Sycamore goes to the movies

SYCAMORE – Shela Lahey unexpectedly set in motion the events that would eventually lead to the creation of the Sycamore Film Festival.

“It came about because ... I mentored a student filmmaker on a film and we ... won in our category at a film festival in Nashville,” Lahey said. “Then some people called and asked if I would do an event around the film.”

Sycamore State Street Theatre owner Daryl Hopper and Sycamore city officials received Lahey’s ideas with enthusiasm, she said. Soon she was in contact with other filmmakers who wanted to show their films, and the momentum began to build.

“Originally I hoped to show 12 films, but that number quickly grew to 32,” Lahey said. “I could have had over 40 films in the festival, but I had to turn some people away. I promised each filmmaker that I would show their film twice during the festival.”

The inaugural Sycamore Film Festival begins at the Sycamore theater on Thursday, Sept. 22, with the premiere of Lahey’s own film, “The Sycamore Documentary,” on all three screens. The festival continues through Sunday with film screenings, panel discussions, an art show, a student film festival at Sycamore High School and live music.

In “The Sycamore Documentary,” 42 Sycamore residents are interviewed about their recollections of growing up in the city.

“I want to preserve our history, especially the oral history of Sycamore,” Lahey said. “I originally intended it to be 20 minutes long, but it ended up being 45 minutes.”

DVDs of the film will be sold at the theater.

More than 90 percent of producers whose films are being shown at the festival are expected to attend, Lahey said, with some coming from as far away as Norway, France and Spain.

One featured filmmaker, Michael Dunker, is a Sycamore native who now lives in Los Angeles.

“It was awesome when they called us back and said, ‘Yes, you have been accepted.’ This was the first film festival we entered and the first film fest we got accepted to, so it was really an exciting thing,” he said.

There will be four panel discussions, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Stratford Inn. The discussions – on the subjects of filmmaking, acting, photography, humanitarian documentary projects and literature – are free and open to the public.

For information about the Sycamore Film Festival’s films, filmmakers, musical acts, events, ticket prices and schedules visit the festival’s website at www.sycamorefilmfestival.com.

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