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by Jordan Canahai
2015 Buffalo International Film Festival Relaunches this Weekend
Filmmakers and movie lovers in the Queen City have had much cause for excitement throughout 2015, and this weekend presents an occasion for further celebration—the Buffalo International Film Festival has a new face and a new home. Earlier this year, filmmaker and Buffalo native Ray Guarnieri was appointed the next Executive Director of BIFF after the passing of founder and former director Edward Summer. Dedicated to honoring the legacy of the late Summer, Guarnieri has brought on a full staff of volunteers—all young, energetic members of the filmmaking community in Western New York to help ensure that Buffalo has a great film festival for years to come. “Our first order of business has been rebranding the festival into one that is more appealing and accessible to a wider, more diverse audience,” said Guarnieri.
So far BIFF has made significant strides toward this goal. After a successful crowd funding campaign on the popular IndieGoGo platform, they made their move into the historic North Park Theatre where this year they will show 24 feature films and 36 short films on October 16th, 17th, and 18th. “This new effort is not just about a new venue. It’s about selecting films every year that are top quality and exciting to Western New Yorkers,” said Guarnieri.
One of the first staff members brought on was filmmaker John Fink as Festival Programmer. Over the last six months he and over a dozen volunteer reviewers have been pouring through hundreds of submissions and film rosters of distribution companies and other top festivals to find the best selections of films for this year’s program. “We’re about to launch our biggest and best BIFF yet, we’re bringing great films and noteworthy guests from all over the world to the 716,” said Fink.
The new BIFF administration has some pretty lofty goals. Over the course of the next decade, they want to be competing with the top festivals in North America. They are, of course, referring to majors like the Toronto International Film Festival, which brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to its streets every year. Guarnieri often speaks about the potential benefits of a film festival of this caliber for a city. “We often think of film festivals as opportunities for audiences to see the best movies of the year before they’re officially released, or as platforms for filmmakers to promote their work. Both are true, but the potential of a film festival is much more than that. BIFF is an opportunity to elevate the Western New York film industry and the general image of Buffalo in the eyes of the larger American and international film community. It’s an opportunity to grab the attention of the major industry press, and illuminate the inherent advantages of showing and making films here. It’s an opportunity to grow our economy and workforce. So far, that is what we aim to achieve. And as we grow so will our ambitions.”
In addition to these efforts, BIFF is also focused on bolstering underrepresented voices in the entertainment industry. This year they will host the first all-female industry panel in the history of film festivals in Buffalo. Guests include Rochester Film Commissioner Nora Brown, film distributor Crystal Calhan, and filmmaker Anna Scime. “We’re thrilled to host this special panel as well as seven feature films directed by women in our program this year. All of these guests have experience working in larger markets,” said Tilke Hill, the festival’s Diversity Development Director.
Also new to BIFF this year will be the 2015 Gold Bison awards. Hand carved from a single piece of black walnut by local artist Lawrence Kinney, the Gold Bison Awards capture the spirit of the new direction BIFF is taking and will be part of an ongoing tradition. Categories include Best Short Film, Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best WNY Student Film, Best WNY Short, Best WNY Feature, Best Animated Film, and Audience Choice Award.
Whether one is a causal moviegoer or a die-hard cinephile, this year’s diverse line-up along with all the festivities offered by BIFF are sure to provide something for audiences of all tastes and demographics to appreciate. It’s safe to say that although Mr. Summer may no longer be with us, the festival that he created and its impact on our region’s film community will continue to enrich the arts and culture of Buffalo and the surrounding regions for many years to come.
Prescient (World Premiere)—Friday (10/16), 10pm at the North Park Theatre
After inadvertently causing his lover’s death, a guilt-ridden geneticist (Michael Piccirilli) begins an obsessive hunt for the gene that triggers his previsions of impending deaths in this smart, innovative sci-fi drama filmed in Buffalo’s medical corridor from director Hann-Shi Lem. Prescient was shot in dozens of locations all over Buffalo and employed many local filmmakers and talent.
The Seventh Fire (NY State Premiere)—Saturday (10/17), 3pm at the North Park Theatre
Terrence Malick presents this haunting and visually arresting nonfiction film about the gang crisis in Indian Country by Jack Pettibone Riccobono. When Rob Brown, a Native American gang leader on a remote Minnesota reservation, is sentenced to prison for a fifth time, he must confront his role in bringing violent drug culture into his beloved Ojibwe community.
Abby Singer/Songwriter (WNY Premiere)—Saturday (10/17), 6:30pm at the Screening Room
Inspired by Jamie Block’s White Caps on the Hudson album, Block, a divorced stockbroker has-been who was once an indie-rock star signed to Capitol Records meets Onur Tukel, a hapless middle-aged filmmaker who has just moved to Brooklyn. Blending documentary and narrative Tukel and Block’s collaboration is hilarious and heartfelt exploring the lost art of the music video to tell the story of a comeback, a crack-up and a breakthrough. Jamie Block will also be in town to perform songs from his new album at Mac’s on Hertel Ave (right across from The North Park) at 9pm on Saturday October 17th.blog comments powered by Disqus
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