Rochester International Film Festival

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The Rochester International Film Festival, the world's oldest continuously-held short film festival, has been produced each year since 1959 by Movies on a Shoestring, Inc. Each festival includes a wide variety of narrative films, documentaries, and animations submitted by independent filmmakers from all parts of the world.

All filmmakers are invited to submit entries for consideration. Each film selected for the festival is awarded the distinctive Shoestring Trophy. The festival offers appreciative, movie-wise audiences to view accepted films at the Dryden Theatre, George Eastman House International Museum of Film and Photography in Rochester, NY.

Movies on a Shoestring Inc. was founded in 1959 by a group of Rochester-area movie enthusiasts to provide a venue for independent filmmakers to present their cinematic creations. The name was a double entendre: most amateur filmmakers shot on 8 mm back then, and the narrowness of the stock led it to call it "the shoestring gauge."

The first public exhibition at the Rochester Public Library. It consisted of 16 films made by people from the Rochester area. During the second year a film from Toronto, Ontario, Canada was included, and in a modest sense Movies on a Shoestring became an international festival. That was also the year the show moved to the Dryden Theatre through the courtesy of George Eastman House. Three hundred people attended the performance.

1964 was their first truly international year. The festival received films from all over the United States as well as five foreign countries. This international activity prompted them in 1965 to identify their shows as the Rochester International Movie Film Festival and to become a charter member of the International Association of Amateur Film Festivals, a world-wide organization dedicated to establishing standards and consistency among festivals of this type.

By 1971 Movies on a Shoestring had firmly established itself among the world's leading amateur festivals, so they modified their name to the Rochester International Amateur Film Festival. In 1983 they accepted their first video entries. The worldwide growth of film schools and of the film industry in general has led to a great increase in the number of professional quality short films being produced and competing for spots in the festival, so in 1996 they dropped the word "amateur" from our name and became The Rochester International Film Festival.

To provide independent filmmakers even greater public exposure, beginning in 1972, selected films from each year's festival, based on audience surveys taken at each show, have been assembled into a collection called The Best of the Fest. It has been made possible to borrow films from the collection, free of charge, by organizations around the state.

The festival is screened at the George Eastman House's Dryden Theatre each spring usually in April.

The festival is associated with Movies on a Shoestring, Inc. - an independent non-profit organization. The Rochester International Film Festival is a member of the Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester.

For one year, in 2008, the festival merged with the High Falls Film Festival to become the Rochester-High Falls International Film Festival. The two festivals have since separated, although the High Falls Film Festival changed their name in 2010 to become the 360 365 Film Festival.

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