Now We're Rolling
by M. Faust
Buffalo International Film Festival gets underway this weekend
The fifth annual Buffalo International Film Festival unofficially began last week, with Tom Fontana hosting a rare screening of Strip Search, the HBO film he wrote that was directed by the late Sidney Lumet. This week the BIFF kicks into high gear, with more than 40 screenings and events scheduled over the next 10 days, along with the possibility of some last-minute surprises. The week is rich in music, with the world premiere of Troubadour Blues, a documentary featuring Hamburg’s Peter Case (see Kevin Hosey’s interview with director Tom Weber elsewhere this issue) as well as a new documentary including rare footage of Bob Marley before he became an international star. Science fiction fans will get to hear author William F. Nolan introduce two films based on his novels, Logan’s Run and Burnt Offerings. Horror buffs can welcome Halloween early with a party at the Lancaster Opera House featuring a screening of the original The House on Haunted Hill including “Emergo,” director William Castle’s off-screen gimmick for scaring audiences of the late 1950s.
Asian cinema is present both in two films presented by Taiwan as a celebration of that country’s 100th anniversary, and in a survey of the martial arts genre hosted by Ric Meyers, the leading English-language authority on kung fu movies.
No Buffalo film festival would be complete without Vincent Gallo, who can be seen in the Western New York premiere of Essential Killing, which Jack Nicholson called the best film of 2010 and for which Gallo was named Best Actor at the prestigious Venice Film Festival.
Other offerings run the gamut from outré (a trio of H. P. Lovecraft adaptations, a documentary about the infamous “Happy Hooker” of the 1970s) to family-friendly (Make Believe, a documentary about teenage magicians, Abigail Breslin as an aspiring musician in Janie Jones). If you don’t find something you want to see, you haven’t read the schedule very well.
Most screenings will take place at the Screening Room in Amherst, with music and catered receptions every evening an hour before the 7pm show. If you prefer to dine after your film, local restaurants are offering discounts with your BIFF ticket.
Here’s a guide to the first week. Unless otherwise noted, all events are at the Screening Room. (The schedule for films playing at Screens was not available at press time: visit the BIFF website for details.)
Friday, October 14
TROUBADOUR BLUES—World premiere of a documentary follows modern day minstrels on the road, including Hamburg native Peter Case. Case and director Tom Weber will be present. 7pm. Reviewed this issue.
H. P. Lovecraft double feature: MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, with music by Alexander Hacke of Einstürzende Neubauten and the Tiger Lillies, introduced by William F. Nolan; THE CALL OF CTHULHU, Lovecraft’s most famous story, might have looked like this had it been filmed in the year in which it was written—1927. 9:30pm.
XAVIERA HOLLANDER, ‘THE HAPPY HOOKER’: PORTRAIT OF A SEXUAL REVOLUTIONARY—director’s cut of an uncensored documentary about the woman whose breezy biography about her experiences as a Manhattan madame was a touchstone of the “sexual revolution” of the early 1970s. Producer and Buffalo native John Patrick Patti will be present. 11:15pm.
Saturday, October 15
THE COUCH FEST—A collection of more than 60 weird short films from Iceland. Is that redundant? 10am
LOGAN’S RUN—William F. Nolan introduces the 1976 film adapted from his novel, starring Michael York, Farrah Fawcett and Jenny Agutter as members of a future society where life is easy for everyone, at least until you turn 30 and are killed. (Of course, there’s a remake in development.) 12:30pm.
CAPE NO. 7—One of two films at BIFF presented by the Republic of Taiwan in commemoration of its 100th birthday. The second biggest hit of all time in Taiwan (after Titanic), it combines a romantic story (revolving around undelivered love letters from World War II) with comedy about a group of untalented small towners who form a rock band to play as the opening act for a visiting pop star. A Hollywood remake is in the works. The screening will be followed by a catered reception presented by the Republic of Taiwan. 3pm.
THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS—The team that made The Call of Cthulhu offers another H. P. Lovecraft adaptation, this one done in the style of the 1930s. Buffalo natives David Robertson (cinematographer) and Josie DiVincenzo (lead scenic) will introduce the film. 7pm.
