From rough tech demos to multimillion-dollar projects, wild-eyed students to disciplined masters, the ninth annual Theodore Case Film Festival brings an eclectic batch of cinema to the Auburn Public Theater this weekend.
The festival leads off with about 20 youth films, many of which were made by students in Terry Cuddy's graphic design and new media class at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES. The selections, mostly a few minutes in length each, include animated commercials, "poetic" pieces, documentaries and a zombie musical, Cuddy said.
"Some students are still under the gun to finish their films," he said. "We're just hopeful that the last couple videos get done to make it."
Projects originally made for classes dominate the program this year because the festival organizers chose not to solicit submissions from the public. In this "transition year," teachers like Cuddy were the jurors.
The festival committee plans to call for entries again in 2013, said Eileen McHugh, executive director of the Cayuga Museum of History & Art.
"We'd put out the call and get 75 submissions — it was really hard to make time to watch them all," she said.
After this "transition year," McHugh said, the festival will move to the recently renovated Theater Mack, at the museum, for its 10th installment.
The second day of this year's festival features a century-spanning collection of works celebrating the medium. The 2009 documentary "The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk," which will be shown Saturday morning, chronicles Theodore Case's pioneering work in sound-on-film technology in the early 1920s. McHugh was interviewed for the Warner Bros.-produced documentary, which was included in a DVD re-release of "The Jazz Singer," the 1927 Al Jolson film widely credited with signaling the emergence of "talkies." Though, as McHugh is quick to point out, "The Jazz Singer" used a sound-on-disc technology that "went the way of the 8-track," she said.
The fruits of Case's work, a collection of four shorts he produced to demonstrate his technology, will be screened after "Dawn." Cuddy will provide introductions to each of the pieces, including the well-known "Gus Visser and His Singing Duck," which is preserved in the U.S. National Film Registry.
"The goal of this festival has always been twofold," McHugh said. "To encourage everyone, particularly youth, to engage in the filmmaking process ... and to raise Theodore Case's profile, to keep his name alive."
Closing out the two-day program is "Hugo," Martin Scorcese's 2011 Oscar-winning film that stars Ben Kingsley as early film pioneer Georges Melies. While its inclusion harkens to the silent film era of Case's day, the illustrious movie is also just the kind that may lie in the student filmmakers' futures.
For now, though, they can savor — many for the first time — the sight of their work in a movie theater.
"It's one thing to see it in our classroom," Cuddy said. "To see it in a big screen in a dark room — that really means something else."