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Syracuse International Film Festival returns with in-person screenings

Kevin Lewis, director of “Willy’s Wonderland.”

The Syracuse International Film Festival returns with in-person screenings this weekend, after going virtual last year, due to the pandemic. More than 50 films will be shown.

The movies will be screened at the Redhouse Arts Center downtown and Syracuse University. That includes the Nicholas Cage horror, action movie “Willy’s Wonderland,” which takes place at an abandoned family fun center.

The film's director, Kevin Lewis, will hold a discussion following Friday's screening. Audience members are required to be masked and vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID test. John Ginty, the president of the film festival, said they’re just really excited to be back at a theater in person.

“Because there’s something that happens when you’re next to people who are there for the same reason and purpose and to be entertained and to open themselves up to an experience like that, you can’t have just sitting on your couch at home, watching and streaming,” Ginty said. “This is going to be something we’ve really been looking forward to for almost 18 months now.”

The festival partnered with the Oneida Indian Nation and is screening some Native American films, which will air on WCNY. “The Rules of Lacrosse,” which documents the history of the sport and its Indigenous roots, will be screened at SU on Sunday. Festival organizers also wanted to showcase the filmmakers, actors and writers. There are acting and auditioning workshops, panel discussions and Oscar-nominee Bryan Buckley, who has directed more than 60 Super Bowl commercials, will talk about his career on Saturday.

In recent years, a number of movies have been made in central New York with some big celebrity names attached to them. Ginty said talented people in the community are helping to build a film industry here.

“You can have that desire, and if you have the ability to tell a story, you can do it from anywhere that you want,” Ginty said. “It’s just a matter of finding like-minded people who will come together and be able to create.”

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.