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A preview of the 2011 Buffalo Niagara Film Festival

The Buffalo Niagara Film Festival (April 8–17) has hit year number five—not a small feat when you consider the amount of work that goes into pulling such an event off. I've attended the past three years and have to say that it's gotten better each and every time. From the level of cinema, the recognition of filmmakers in attendance, and the overall day-to-day handling of the festival itself, the experience is pretty great when you consider the $10 ticket price per movie (it's even cheaper if you partake in a multi-pass). That's little more than a Regal showing, and you get a film that you may never have the opportunity to see on the big screen again.

This year's venues are the Market Arcade Theatre in Buffalo and the Rapids Theatre in Niagara Falls. The Rapids will hold the final weekend of events, April 15–17, and hosts Sunday's award ceremony and after-party featuring America's Got Talent's Kaitlyn Maher. She isn't the only guaranteed guest, however, since Buffalo's own William Fichtner (Prison Break, Armageddon, The Dark Knight) will be coming on April 9 to become the first recipient of a BNFF “Walk Of Fame” star.

While the star power may bring out the crowds for a glimpse of celebrity, you shouldn't forget what should be a great week-plus of quality programming. Included on the schedule is another documentary on autism to follow last year's Autism: Made in the U.S.A. called Bad IQ; More Than Me, a film depicting Jim Breuer's stand-up tour in 2008, his first in six years (the comedian is coming for an introduction and post screening Q&A); and the chance for appearances by Jay Leno (for the documentary Boys of Bonneville: On a Ribbon of Salt) and former president Jimmy Carter (for Foul Water, Fiery Serpent).

I'm going to try and be there as often as I can, checking out some films, meeting some of the artists who crafted them, and just having a good time. A few on my "must-see" list include the opening night presentation (April 8 at the Market Arcade) of The Floating Shadow; April 8th's The Beast Pageant from Rochester's Albert Birney and Jon Moses; April 9th's evening screening of White Knuckles; and April 10th's A Lonely Place for Dying, featuring Michael Wincott and James Cromwell.

And the list of course continues with a packed schedule of documentaries, fiction features, short film blocks, and music videos. For full details and ticket information, visit the festival's official website at www.buffaloniagarafilmfestival.com. So come down to the red carpet and open your eyes to great work Hollywood might refuse to let shine on the big screen, but that Bill Cowell and the BNFF refrain from letting languish in the shadows.

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