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Film festival showcases work of Harpur students, alumni

By Terasa Yu

For Harpur College alumna Esther Lenderman ’14, events such as Cornell University’s Centrally Isolated Film Festival can help validate a filmmaker’s work.

“It tells the filmmaker that their film is great enough to be recognized by the filmmaking community,” she said, “not to be merely pushed to the side and never seen again.”

Lenderman was one of five Harpur College filmmakers who participated in the Centrally Isolated Film Festival on Nov. 21–22. The festival, which features short films from New York state college students, included four films made by Binghamton Film Initiative (BFI) members and two more produced by current Harpur cinema majors.

“It was such a momentous weekend for filmmaking at Binghamton University,” said Jared Biunno, the president of BFI. “It was a chance to gain some great exposure and show people what student filmmakers are up to at Binghamton University.”

Biunno, also a senior cinema major, was the director of a BFI production called “Heavenly Blue.” Biunno said that making the film was an interesting and fun challenge. His efforts paid off with its screening at the film festival.

“It was a rewarding experience and we all had a great time on set laughing and working,” he said. “We’re all very happy with how the film came out and are even happier to listen to people laugh when they watch the film.”

“Spare Change,” another film directed by Biunno and produced by BFI, is about the timeless nature of love and the consequences of missed opportunities. Lenderman, who co-directed the film, said she was happy to see Binghamton University dominating the festival space.

“The festival opened my eyes to the small window of the talented filmmakers that attend school,” Lenderman said. “For the first time my film was not standing alone; I was comparing it to the others.”

Aleksandr Rikhterman, a senior cinema major, had a similar festival experience. His documentary, “Pura Vida: Solo-Travel,” encouraged festival-goers to embrace rather than fear solo traveling through interviews of those who did so already.

“(The festival) was a good experience to gauge the level of professionalism and quality in other student films across the region to my own,” Rikhterman said, “as well as a good chance for networking.”

Fellow senior cinema major Michael Chernak also had his film shown at the festival. His experimental drama, “Watch Me Fall Apart,” depicts “a young man’s acceptance of his inner demons in a surreal world of sex, blood and pop music.”

“I wanted this film to be stylistic and told through a gay person’s voice that isn’t often heard in cinema,” he said. “The film festival helped inspire me to work on my next project and to send my work out to other festivals.”

Harpur College alumnus Ethan Scarduzio ’12 directed two films with BFI that were screened at the festival. “Dead Meat” is a dark comedy that centers around two hit men who discover they shot the wrong man. “The Bag” is a psychological thriller about two investigators attempting to apprehend a suspect. Scarduzio said he felt fortunate for his involvement at the festival.

“CIFF is a fantastic festival and had a lot of really diverse and exciting films screened,” he said. “It’s very special and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to have experienced that.”

With the conclusion of the festival, the filmmakers said they are excited to see how filmmaking at Binghamton University and Harpur College will continue to grow. With building enthusiasm comes increasing expectations.

“BFI and the Binghamton University cinema students are making it well known that we want to be recognized as a place where filmmakers are not tethered to one cinematic styling,” Scarduzio said. “We want to be a powerhouse, where excellent stories of all genres are created regularly.”

While Scarduzio acknowledged the importance of various genres in filmmaking, Lenderman sees the value of diverse students in filmmaking.

“(The Binghamton Film Initiative) has the power to unite students across all majors, not just cinema and theater,” Lenderman said. “Filmmaking is not only here to stay, it is here to thrive.”

Taking it a step further, Biunno said he wants BFI to garner the interest of students beyond Binghamton University.

“(I hope) that our involvement in the festival inspires and encourages talented students from around the country to come to Binghamton to join this great program and department,” Biunno said.

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Last Updated: 3/1/17