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Listen: SUNYWide Film Festival attracts young filmmakers


Anthony Riso, whose film “Fraud” received top honors in the narrative category at the SUNYWide Film Festival, is interviewed by Kerriann Salmon from Buffalo State’s BSC-TV. (photo by: Joseph Kasko)

Joseph Kasko

(Buffalo, N.Y.) — Filmmakers from across New York descended on Buffalo for the eighth annual SUNYWide Film Festival Nov. 9-11.

It was the first time Buffalo State hosted the event, which was launched in 2009 to highlight the film and video work of SUNY students and faculty.

To date, more than 900 students have submitted films and videos to compete in the festival.

This year 39 films were selected, from more than 100 submissions, in the categories of documentary, narrative, experimental and animation.

The Buffalo Review has produced a series of podcasts about the festival and the latest installment highlights the work of some of the filmmakers.


Anthony Riso is a recent graduate of Purchase College, whose film “Fraud” received top honors in the narrative category.

“I just really think it’s fun to get my film out there and hear what people think,” said Riso. “That’s why we make it, we make it so people can see the films.”

“Fraud,” he said, tests the moral boundaries of an intern working in the cut-throat world of finance.

“What would it take for someone to screw over their best friend? I just went with that idea and kept going and I thought the financial world would be the perfect place to do that,” said Riso, who is currently working in Manhattan as an assistant editor on the A&E show “The First 48.”

“I’m meeting a lot of great people there, a lot of great editors. I love the post-production world a lot, but it’s not going to stop me from writing and directing my own films,” he said.

Yuxin Zhao, a graduate student at the University at Buffalo, was at first fearful about submitting her documentary film “Yan Yan” to the festival.

“But later so many people encouraged me,” said Zhao, who is from China. “So because of those encouragements I have the chance to screen my film.”


“Yan Yan” tells the story of a woman from China, who is unable to hear or speak and immigrates to the U.S. in search of opportunities.

Her documentary tells the story of a woman from China, who is unable to hear or speak and immigrates to the U.S. in search of opportunities.

“Documentary is truth,” said Zhao. “I really hope that people can understand deaf people more. Especially, pay more (attention) or learn some sign language, so they don’t have much more difficulties when they go out.”

Zhao said she hopes people who see her film might be able to better understand the difficulties and embarrassment the deaf sometimes face when trying to communicate in the hearing world.

Susan Kehl, a sophomore at SUNY Fredonia, produced an experimental film entitled “Sunday Morning,” which focuses on two records in an unnatural outdoor environment that is unexpected.

“It’s more subjective and it allows people to put their own interpretation on the film, so you don’t put a big label on what it’s about. You just let people watch it and let people think what they want to about it,” said Kehl.

She said the film, which took about two months to make, was produced for her introduction to film class.

“I really like Stanley Kubrick’s work. I focus on him a lot, because he is pretty experimental in what he does and that is more like what I like to do,” said Kehl.

For Sarah Gaygen, a recent graduate of SUNY Fredonia, the inspiration for her animated film “Kamunyak,” which means “blessed one,” came from real life events.

Gaygen saw a viral video of a lioness that was keeping watch over a baby antelope at a nature reserve in northern Kenya.


Sarah Gaygen standing next to the poster for her film “Kamunyak,” which won the top prize in the animation category.

“That really got the scientists, the runners of the reserve, thinking what could have happened to this lion,” said Gaygen.

She said some have speculated the lioness was attempting to replace the loss of a cub or members of her pride, as she was alone in the reserve rather than traveling with other lions.

Gaygen, whose work won the top prize in the animation category, used hand-drawn and digital animation to tell the story, which took more than six months to produce the five minute film.

“I’m a 2-D animator and there is really not a lot of that in the movie industry, but at least we’ve got TV to fall back on,” said Gaygen. “So there is definitely a place for it, but I do hope it comes back into the film world eventually.”


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