Bulletin News

Blackbird Film Festival welcomes movie fans and makers 


Blackbirds and silver screens don’t often mix — but when they come together for SUNY Cortland’s Blackbird Film Festival it’s pure movie magic. 

This will be the 10th year that Associate Professor Sam Avery’s creation — the Blackbird Film Festival, will welcome filmmakers from around the world for a four-day celebration of cinema, starting Thursday, April 11.  

The festival is free and open to the public, with on-campus events taking place at Old Main. 

Avery, part of the Communication and Media Studies Department, enjoys welcoming filmmakers from large cities to the decidedly more rural area of Central New York. 

“It’s a lot of fun to see how scared they are when they first arrive,” he said. “Wondering if they have made a terrible error — only to say goodbye to them a few days later and they can't stop singing CNY and Blackbird praises. That journey is always fun to be a part of.” 

Avery expects 62 filmmakers, along with cast and crew members, to attend. Most of them will be from Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York City, but some are coming from as far the United Kingdom. There will be 103 films divided into 15 blocks for viewing. One of those blocks, dubbed “Rising Stars,” are all films from current or former SUNY Cortland students.

Cortland students also reviewed films during the fall semester and made initial recommendations. SUNY Cortland alumni filmmaker “Pro Judges” then analyzed those recommendations. A final lineup was chosen in January. This year there were 714 submissions. 

Last year's Blackbird Film Festival.

“The students are a tremendous value to Blackbird,” Avery said. “Without their help, specifically when it comes to judging, I’m not sure Blackbird would be possible.” 

Students also serve as event coordinators for Blackbird. That adds an enthusiasm to the event that is contagious, Avery noted 

A total audience of 500 is expected for the festival, with an average of 75 cinephiles per screening and up to 150 in the evenings. It may be tiny compared to Cannes, but the small size has its own advantages. 

“Blackbird ends up being more like a ‘film camp’ each season,” Avery said. “Because the event is not located in a big city and is difficult to get to, filmmakers tend to stay for the whole weekend and participate in all the festival events which brings them much closer together, comparatively.” 

This year, participants can expect something a little different. Avery noted that there is a new challenge, in which filmmakers create a film in Cortland during the week before the festival, and then premiere it at the event. 

Other events scheduled for Blackbird include workshops, discussions, a “red carpet reception” and a final awards ceremony. 

“Every season we try to do something new and change the script,” he said. 

Whether you’re a fan of Fellini — or just enjoy an occasional matinee — more details about the 2024 Blackbird Film Festival can be found online.