual festival, the organizers have also produced a promotional video to showcase Hamilton and the surrounding area to the world.
In its 12 years, the event has grown from a small weekend festival featuring regional filmmakers into a seven day film event attracting filmmakers and film fans from across the globe. The festival is currently recognized as a Top 100 Best Reviewed Festival by Filmfreeway, the world’s largest film submission platform representing more than 9,000 festivals around the world.
Last year, then-Hamilton Central School junior Ben Coddington’s film “Eyes” was one of the highlights of final day of the weeklong showcase. Coddington said he enjoyed not only the chance to have his film shown during the festival but also being able to meet with so many professional filmmakers during the event. “It’s really cool to be able to meet all of these people,” he said. “I like hearing about how they are making a living in filmmaking because that’s what I want to do, too.”
Gazanfer Biricik came in from his native Paris to show his films “Gab” in 2018 and “The Heart Throb” in 2019. On his first trip, Biricik admitted he was quite taken by the cordial reception he experienced as he watched “Gab” seated in the theater with new friends.
Biricik enjoyed the opportunity to share his film in person with the festival audience and said he loves visiting Hamilton.
“I really appreciate the chance to come here,” he said.
Todd promised this year’s festival will include, as always, a really diverse and international line up. A highlight will be “She’s In Portland,” a film Todd said the Slater brothers are personally proud of since their company exec produced and sold it. A full list of all of the films is available on their website.
“We continue to look for thought-provoking content from all over the world,” he said. “We spent a lot of time going through the submissions and had a lot of internal discussions on what to show and why. Hopefully folks who log in and take part in the virtual festival will be moved by some of the selections.”
Todd noted that over the years they have had many friends and Colgate alumni ask about seeing the films, saying they could not travel back to the village for the festival due to being too far away or just having a busy summer schedule. Hosting a virtual festival this year will actually allow even more people to share the film fun, he explained. “The one thing that has emerged from this really tough time is that we created a platform and an outlet to showcase these films online to anyone in the world who wants to watch them,” he said. “Now folks can really take part in the festival from anywhere. There is still something special about watching a film on the big screen and talking to that filmmaker five feet away about what it was like to create his or her piece of art, but through technology, we can still offer a pretty cool experience remotely.”
The Slaters agree they definitely look forward to returning to Hamilton next summer with all of the live interactions they have enjoyed throughout the community for their first decade. The festival traditionally goes well beyond simply showing films at the Hamilton Movie Theater. There are also workshops at the Colgate Bookstore, social time at the Colgate Inn and Good Nature Farm Brewery and other get-togethers throughout the area.
The Slater Brothers recently completed three feature films themselves which will be released across North America this fall. Their projects include “Odd Man Rush” starring Jack Mulhern, Trevor Gretzky and Dylan Playfair, set to release nationwide Sept. 1; “She’s In Portland,” starring Minka Kelly of the hit television series “Friday Night Lights;” and the highly anticipated action film, “Last Three Days.”
As brothers from Hamilton who grew up in the village and spent a lot of time there over the years, the Slaters said they love getting back there and introducing the community to filmmakers and content creators from all over the world. They have welcomed folks to the village from as close as Hamilton and as far away as Russia, India and Sweden - and lots of places in between - over the years to take part in the festival.
“It’s great for the people living in Central New York to have a chance to interact with these folks and likewise, we love having the filmmakers experience all that we love about Hamilton and the greater Central New York area,” they agreed.
For the latest information on the Hamilton New York International Film Festival, visit HNYIFF.com.
Film Festival Welcomes International Filmmakers
By Mike Jaquays
HAMILTON – Paris-based Gazanfer Biricik said it was an honor to receive an invitation to show his short film “Gab” Saturday, July 28, during the 10th annual Slater Brothers Entertainment’s Hamilton International Film Festival.
Biricik traveled in from France for the week-long festivities, held at and around the Hamilton Movie Theater. He admitted he was a bit nervous about the event, however, as he would actually be seated with both film fans and fellow filmmakers during the show. Biricik was also invited to speak with several other creators after the evening’s screenings, where he described to the audience his motivations for making “Gab,” a film that addresses terrorism and was motivated by the 2015 attacks in Paris.
“I really appreciate the chance to come here,” he said. “I put my heart into this film. It’s a very important subject.”
Slater Brothers Entertainment partners Grant and Todd Slater agreed that Hamilton will always be home for them, and they are glad to be able to bring a little taste of Hollywood back to their hometown every year. Grant attended Hamilton Central School from fourth through eighth grades before leaving for prep school, and then returned to graduate from Colgate University. Todd, six years younger, attended HCS through ninth grade before leaving for prep school himself.
