‘beneath the surFACE’ documentary receives multiple film industry accolades

A documentary on the 2016 beneath the surFACE awareness project at Upstate Cancer Center has been recognized as Gold Level from the Spotlight Documentary Film Awards, Mediterranean Film Festival Selection, Los Angeles CineFest semi-finalist, and Doctors without Borders Film Festival Official Selection and Excellence Award Winner. The beneath the surFACE project was developed to educate the community on head and neck cancers and transformed 130 radiation therapy masks worn by Upstate Cancer Center patients into stunning works of art.

In addition to highlighting the art project, the documentary tells the stories of patients who are undergoing treatment for head and neck cancers.

Central New York artists and students contributed their talents to creating the mask masterpieces, which were the centerpiece of the beneath the surFACE fundraising event. Mike Massurine of the Syracuse International Film Festival produced the documentary with support from the Syracuse University Graduate Film Program. It featured original music from Noah Kellman, New York University Film Scoring Major and son of Upstateā€™s Robert Kellman, MD. Post-production was executed by Syracuse-based JTFCreative and edited by Sean Hunter Horan. Matt Capogreco, Upstate Cancer Center program and events coordinator, served as executive producer.

Patients with head and neck cancers are treated with a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. To receive radiation therapy, patients must be fitted with a polymer mesh mask that conforms to their head and neck. Once radiation therapy is complete, the masks are offered to the patients but many elect to discard them given their symbolism to their difficult treatment. But some medical institutions have repurposed this masks to use them as focal points for fundraising and education.

Head and neck cancers include cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, layrnx, nasal cavity, salivary glands. 93 percent of all head and neck cancers is caused by tobacco use, excessive alcohol, and the human papillomavirus or HPV making it a highly preventable disease. The risk is doubled when tobacco and alcohol abuse are combined and nearly twice for men as it is among women.

Schools that participated in the program include C. W. Baker High School (Baldwinsville); East Syracuse Minoa High School; Jamesville-DeWitt High School; John C. Birdlebough High School (Phoenix); Manlius Pebble Hill School; Sackets Harbor Central School; West Genesee High School and the Westhill School District.

Syracuse audiences got a chance to see the documentary when it was screened at the Palace Theater last April.

For more information on the program contact Matthew Capogreco at

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