Coming from the city of good neighbors, Buffalo NY, I have grown accustomed to losing sports franchises and really good pizza. As a film lover however, Buffalo has let me down more than the Bills. With a modest independent film outlet, art house theaters are few and far between. Sure it’s nice to sit back in a recliner seat at Amherst’s AMC, or enjoy the ultimate superhero experience at the IMAX at Transit Regal, but if you’re looking for some truly vibrant independent cinema, your options are severely limited. Outside of the Tremendous work by the Swiatek Studio with the North Park theater on Hertel ave, and the occasional oscar contender at one of the Dipson Theaters, it’s tough sledding to find yourself a location closer than Toronto for an obscure title like the electrifying ‘Kicks’ which recently opened. If you’re looking for a film like ‘Kicks’ or ‘Shin Godzilla’ then I hope you have a passport or enhanced license and are cool with a two hour drive to watch a two hour film, because Toronto houses the only theaters in a 100 mile radius to find such titles. There does seem to be a small paradigm shift in the works though. There is a resurgence of true artistry, a movement making it’s way to Buffalo. What used to be limited to Allentown, and was once resigned to the labels of the free spirited psychedelic movement, has now cyclically returned under the guise of liberalism and neo hipsterism. Call it whatever you want, but art, in any of its innumerable forms, is essential to any city. Film is one the arts that is slowly making gains here in the city of good neighbors. With The renovation and reopening of North Park, plus the emergence of several other art house venues like The Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center, The Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, and The Amherst Screening Room Cinema Cafe, Western New York is gaining traction in the media arts world.
Queue BIFF.. The Buffalo International Film Festival, which is celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this year, kicks off today, with it’s opening film ‘Out of Innocence’ starting at 12:00 PM Eastern Standard. So why should you care? It’s just a bunch of independent films that you’ve never heard of and will never see in your AMC or Regal, with their recliner seats, and complete lack of proper ambience. The answer to that question is far more complex, and it will appeal to your more imaginative childlike sensibilities. In a world where we’ve become inundated with one blockbuster after the next, crushing us with mind-numbing popcorn consuming action, Festivals like BIFF provide a necessary service. If I had a dime for every person I hear complaining about how overrun we are with sequels and franchises, I would have like two, maybe even three dollars. Okay so there aren’t a lot of film lovers in my neighborhood, and I mostly spend my time begging friends and family and my poor girlfriend to attend screenings and to go to see a constant barrage of movies, but i digress! When I do hear and read the masses complaining about a lack of original content, I find myself grinding my teeth and choking back cackles of angry laughter, hoping to avoid screaming at those complaining, because the reason there isn’t more original content is because you and everyone else doesn’t go see the original independents that are released, so fewer indies open on less and less screens every year. We are seeing a diminishing output on raw artistry in the film community and it’s all our, the consumer’s, fault.
What BIFF does, is establish an outlet for visceral independent film and filmmakers to showcase their projects to audiences, who under normal circumstances, wouldn’t be able to see them. It also provides a unique opportunity to the attending public to actually enjoy real arthouse indie films right in their own backyard, which in Buffalo, is not an opportunity locals are granted often. BIFF is all about artistry, diversity and community collaboration. With an eclectic mix of local talent, and national and international programming that has made it’s way through the vast festival circuit. Originating in 2008, BIFF has become a staple in WNY, making waves similarly to various culturally celebratory festivals. Buffalo is looking for a way to allow budding artists to experiment and grow their craft.
So what about BIFF X? What do we as a community have to look forward to this year? Well the good news is that Bro Knows is going to work tirelessly to bring you coverage from this year’s festival. With the goal of 10 plus films on our plate to discuss, we will bring you reviews for each, on our instagram page, and we will cap it off with a piece detailing our favorites and crowning some awards for you. Below is a list of the films we will be viewing and profiling, along with showtime’s so you know when to watch out on our Instagram, Twitter and FB pages for the reviews and updates. This is an exciting event for us here in our hometown, and we can’t wait. So strap in and prepare for a barrage of updates surrounding film’s you’ve never heard of, at a festival you may or may not be attending! Check out the lineup below, and we look forward to providing you all the updates you never asked for!
