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Buffalo International Film Festival this weekend

If you’ve picked up this issue the day it hits the street, you’re in time to see the opening film of this year’s Buffalo International Film Festival, Modworld, a documentary about the odd artifacts and odder employees to be found at the gift shop/art boutique of the title in New York’s East Village. (Or at least it was, until owner Rick Smith packed up and moved it to his home town, a city between two Great Lakes named Buffalo.)

And if you’re reading this on Friday, there’s still a weekend of intriguing films to see at this, the eighth edition of the BIFF, unspooling at the Screening Room in Amherst.

This year’s festival is dominated by documentaries, including two which recently premiered at Toronto’s Hot Docs, the non-fiction equivalent of TIFF.

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (Sat 1pm) follows the tragic story of the computer prodigy, developer of RSS, Creative Commons and Reddit, who committed suicide after years of government prosecution under archaic laws. The case is too complicated to be summarized quickly, but there’s little doubt that he was guilty of the crimes with which he was charged. Brian Knappenberger’s film makes a strong case for freedom of information (Swartz could be the poster boy for net neutrality) and against a legislative system that is far too inflexible in a rapidly changing world.

If you’re exited at the recent news that there will be new episodes of Twin Peaks next year, you’ll feel right at home in Chadron, Nebraska, the small town that is the setting of another Hot Docs discovery, likely Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere (Fri 7pm). It was adapted from the book by Poe Ballentine, an inquiry into the mysterious death of a local mathematics professor. Every oddball in town has an opinion on what might have happened, and this is a town with more than its share of oddballs—including Ballentine, whose own life history becomes a part of the story.

The name isn’t as familiar as Joe Strummer or Johnny Rotten, but Bruno Wizard assumes a place in the history of British punk in The Heart of Bruno Wizard (Sat 3pm). A contemporary of The Jam, Generation X and Wire, the singer stayed true to his anti-establishment beliefs by refusing any recording contracts, developing a reputation as a “mystery man.” This screening will be the film’s North American premiere.

Whatever our local troubles may be, there are communities that are worse off. One of them is Stockton California, beset by financial woes and crime rates that rival Afghanistan. From this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, True Son (Sat 7pm) follows the campaign of 22-year-old Michael Tubbs, a recent college graduate, for a place on Stockton’s city council, determined that he could do something to help. Westfield: Struggles to Success (Sat 5pm) is a remembrance of a community built for black employees of an Alabama U.S. Steel plant. The home of Willie Mays, Westfield was demolished in 1963, but people who grew up there remember it as a place where they were taught that opportunity was theirs if they set their sights on it.

As for non-documentaries, the highlight of this year’s festival looks to be the premiere of Give & Take (Sat 9pm), filmed in Buffalo from a script by veteran local actress Gail Golden. The comedy looks at the struggles of an aspiring young actress when her husband relocates them from Manhattan to his hometown of Buffalo. The screening will be followed by a Q&A and reception with Golden and director Scott Andrew Kurchak.

Brian DePalma observers will forever argue about the relative place of Phantom of the Paradise (Fri 9pm) in his canon, but his 1974 updating of the Faust story into a rock music setting has no lack of ardent fans. The newly restored print should make it easy for the few of you who know what he looks like to spot the Buffalonian in the cast: that’s studio drummer par excellence Gary Mallaber as—what else?—the drummer of the film’s bands the Juicy Fruits, the Beach Bums, and The Undeads.

As in recent years, BIFF will host a series of classic Mexican films each evening at Casa de Arte, 141 Elmwood. The focus this year is on actor Jorge Negrete, who will be seen in La Madrina Del Diablo (1937), Historia de un Gran Amor (1942) and El Gran Casino (1947, directed by Luis Buñuel). These films are in Spanish with English subtitles, and are free and open to the public.

If you are interested in making movies as much as watching them, BIFF will offer a workshop on the New York State Film Tax Credit, a useful financial opportunity for cash-conscious producers. It will be held at 1pm Sunday at the Pierce Arrow Film Arts Center, 1685 Elmwood Avenue, and will feature a presentation from the Buffalo Niagara Film Office and input from local filmmakers who have benefited from it. Site tours of the Pierce Arrow facilities will also be included.

For a full schedule and ticket information, visit

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