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Buffalo International Film Festival
by M. Faust
The sixth annual BIFF is smaller this year—and may be better for it
Now in its sixth year, the Buffalo International Film Festival is undergoing some growing pains. In order to focus attention on its best offerings, it has been scaled back from the 10 days it ran last year to two consecutive weekends. On the basis of the films I have previewed, the quality looks to be better than recent years, with fewer of the marginal titles that seemed to be padding out those extra days.
Certainly one event that is a must see for both veteran cineastes and developing film buffs is The Story of Film, a epic documentary by Irish film critic Mark Cousins. Originally shown on British television, it is an ambitious history of cinema that covers the global filmmaking community from the 1890s through the present day. If you don’t have four years to spend in film school, this is the next best thing: Cousins is certainly opinionated, but he draws from an astonishing range of examples to trace the history of innovation in cinema. The first three parts of the series will screen on Friday night, and the rest of the 15-part series will be shown through the fall at the Screening Room.
In the same vein is Side by Side, which offers the unexpected pleasure of Lars von Trier being interviewed by Keanu Reeves. Reeves also talks to David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, George Lucas, Michael Ballhaus, David Fincher, Walter Murch, and dozens of other eminent directors and cinematographers for director Christopher Kenneally’s fascinating documentary about the transition from 35-millimeter film to digital production. If that sounds like a dry subject to you, you will be surprised by this open essay that is guaranteed to challenge your opinion on the subject, even if you didn’t think you had one. If you have any interest in movies at all, you can’t help but be engrossed in this perpetually shifting conversation.
If you saw the documentary Bill Cunningham New York at last June’s Cinegael Irish film series, you’re familiar with the space above Carnegie Hall that contained 160 spaces for artists to live and work. Photographer Josef Astor, a latecomer to the building (he moved there in 1985, but some of his neighbors had been there since the late 1940s), decided in 2005 to start documenting the space and its residents with a video camera. Soon after, the owners ot the building decided to end the tradition and evict the tenants in order to convert it to office space. Astor’s Lost Bohemia may be lacking in detail about the history of what some may see as a privileged lifestyle for a lucky few (compared to the thousands of struggling artists who have come and gone in Manhattan over the years), but its impossible not to regard removing people in their 80s and 90s from spaces they had thrived in for decades as a crime. Almost as bad is the loss of the studios themselves: Designed with different floor plans so that no two were alike, they were an island of exquisite design that has been swallowed up in a sea of architectural mediocrity. It screens at 4pm on Saturday.
Except as noted, all BIFF presentations will be held at the Screening Room in Amherst. This year marks the first time that some screenings will also be held at the Lockport Palace Theater, taking advantage of the theater’s film projector to screen a rare 35-millimeter print of Hayao Miyazaki’s classic 1988 animated feature My Neighbor Totoro on Saturday, September 29. Next weekend’s films will be previewed in next week’s Artvoice.
Week 1 Schedule of Events
Friday, September 21
7pm: THE STORY OF FILM Episodes 1, 2, 3 See above.
7pm: THE BORINQUENEERS Documentary about the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment, the only all-Hispanic unit in the history of the US Army, which served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Co-director Noemí Figueroa, whose uncle served in the 65th, will be present for the screening. (Market Arcade Film and Arts Center, 639 Main Street)
10pm: THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI A restored print of the classic German expressionist horror film, featured in The Story of Film.
Saturday, September 22
10am: PROMO FEST Selection of short films from Spain.
Noon: CHICANERY Imdb.com categorizes this as still being “in production,” so this may be one of its first screenings anywhere. It’s described as a comedy “about adultery, paranoia and Homeland Security. It’s about America.” And it stars Colleen Camp, which is good enough for me to take a chance on it. With the short “Pretty Pieces.”
2pm: DECONSTRUCTING DAD: THE MUSIC, MACHINES AND MYSTERY OF RAYMOND SCOTT Documentary on the brilliant but eccentric composer whose work is best known today because it was adapted for use in Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons.
4pm: LOST BOHEMIA See above.
7pm: CARIS’ PEACE Gaylen Ross (Killing Kasztner) directed this documentary about Caris Corfman, a successful Broadway performer who determines to return to the stage after a brain tumor destroys her short-term memory, making it impossible for her to memorize dialogue. (Showing at both the Screening Room and the Lockport Palace Theatre.)
9pm: THE BEST OF THE 48 HOUR FILM FESTIVAL Highlights from local participants in the national competition that gives teams 48 hours to create and produce a short film on a given theme.
Sunday, September 23
7pm: EXTRATERRESTRIAL From Spain, a mumblecore comedy about a couple whose attempts to get to know each other the morning after a one-night-stand are interrupted by the growing realization that an alien invasion has removed everyone else in the city. Don’t you hate when that happens
Thursday, September 27
7pm: SIDE BY SIDE See above.
7pm: THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY See above. (Lockport Palace Theater)
6pm: EL MINISTRIO Y YO (Mexico, 1976) First in a series of free screenings celebrating the centennial of Mexican comedian Cantinflas. (Casa De Arte, 141 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo)
9pm: A CASE OF DECEIT From Canada, a crime story about a cop attempting to take down a notorious crime lord discovers a double-crossing deal that becomes the catalyst for uncovering an even deeper conspiracy.
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