Syracuse International Film Festival announces visiting artist
Israeli film director Dani Menkin has been selected to receive a visiting artist grant that will bring him to Syracuse for four months to live and work in the community. Menkin recently was awarded a Schusterman Visiting Artist Grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. The Schusterman Visiting Artist Program will join with Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts‘ (VPA) Department of Transmedia, to sponsor Menkin’s Syracuse visit.
Owen Shapiro, artistic director of the Syracuse International Film Festival and Shaffer Professor of Film in VPA, has announced that Menkin will arrive in Syracuse in August. While here, he will screen his films, present workshops and teach in classes at SU. To qualify for the Visiting Artist Grant Program, each artist must have University sponsorship and contribute to the University and community. In addition to his teaching in the Transmedia Department’s film program, Menkin will work with SU’s Humanities Program in the College of Arts & Sciences, and the SU School of Education, as well as present programs at Le Moyne College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., and the Jewish Community Center in Syracuse.
Menkin chose to live and work in Syracuse following his trips to the Syracuse International Film Festival. “I have lived in several places in the United States and liked coming to the Syracuse Festival. Now, I have a film about a man who takes a trip from New York City to Canada, and Syracuse and its beautiful scenery will be a big part of the story,” says Menkin. Menkin plans to produce and direct this feature-length film during his four-month stay, using Central New York locations and film program students as crew.
Menkin and Shapiro share a mutual love and respect for the art of filmmaking, but had never planned to work together. However, when Menkin applied for the Schusterman Visiting Artist Grant, he specifically asked to come to Syracuse because of Shapiro, the film festival and the film program at SU.
The Schusterman Visiting Artist Program Grant is awarded to a small number of Israeli artists each year, providing them an opportunity to live and work in the United States. Each of the selected artists chooses a location. The Schusterman Foundation contacted Shapiro to tell him of Menkin’s interest, and Menkin, Shapiro, and Department of Transmedia Chair Heath Hanlin agreed on the idea of Syracuse. “Dani is a great example of the vibrancy of contemporary Israeli cinema,” says Shapiro, “and having him here will be a contribution to the students and the community.”
One of the largest organized residency programs of Israeli artists ever to launch in the United States, the Schusterman Visiting Artist Program began in fall 2008 and offers unprecedented opportunities for Americans to experience Israeli culture. The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation supports the Schusterman Visiting Artists Program to provide Israeli artists from various disciplines with time spent in North America. These residencies last for two to four months and take place at some of the nation’s most esteemed universities, museums and other cultural organizations. The program has a special focus on fostering high levels of interaction between the artists and the local communities where they are based.
The goal of the new program is to engage American audiences with Israeli artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers and choreographers. Also, the program is intended to provide professional development experiences and cultural exposure for Israeli artists outside their home country. From fall 2008 to spring 2009, the foundation supported five visiting artists, and in 2009-10, there were 12 artists.
Syracuse audiences may remember Menkin as the producer/director of the film “39 Lbs of Love,” which showed at the Syracuse International Film Festival in 2005. The film then went on to be shown at the United Nations for an international disabilities awareness program after SU’s School of Education created the closed-captioning for the film. Menkin has produced/directed five feature films and numerous programs for Israeli television.