Buffalo International Film Festival
by M. Faust
A long weekend of films you can’t find anywhere else around here
Now in its seventh year, the Buffalo International Film Festival has settled into a four-day format that seems best suited to what it can accomplish. The bulk of the presentations fit into three categories: locally made (or linked) movies, animated films (and documentaries about them), and foreign films that have not otherwise been released in the US.
Among the animated films, a highlight is The Thief and the Cobbler (Saturday, 4pm), a hand-drawn epic that represents decades of work on the part of master animator Richard Williams, winner of two Academy Awards whose work includes Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the opening sequences of the Pink Panther movies. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it: Despite the huge amount of work Williams and his staff put into it, the project was eventually taken out of his hands and finished by others. The fascinating and frustrating story behind The Thief and the Cobbler is told in the documentary Persistence of Vision (Friday, 7pm).
Do you know anyone who doesn’t love Calvin and Hobbes, the daily comic strip that ran in many newspapers from 1985 until 1995, when artist Bill Watterson decided he had done everything he wanted to do with it and ceased publication? The strip’s cult has only grown since then, at least partly because of Watterson’s Salinger-esque reclusiveness. The documentary Dear Mr. Watterson includes no footage of or interviews with its subject or anyone he knows, offering instead an appreciation of what will probably remain the last great comic strip. Of special interest are interviews with other popular comic strip artists, people you don’t often see. It screens Sunday at 2:30pm.
Among the locally made features are two dramas. Brandonwood (Friday, 9pm) follows four years in the relationship of a couple (Kyle Perry, Kathleen Denekee) who meet at the end of high school and try to remain together despite increasingly divergent life paths. Confidently directed by John Fink from UB’s Department of Media Study, it features strong acting in a film hurt only by what seemed to me an unsatisfyingly melodramatic ending. Buffalo Boys (Saturday, 9pm), which received funding from the NYS Tax Incentive for Filmmakers, makes excellent use of Western New York locations for a gritty fact-based story about teenagers who turn to crime when they can’t handle family problems.
If you’re a fan of the television series How I Met Your Mother, you’ve probably seen actress Charlene Amoia, who has a recurring role as the waitress Wendy. A native of Buffalo, she has dozens of other film and television credits, including Glee, House, Nip/Tuck, and Switched at Birth. She will be at BIFF to present her short film “She,” in which she plays a woman eased through the pain of a broken relationship by a homeless dog.
As always, BIFF’s selection of foreign films includes some strange and intriguing offerings. The Turkish drama When Derin Falls (Sunday, 12:30pm) sparked controversy when the head juror of that country’s most important film festival tried to have it banned on grounds of immorality because it concerned incest. That is at best a subliminal theme in a claustrophobic, unsettling story of a young girl’s relationship with her depressed mother and her withdrawn father, who doesn’t know what to do with her after the mother’s death.
This year’s festival also includes a sidebar tribute to the Mexican actress Maria Felix, who from the 1940s through the 1960s appeared in a series of melodramas as characters that Joan Crawford or Bette Davis would have loved to play. Four of her films will be screened at Casa de Arte on Elmwood Avenue, one per evening at 6:30pm, all free and open to the public.
Sunday’s closing film will be presented at the Allendale Theater on Allen Street, which is appropriate because it’s subject is the children’s theater group housed there. Long Live TOY: Defending Children’s Theatre in the Nickel City documents the ongoing struggles of the Theater of Youth in its 40th season to serve the Buffalo community despite county funding cuts.
For full details on films and ordering tickets, visit www.buffalofilmfestival.com.
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