They gave back to their former school with a July 26 fundraiser for HCS and by showing several films by current HCS students.
Theater manager Sean Nevison said the festival is a true community event, and they try to get as many people and places around Hamilton involved as possible. The showings on the first two days were held at the Colgate Inn Rathskeller, there was a reception July 27 at the Good Nature Brewing Tap Room and a panel discussion July 28 at the Colgate Inn.
Festival coordinator Sue Lamb Myers was one of many who helped make the event a success.
“I think it’s just really fantastic to have an event that promotes the arts, music and just being creative,” she said. “It’s also wonderful to see so many filmmakers who don’t know each other talking together while they are here and sharing their own experiences with each other. So many of them have said they have come here and found they love Hamilton.”
Your Neighbor: Hamilton natives bring Hollywood to Madison County with film festival
By Mike Jaquays, Dispatch Correspondent
HAMILTON, N.Y. >> For 10 years running, the annual Slater Brothers Entertainment’s Hamilton International Film Festival has brought moviemakers and film fans together from all over the world for an ever-growing series of showings, discussions and social time. And the Slater Brothers festival founders -- partners Grant and Todd Slater -- wouldn’t have it anywhere else.
Both are former village residents, the sons of Agatha and the late Terry Slater, a famed Colgate University hockey coach.
“Hamilton will always be home to me,” Grant said on July 26, the fourth day of this year’s seven day festival. “I remember right from when we first moved here that you could walk anywhere, and you got to know everybody.”
He said he attended Hamilton Central School from fourth to eighth grades before leaving for prep school, and then returned to the village to graduate from Colgate University. Grant played hockey for his father at Colgate. Todd, who is six years younger, went to HCS through ninth grade before leaving for prep school himself.
The majority of the movies shown during the festival are at the Hamilton Movie Theater, and Todd said he had great memories of the venue.
"We used to sneak in the back door of the theater,” Todd admitted, adding that most of his other happy memories of Hamilton involved the various eateries he used to frequent. “It’s still always great to visit here, have a drink at the Inn, look around the town, visit the Starr Rink and catch up with my old friends.”
Now, they want to bring a little bit of Tinseltown home.
“A big part of this is to bring a little bit of Hollywood to Hamilton,” Grant said. “We also hope to help get local kids interested in the arts. The festival includes filmmakers of all different experience levels and that gives young filmmakers to chance to talk with the pros.”
The July 26 program during the festival was a fundraiser for their Hamilton Central School alma mater. There were a pair of short films by Hamilton Central School students shown first that evening, followed by another couple of shorts from America and a Canada.
The main feature was “The Samuel Project,“ a full-length film presented by Los Angeles-based writer/director Marc Fusco himself, who afterwards answered questions from the audience about the film and his history. His resume includes a long-time stint as the assistant to Steven Spielberg, with contributions to Spielberg‘s films “Saving Private Ryan,“ “Amistad” and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”
“The Samuel Project” is a moving story of a teen named Eli who is tasked with creating a video project for a high school class. He turns to his dry cleaner grandfather Samuel as a source of inspiration, and a death to someone close to Samuel leads Eli to discover facts about his elder that had not been revealed before … including his escape from Nazis in World War II, even as the rest of his family fell victim to the horror of the Holocaust.
The film is not scheduled for its actual premiere until September in New York City, Fusco said, so the Hamilton audience got an advance look at the riveting story. Fusco added he is also co-founder of in8 Releasing, a distribution and marketing group focused on presenting films with what they call “broad appeal, yet having niche audiences.”
Activities were held throughout the village during the week, including locations like the Colgate Inn, the Colgate Bookstore, and the Good Nature Brewing Tap Room. Theater manager Sean Nevison said the event introduces people from all over the world to Hamilton, and he constantly hears compliments and promises to return. He said he is glad to be able to help make the festival happen.
“We are just happy to help facilitate the festival and to help give something back to the community,” Nevison said. “This is a real community-wide event, and we like to get as many people involved as possible. It‘s also a fun way for students to show their own work alongside the professionals.”
Fusco said he enjoys the festival environment because he gets to meet real audiences there, moviegoers removed from the “bubble of Hollywood.“ And although he has shown his films at theaters all over, Fusco said being in the Hamilton Movie Theater and enjoying all of its history was truly a special time.
“Just being able to present a film in such an historic theater is a real treat for me,” Fusco complimented. “The area is lucky to have a gem like this here.”
The Film Festival fun ends on Sunday, July 29 with films starting at noon. Selections for the final day are “Heart of Paradise” and “Strayed” from the United States, “The Art of Shantiniketan” from India, and “Dangerous Crossings” from Monaco. Tickets are $8 for the day, and available at the theater, located at 7 Lebanon St. in Hamilton.