THE ACKERMONSTER CHRONICLES—If you were a fan of monster movies in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s, you know Forrest J. Ackerman, the man behind the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. This is the world premiere of a work-in-progress about “Uncle Forry,” presented by writer/director Jason V. Brock. 9:15pm.
BURNT OFFERINGS—The 1976 horror film with one of the most indelible casts in film history: Oliver Reed, Karen Black and Bette Davis. Presented by William F. Nolan, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows). 11:15pm.
Sunday, October 16
GENIUS ON HOLD—Walter L. Shaw was an engineering genius whose many inventions went unused in his lifetime because Bell Telephone felt they would hurt their business. Whether or not you accept this documentary’s positioning of Shaw’s story as a paradigm of corporate capitalism, it’s still fascinating stuff. 12:30pm.
THE ORZ BOYZ—Taiwan’s other presentation is this appealing comedy-drama about two young boys who escape their difficult lives into a world of fantasy. 3pm.
JANIE JONES—Looking a bit like the teenaged Jodie Foster, Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin edges toward adult roles in this drama as a girl foisted on the over-the-hill rock star her mother claims is her father. The story is surprisingly unsurprising, but there’s real charm in the performances by Breslin and Alessandro Nivola, and some decent tunes as well. 6pm.
BOB MARLEY: THE MAKING OF A LEGEND—Documentary about the formative years of the reggae singer, based on footage shot in the early seventies and lost for more than 30 years. 9pm.
Monday, October 17
MAKE BELIEVE—Documentary following six teenagers working on their skills at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas. Named Best Documentary at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival. 7pm.
ORPHANS OF APOLLO—Who does outer space belong to? This documentary recounts the story of a group of Americans, raised on dreams of the Apollo space program and unable to get over their disappointment that it was cancelled, as they try to buy the space station Mir from the Russian government and set up their own private space program., against the wishes of NASA. 9pm.
Tuesday, October 18
CULTURES OF RESISTANCE—Can art and creativity really be used to bring peace and justice to a world mired in war? Filmmaker Iara Lee believes they can, and spent most of a decade documenting efforts on five continents of citizens determined to use the only tools at their disposal to change the world. 7pm..
ESSENTIAL KILLING—Vincent Gallo was named best actor for this performance at last year’s Venice Film Festival even though he doesn’t speak a word in the film. He plays an Afghani who is captured and interrogated (harshly) by the US military before escaping somewhere in Eastern Europe. He has no idea where he is other than that it’s remote and snowy, and that people with dogs are chasing him. Venice also gave its special jury prize to veteran director Jerzy Skolimowski, who dismisses charges that the film seeks sympathy for a terrorist by noting that we’re not sure how Gallo’s character came to be in this situation, and that it doesn’t matter anyway: He’s concerned not with war but with depicting one man’s attempt to survive. 9pm.
Wednesday, October 19
eCUPID—A double feature of films featuring LGBT characters, with a portion of the proceeds going to benefit PFLAG (Buffalo/Niagara Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays). Inspired by 1980s romantic fantasy-comedies like Splash and Big, the feature eCupid looks at Marshall, who gets everything he ever wanted out of life from a mysterious app that takes over his love life. The short “Go Go Reject” stars Heath Daniels (who also directed) as a yogurt store clerk who dreams of becoming the Jennifer Beals of male go-go dancing. 7:00pm.
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL—Vincent Price stars in this 1959 film by William Castle, whose movies were best known for their outrageous gimmicks For this special engagement the theater has been equipped with Castle’s “Emergo! The Ghosts Fly Into the Audience.” Wear your Halloween costume for the party afterward. Lancaster Opera House 7pm.
Thursday, October 20
JIMMY & JOHNNY (STEWART & CARSON)—World premiere of a program of rare outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage of James Stewart and Johnny Carson presented by David Heeley, Emmy-winning producer of numerous documentaries about classic Hollywood stars like Fred Astaire, Spencer Tracey, and Katharine Hepburn. There will be live jazz and a post-screening party. Lancaster Opera House 7pm.
IF A TREE FALLS—Documentary about Daniel McGowan and his history with the Earth Liberation Front, a group the FBI has called America’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.” 7pm.
BLACK EVE—Toronto filmmaker Ryan Andrews will present his update on the classic slasher movie in which a psychic investigates who murdered all the guests at a Halloween party held in a closed department store. 9pm.blog comments powered by Disqus
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