I give my experience an A for effort, but a C+ for execution. Sure I only went to one screening, but there was just too much that went astray…hopefully it was a blemish on an otherwise top-notch festival, but if not, at least the workings are there and maybe next year can continue to improve. I understand that The Natural was the big centerpiece and the Buffalo debut of Run, Fatboy, Run was a close second, but one would hope everything else would get the same kind of respect and attention to detail.
There was a decent crowd leaving the Riviera Theatre upon my arrival, so RFR probably had a good showing. As far as the audience for my screening, sparse is being kind. The quality of cinema was fantastic though. Sympathetic Details, stuck in that limbo between feature length and short film, coming in at 57 minutes, was an effective tale containing a great final act and The Cake Eaters was a true indie gem that I loved. It’s heart and quiet realism reminded me of another rural festival circuit winner from a few years ago titled Tully.
My gripe is with the handling of the evening. It was day two, so I give some slack, but I literally walked right in, no one asked for my ticket, and I could have sat down with no problem. Only when I finally asked where I should go to have my printout scanned did they have to search the premises for a knowledgeable soul to figure out what I was giving them (I guess I was the first and only person to have preordered my ticket online from the fest’s website). Without introduction, those of us seated in the Riviera (a venue that reminded me of the Elgin in Toronto from my visit to their festival) were treated to the first film. Upon completion, to my utter shock, a man stood up and introduced himself as Benjamin Busch, writer and director of SD and actor from HBO series “The Wire”. The guy came all the way out with his film and thanked us for coming out to support independent cinema. He asked if we had any questions, someone asked one, and as he began to answer the second film began. Yes, it appears no festival workers were in attendance (I could guess this as there was loud talking and bustling from the lobby during both screenings) and they literally didn’t let the filmmaker talk. I felt very sorry for him and would have loved to of heard what he had to say. Busch did stay for TCE and clapped at the end before walking out to the lobby.
It was there for the taking if someone would have been paying attention. Instead of volunteers talking outside the theatre (all were gone when we walked out, not even staying until the end) they could have been diligent and allowed an artist, willing to come to our fair city, to have spoken about his work. It’s a shame and hopefully will be something rectified in the future.