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Locally Produced Kung-Ku Film to Debut in Buffalo

Buffalo filmmakers Matt Lord and Joe Giambra of Mighty Niagara Productions, in association with Jiang Hu Cinema, are excited to debut their new short film, Return of the Hill Kings, within the coming weeks. The 20 minute action-comedy heavily influenced by 70s kung-fu flicks, arcade fighting games, and Japanese anime, was produced independently throughout Buffalo using a cast and crew of entirely local talent.

Both a send-up and an affectionate homage to the genre, Return of the Hill Kings centers around a group of childhood friends who go to extraordinary lengths honoring a sacred oath from their youth to convene once a year at their old neighborhood stomping grounds to do battle in the most epic game of king of the hill ever conceived; an explosive melee of martial arts where honor, glory, and the ultimate bragging rights are at stake.

“We wanted to make it as ridiculous and over the top as possible” said the film’s star Lamont Bellsarios—Buffalo actor, martial artist, stand-up comic, and all-around badass. Trained as a martial artist from a young age, the South-American born Bellsarios cites many of the all time great martial artists as his personal heroes, among them Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Sonny Chiba, and David Carradine.

Having moved to Southeast Asia after college, Bellsarios lived also throughout many states in the European Union (where he adopted his distinct English accent) before finally arriving in Western New York, all while acting on stage and in film in some capacity for over 20 years. In recent years he has also performed stand up comedy in clubs throughout Buffalo and Western New York., as well as jamming with various bands and on recordings as a studio musician. Through his own Jiang Hu Cinema, he has also been gaining experience in various behind the scenes aspects of filmmaking and production, including serving as editor on Return of the Hill Kings.

“Without any real budget, it was an all volunteer production, made up of a small but dedicated group of talent and shot over a relatively short period of two weeks,” said Bellsarios of the experience filming Return of the Hill Kings. “Actors supplied their own costumes, which influenced their characters’ personalities. Obviously I was 70s kung-fu guy (laughs).”

Some of Bellsarios co-stars in the film include Buffalo actors Alex Sloan McBryde, Jason John Beebe, Bryan Ball, Michael Paul Will, Mike Pitts, Eric Bluff, Scott Wadell, Naheem Fernandez, Kai Fernandez, Jason Jurewicz, John Lehman, James Williams, John Gerber, and Sherri Lyn Litz.

“It was a great experience to work with everyone” said Bellsarios. “Working on smaller productions you get to meet and collaborate with people who are there not for financial gain, but because they’re really passionate about filmmaking, and those are the people that are going to be the reason why the filmmaking community in Buffalo will continue to grow stronger and thrive.”

Directors Matt Lord and Joe Giambra echoed Bellsarios statements. “We had a great experience filming Return of the Hill Kings and are more than happy with the final product. It proves that independent filmmakers don’t need big crews or lots of money to make something truly worthwhile. When we began production on the project we didn’t know what exactly to expect, but as filming progressed the greatest pleasure came from having such a great cast and crew on hand, all who were able to offer many great ideas and help create an end product that was far more than the sum of its parts. For them I’d like to offer many thanks for making Return of the Hill Kings better than we could have ever imagine.”

Mighty Niagara Productions is a local production studio responsible for creating original films and commercials, as well as specializing in studio/stage space, location scouting, and set/prop construction. Future projects from Bellsarios and Jiang Hu Cinemas include Supreme Authority, a martial arts/action film to be set in Buffalo which he is currently seeking finance for. Return of the Hill Kings is set to have its free premiere sometime within the coming weeks.

Watch the trailer for Return of the Hill Kings at or here:

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