It’s eight years later and The Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival is still going strong April 24th through May 3rd. I personally missed organizer and filmmaker Bill Cowell‘s inaugural season, but have been attending off and on as both a ticket holder and member of the press since.
My first experience was in 2008 at the Riviera Theatre in Tonawanda. I drove over mostly because that night’s feature had a cast consisting of Bruce Dern and Kristen Stewart (pre-Twilight). While director Mary Stewart Masterson‘s The Cake Eaters proved worthy of the ticket price, however, the true potential of the Buffalo festival came courtesy of the short that played before it.
If you’ve ever watched “The Wire” you may recognize Benjamin Busch from Season 3 and on as Officer Anthony Colicchio. A United States Marine Corps reserve officer whose memoir Dust to Dust sits on my bookshelf, Busch’s short Sympathetic Details played to applause before the man himself stood to answer questions. Sadly the festival—still in its infancy—wasn’t prepared for such a Q&A session and began playing The Cake Eaters while he spoke. Thankfully, Cowell and his team learned from the mistake and have provided ample time for visitors in subsequent years to talk with those attending.
You never know who may show up. Some guests are announced—the website’s list usually a lot more optimistic than reality should dictate—but it’s those who simply come to Buffalo on their own dime with film in hand that are the best to meet. It was still cool seeing William Fichtner receive his “Walk of Fame” star and fun hearing Jim Breuer introduce documentary More Than Me. For me, though, it was “Psych” editor (and now director) David Crabtree talking about his debut Broken Dreams or meeting Kevin K. Shah after a screening of his White Knuckles that resonated. I’ve not only stayed in touch with Kevin, reviewing his production company’s films along the way, but also was introduced to even more indie filmmakers through the friendship.
As for 2014, the verdict is still out as far as which filmmakers may have made the trek to the Queen City. As of now the only announcement of guests comes via the Mickey Rourke-narrated documentary Generation Iron by Vlad Yudin (screening May 3rd at 1pm at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center). There’s no word about whether the director will be in attendance, but you can see a slew of bodybuilders perform their routines at Noon.
You can visit the festival’s website at thebnff.com for updated information and a full schedule. Check out trailers, posters, and news to discover which films interest you with award-winning pedigrees, local connections, or big-name stars.
Here are a couple highlights to keep on your radar:
Brandonwood by John Fink (87 min)
April 25th, 4pm at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center
“A romantic thriller tracing four years in the lives of a young couple from the excitement of new love to reality of new circumstances for which they cannot escape.” Brandonwood was shot in Western New York and filmmaker John Fink will be holding a happy hour reception afterwards at 6pm at a location to be determined.
The Natural: The Best There Ever Was by Bill Cowell (90 min)
April 25th, 7pm at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center
Festival organizer Cowell premieres his documentary about The Natural, its history, and its connection with Buffalo. It includes never before seen interviews with most of the cast and crew.
NYC Rooftop Story by Ricardo Catalan Jr. (48 min)
April 26th, 9pm at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center
“David is an ivy league-educated writer who loses his longtime girlfriend and ability to write. A cathartic episode occurs on the rooftop which triggers his pursuit of Misha, a famous international model, and his latent creative writing.” After party to follow at Snooty Fox Lounge with Buffalo native/supporting actress Amelie Mckendry, lead actress Lana Asanin, and director Catalan Jr.
The Power of Few by Leone Marucci (96 min)
May 1st, 5pm at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center
A crime drama starring a recognizable cast consisting of Christopher Walken, Christian Slater, Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, and Moon Bloodgood, the movie concerns how “one individual’s actions impact the lives of many in this urban tale of religious conspiracy and interconnected lives.”
Niagara by Chie Hayakawa (26 min)
May 2nd, 8pm at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center
An award nominee at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and the 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul, Korea, “Niagara tells the story of an 18-year-old orphan girl Yamame who comes to know that her grandpa killed her parents 15 years ago and has been on death row.”
Bent by Amy Jo Johnson (20 min)
May 2nd, 9pm at the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center
The directorial debut of the former Power Ranger, Johnson’s short documentary is described as follows: “Growing up in a religious cult, Jackie and Amelia, now in their late thirties, meet up once a year at Amelia’s mother’s grave to reconnect and talk about life. ‘Are we broken?’ they ask themselves, only to decide after a topless escapade through their old sect, that they are only bent.”
Tickets are available now so definitely take a look at the website and figure out your schedules. Welcome the films and filmmakers to Buffalo and don’t be afraid to engage with any who have traveled to watch their work play in front of a new audience.
courtesy of BNFF and the films’ Facebook