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.