TIFF15 REVIEW: Concerning the Bodyguard [2015]

“A great brown burn just over the heart” It’s not surprising that Kasra Farahani‘s cinematic adaptation of Donald Barthelme‘s short satirical story Concerning the Bodyguard would attract Salman Rushdie as its narrator. Given the author’s history after publishing The Satanic Verses and having a fatwā issued by Ayatollah Khomeini calling for his death, taking part in a film that questions the disparity between a hired bodyguard and his political principal in a Middle Eastern state would be the type of thing he’d jump at the chance to participate in. There’s…

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Babel’s Abraham Verghese teaches Buffalo the difference between curing and healing

It is interesting to see how Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel series has evolved over the years. Beyond locale (now residing at Kleinhans Music Hall after its origins in Asbury Hall at Babeville), artistic director (Barbara Cole seamlessly transitioning on from Michael Kelleher), and audience (last night’s crowd had to be the largest since Salman Rushdie and the season’s total far and away the best in its seven years), we now are beginning to see how expansive the title of “writer” truly is. The announcement of next season’s final speaker…

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Don’t let *blank expletive blank* affect your inner calm … Babel’s Amy Tan

As Just Buffalo Literary Center‘s Laurie Dean Torrell went through her thank yous before Artistic Director Barbara Cole’s introduction of the night’s speaker, she gave us a statistic that posited how ticket sales for the event only fulfilled about a third of the costs incurred to produce it. While I’m sure it was an accurate breakdown, I couldn’t help look around at the packed lower level of Kleinhans Music Hall and remember how far Babel has grown since the less than one thousand people who packed into Babeville’s Asbury Hall…

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Never give a Cuban a microphone … Babel’s Richard Blanco

The 2013-2014 season of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel series start a tad late as the largest contingent of audience members since Salman Rushdie (or perhaps ever) shuffled into Kleinhans to see Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco talk about his career and inspiration. Even after a nice poem written and read by one of the artists who use the Genesseo Migrant Center to hone her artistic skills and the usual introduction from Just Buffalo Artistic Director Barbara Cole (one that brought Blanco to the verge of tears) push the evening farther,…

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Writing the truth … Babel’s Alexandra Fuller

With what might have been the largest audience Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel series has seen since Salman Rushdie, novelist Alexandra Fuller brought the house down with her unparalleled candor and humor. Without notes or books to read she treated her lecture as she would one of her works—a carefully composed soliloquy spanning a life that’s traveled from an English birth to an adolescent home in war-torn Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to her current roots laying residency as an American citizen in Wyoming. We learned of an Uzi-toting mother, an “illiterate”…

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All new homes come with a clarinet … Babel’s Alexander McCall Smith

The Michael Kelleher-less era of Babel began tonight with one of the biggest crowds the series has ever seen. If Alexander McCall Smith didn’t find himself standing before more audience members than Salman Rushdie two years ago, the numbers must have been close. But while the popular kilt-wearing author is probably used to the spotlight at such a large venue like Kleinhans Music Hall, new Just Buffalo Literary Center Artistic Director Barbara Cole’s was ushered in at a definite peak. Assured and unafraid to talk at length, Cole’s introduction played…

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The big man with a small voice … Babel’s Chris Abani

Best. Babel. Ever. It’s as simple as that. Of the twelve authors I have seen over the past two years, besides the more superstar names like Michael Ondaatje and Salman Rushdie—easy fodder to gather excitement on my end to read—Chris Abani is the first to invigorate me enough that I literally want to do nothing but finish the book I have been pretending to read the past five months and begin his Graceland. Right from the get-go of his season-ending appearance for Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel, I was sold.…

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BNFF10: The 4th Annual Buffalo Niagara Film Festival Recap

The Buffalo Niagara Film Festival closed out its fourth annual entry, ending a pretty great eight days of cinema. Attendance might have been stunted due to a plethora of activities in Buffalo, including a Salman Rushdie talk that prevented me from going to opening night and the brief return of Sabres hockey to the playoffs, but that did little to dampen the spirits of organizers, volunteers, or filmmakers. What makes this event uniquely great in comparison to an event like the Toronto International Film Festival is that you don’t have…

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Salman Rushdie risks his life once more for Just Buffalo’s Babel

And that is why you leave to get in line for an autograph when Mike Kelleher says “final question” with a guy like Salman Rushdie doing the signing. The guy is a rockstar that not only brought the biggest crowd yet for a Just Buffalo Literary Center Babel event, but also attracted the most ever taking advantage of the signature session. It all began with Rushdie relaying how we can all thank Charles Dickens for making authors feel like they were allowed to do ‘the strange thing’ and speak in…

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Finally, I’m in Buffalo! … Babel’s Azar Nafisi

Those four words were definitely not what I expected to escape Azar Nafisi’s lips upon reaching the podium at Kleinhans for 2010’s first installment of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel Series. After Mike Kelleher finished his three pages of introductory notes—including naming three of the four authors to be stopping by this great city next season, listed below—the Iranian-born novelist took that stage and spoke enthusiastically about the children she visited earlier at City Honors. They gave her great insight and enthralled her enough to stay thirty minutes past her…

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Using the space between two languages … Ha Jin ventures to Buffalo

The second installment to Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel series for the 2009-2010 season saw American-Chinese author Ha Jin taking the stage. He is an interesting writer in the fact that he crafts his work with his second language, English. Not even learning it until college, where it was his fifth out of five choices to study at university, he has both adopted it and America as his home. Saying that he is in semi-exile from China, he still holds a linguistic bond to the nation even though they have…

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