BNFF 2012 Preview

We all hoped spring would bring with it a nice long playoff run for the Buffalo Sabres, but it wasn't meant to be. Instead, April finds a great week of independent film at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival. There is plenty on tap to give you a reason to travel downtown to the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center (639 Main St. Buffalo, NY 14203) and Niagara Falls to the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main Street  Niagara Falls, NY 14305).

An eclectic mix of feature-leangth films, documentaries, short blocks, student films, and music videos fill the packed schedule from afternoon until night each day from April 13 to 21. Spree had the pleasure of checking many out beforehand and very few disappointed. Don't expect big budget, Hollywood-scale work, but do look for some inventive storytelling, informative research, and a few familiar faces to go with the newcomers you may end up seeing more of in the future.

There is also always a chance to catch a glimpse of filmmakers and cast at every screening. Just because you may not recognize their faces or names doesn't mean they are any less interesting to pose a question to or engage in a great film-lover's conversation. I've had the pleasure of seeing many intriguing people during the festival and hope to continue that trend this year.

For a little Buffalo flavor, definitely check out the Shorts Block B at 3 p.m. on Saturday the 14th for Tarantula Moonrocket (REVIEW) and Dan Zimmerman: Musician, Painter, Cosmic Patriot (REVIEW) at 4 p.m. on Monday the 16th. Tarantula sees Buffalo transplant Jack Hunter portray an aging metal musician in a film that allows him to show the range I saw a few years back on the Irish Classical Theatre stage in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He unfortunately won't be able to attend the screening as he'll be in Los Angeles, but definitely come out and show some support.

Dan Zimmmerman, on-the-other-hand, is a great little documentary about the titular surrealist and his art that's directed by Squeaky Wheel cofounder Thomas P. Florek. And while not from Buffalo, Zimmerman will be followed by a gorgeous look at the Romaine River in Quebec and its destruction for the sake of hydro-electric power entitled Seeking the Current (REVIEW).

From there, I advise you to just stop by the Market Arcade when you can and experience some cinematic gems you may never have the chance to see again. Some of the best films I've watched in the five years attending the festival have been a result of simply going in and liking the name or description after leafing through the program guide. Stop by the festival table, read some of the postcards, and settle in for the day.

Here are some highlights I can recommend:

Friday, April 13th:
The only work I have seen from opening night is the short film Beware Pickpocket (REVIEW) screening as part of Shorts Block A at 8 p.m. A funny and sad look at a con man, the lead performance by David Amito is fantastic.

Saturday, April 14th:
The day starts at 2 p.m. with a heartwarming documentary entitled Ordinary Joe (REVIEW) about a blue collar Vietnam veteran named Joe Sciacca who returns to the country each year in order to help the underprivleged. Sciacca should be in attendance and it would be a real treat if a brief Q&A commences afterwards. From there comes the aforementioned Tarantula Moonrocket in the 3 p.m. Shorts Block, the quirky indie Moon Point at 4 p.m., the impressively well-made Indian production Aloneliness (REVIEW) inside Student Block A at 6 p.m., and the feature-length film Homecoming starring "Heroes'" Brea Grant. This could definitely be the line-up of the festival.

Tuesday, April 17th:
One of the best things I saw amongst the many screeners received was the environmental documentary YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip (REVIEW), screening at 6 p.m. Yes, it deals with "going green" and the like while following its three filmmakers traveling the country in search of making it a better place for the coming generation, but it's also very humorous. They really make learning fun—and that's rare.

Wednesday, April 18th:
Check out two foreign films (only the second is subtitled) for some comedy and drama. First up is Australia's parody of today's reality TV sensations with 10Terrorists! (REVIEW) at 8 p.m. with actress Ratidzo Mambo in attendance. Dealing with the fictional show Who Wants to be a Terrorist, there is a chance for real laughs here. At 10 p.m. is the German thriller Sleeping Dogs which appears to be an enthralling study of a father and son.

Thursday, April 19th:
For fans of buddy comedies, 10 p.m. sees a screening of The Pact (REVIEW) about two brothers forsaking women for a full year in order to find themselves. With a couple funny performances and a sweet tale underlying their antics, the film is a perfect way to end your evening with a smile.

Friday, April 20th:
If you're free at 4 p.m., definitely take a chance on Shorts Block E. Containing both Shuffle (REVIEW) and Caught (REVIEW), you'll be receiving two effective dramas dealing with tragic leads looking to escape the past. The first is about a mob hitman wanting out and the second a rec league softball catcher giving her family one last shot at showing their compassion. Writer/star of Caught Lori Martini should be in attendance.

The festival closes at the Rapids Theatre on April 21st with a double feature including the touching portrait of Kaziah: The Goat Woman (REVIEW) and the documentary If I Should Fall. Kaziah is a magnificent woman who has been painting our fallen soldiers in the Middle East to immortalize each hero for their families. And while they screen during the closing night award ceremony, don't be shy about stopping by early to see the Turkish film Departures (REVIEW) as part of the 1 p.m Shorts Block F. One of my favorite shorts of the fest, it will make you question your preconceptions and introduce you to the wonderful Gamze Ceylon at its center.

Have a great time at the movies!

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