Friday 7:30 PM
Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present
Playfully tracing the life and times of experimental filmmaker, minimalist musician, community activist and long time University at Buffalo professor of Media Study Tony Conrad, Tyler Hubby’s comprehensive twenty year project incorporates archival materials, interviews with luminaries of the music and art world including Moby and Tony Oursler, as well as impromptu street performances by Conrad.
Friday 10:15 PM
Alcoholist (playing with The Runner)
Bret Roberts stars as Daniel- an alcoholic who’s hit rock bottom, seeking a violent redemption as he obsessively follows the every move of his neighbor in Lucas Pavetto’s chilling Niagara Falls-lensed morality thriller.
Saturday 1:15 PM
Orchard Park native Tracey B. Wilson stars in Greg Robbins’ tender, funny and uplifting drama as Trew (Wilson), a women floundering through life until she encounters an unexpected visitor (Kevin Sizemore) who alters the course of what is to come.
Saturday 5:15 PM
BIFF Shorts: Experimental
BIFF proudly presents a dynamic lineup of abstract expression, filmic essays and perspectives that don’t play by the rules of narrative filmmaking.
An encounter weekly encounter with elderly couple leads forces a young man to count his blessings in John Rice’s End of Blessings while Mark Jenkin’s hand-processed Branco’s House spins a morality tale of stunning juxtapositions as one man struggles to navigate love, lust, birth, death, infidelity, murder, redemption and a housing crisis in this narrative/essay hybrid shot on 16MM. Testing his own mental and physical limits a man attempts to best his own person record in Manny Mahal’s stunning ode to rigor, The Lift. while the Betschart Brothers search high and low for supernovas and folks legends in Cup of Stars. Inspired by the poems and papers of Jack Cochran, Cochran and Pamela Falkenberg investigate everyday situations from closs connects, cultural changes and ephemera in the cinematic essay The Cost of Living.
The Cost of Living
Cup of Stars
End of Blessings
Saturday 8:15 PM
Women Who Kill
Ingrid Jungermann writes, directs and stars in this hilarious and morbidly curious comedy following the adventures of Morgan (Jungermann) who hosts a podcast with former girlfriend Jean (Ann Carr) where they report, investigate and argue about history’s most (in)famous female serial killers. When a mysterious love interest Simone (Shella Vand) enters Morgan’s life via her local grocery co-op she finds herself unexpectedly vulnerable as she navigates the terrain of a new relationship while investigating a string of mysterious occurrences in her Park Slope neighborhood.
Saturday 10:15 PM
2037: Winter’s Dream
Mankind has caused a new ice age. This nuclear winter forces surviving humans underground. Humanoids, genetically designed to withstand the extreme cold, serve as a labor force on the planet’s surface. When rogue Humanoids incite a violent rebellion, elite soldiers venture into the frozen wastelands to terminate the threat.
Sunday 1:15 PM
A teen thief (Keigian Umi Tang) much choose between fighting back and making a clean break in Randall Lloyd Okita’s suspenseful Toronto-based drama. 94 minutes, US Premiere.
Jack (Sam Donnelly), a small time criminal returns to London after three years in exile and quickly finds himself in over his head in Oliver Nias’ dramatic thriller.
Sunday 9:30 PM
Sinister forces from the past haunt a young couple Ellie (Erin Marie Hogan) and Gavin (Mu-Shaka Benson) as Ellie struggles to move forward in the wake of a family tragedy in Kyle Mecca’s haunting supernatural thriller.
Monday 7:15 PM
A tender, haunting and beautifully crafted by So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain, For Ellen), Lovesong explores the founds of motherhood, childhood, and maturity tracing the relationship of Sarah (Riley Keough) a young mother and her old college friend Mindy (Jena Malone) in this ode to self-discovery and forbidden love. A Strand release.
Monday 9:15 PM
Estranged sons of the same mother return to their childhood home to be with their mother on her deathbed. As the night stretches on old secrets are revealed and old wounds burst open in Chris Sparling’s tense, East Aurora-lensed home invasion thriller.
For more info on BIFF click HERE to visit their website. Follow them on Facebook along with North Park Theater, Hallwalls, and Squeaky Wheel. Support you local arthouse cinema, and purchase your Bison Pass for BIFF now!