Coming Attractions / Cinema Highlights in WNY
WIDOW'S POINT, Post-Colonialism onscreen, and the return of BFS and BIFF—reasons local cinema fans should be excited for 2019
Production still from WIDOW'S POINT
Still by Nancy J. Parisi
January is about reflecting on the past year, but also looking ahead. And for Buffalo cinephiles, there is much to get excited about. Certainly, 2018 had some noteworthy highlights, including the opening of the AMC Market Arcade downtown and the release of the Buffalo-shot First Purge.
What can we expect in 2019? Some wonderful things, kids. Here are some reasons I’m thrilled to start the year.
The release of Gregory Lamberson’s Widow’s Point
There’s no Buffalo-based filmmaker more prolific than Gregory Lamberson, the writer-director known for genre faves like Killer Rack and Johnny Gruesome. (He’s also a co-director of the popular annual Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival.) In 2019, his most high-profile effort to date, Widow’s Point is set for release.
There’s already major buzz around this supernatural horror story starring Craig Shaffer (A River Runs Through It, Nightbreed). Lamberson recently discussed the film, and its recent photo premiere in Entertainment Weekly. (Visit facebook.com/WidowsPointMovie for updates on the film.)
When will audiences have a chance to see Widow’s Point?
We shot in August, and plans to be finished in December or January—a fast turnaround. We’ll make a determination then whether we want to seek distribution right away or try to get into a major festival first.
How exciting was it to premiere photos in Entertainment Weekly?
I've been making and working on low-budget films for thirty-four years now, and this is the first time a project of mine has received that sort of mainstream coverage. The film was also announced in Variety. It's good for the ego, to receive that kind of recognition, but more importantly it should help us secure a good distributor.
You’ve shot many films locally. What made Buffalo the right shooting location for Widow’s Point?
I'm a family man, so I make movies where I live. My wife, Tamar, produced the film, and our daughter Kaelin has a major role in it. I'm also an advocate for filming in Western New York. I want to make films using an all-local crew—the same people I work with when I'm a crew member myself. The locations here are exceptional, and so is the talent pool. This one is set in a haunted lighthouse, and I grew up in Fredonia, so it was a lot of fun shooting at Dunkirk Lighthouse & Veterans Park Museum.
How does Point compare to your previous films?
This is a whole different animal on every level. I adapted the script from a successful book written by other authors, Richard Chizmar and Billy Chizmar. It's a scary ghost story, not a horror comedy, which is what I'm primarily known for. It's also my first film working with a star in the lead role; Craig Sheffer has delivered an incredible performance. So it was a move up, a trend I hope to continue. I view it as a second phase of my career, and it's about time!
Cultivate Cinema Circle tackles Post-Colonialisms
With newsworthy screenings of two early OIivier Assayas films and a year-long exploration of debuts from female filmmakers like Sofia Coppola, there is no disputing that 2018 was a huge year for Cultivate Cinema Circle. The local screening series that began life in 2015 will start 2019 with parts one and two of Patrick Wang’s A Bread Factory on Jan. 19 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center.
CCC’s latest year-long series then kicks off in February. “Post-Colonialisms: World Cinema and Human Consequence” will explore the repercussions of the control and exploitation of colonized people via modern international art cinema. While exact dates are not set, the monthly calendar includes:
Feb. TBA: Western by Valeska Grisebach
Mar. TBA: Testament by John Akomfrah
Apr. TBA: Tabu by Miguel Gomes
May TBA: The Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo
June TBA: White Material by Claire Denis
July TBA: Zama by Lucrecia Martel
Aug. TBA: Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra
Sept. TBA: Jauja by Lisandro Alonso
This is an ambitious and major-league lineup, with acknowledged classics (Algiers, White Material) alongside newer gems (Zama, Jauja) and lesser-known fare. All films will screen at Hallwalls.
“We've curated an artistically challenging, politically imperative and highly diverse program of films for our ‘Post-Colonialisms’ series that we feel is our strongest to date,” says CCC director Jordan M. Smith. “Each of the films selected centers around the repercussions of colonialism in one way or another, letting audiences engage with great works of cinema that wrestle with America's vast history of self-ascribed racial and cultural superiority over the non-Western world while connecting past injustices like cultural imperialism to present issues like racial discrimination.”
See cultivatecinemacircle.com for details and updates.
Buffalo Film Seminars to feature Kubrick, Malick, and … Harry Potter?
It is—wait for it—time for series thirty-eight (!) of the Buffalo Film Seminars. And, as usual, venerable hosts Diane Christian and Bruce Jackson have put together a stunner of a list. Here’s the preliminary schedule:
Jan. 29: Lonesome by Paul Fejös
Feb. 5: A Farewell to Arms by Frank Borsage
Feb. 12: My Man Godfrey by Gregory La Cava
Feb. 19: The African Queen by John Huston
Feb. 26: Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard
Mar. 5: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie by Luis Buñuel
Mar. 12: Doctor Zhivago by David Lean
Mar, 26: Time to Die by Arturo Ripstein
Apr. 2: Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni
Apr. 9: The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino
Apr. 16: The Meaning of Life by Monty Python
Apr. 23: Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick
Apr. 30: Tree of Life by Terrence Malick
May 7: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by Alfonso Cuarón
A lot to unpack here, from Kubrick’s controversial Eyes, a film that is now justifiably praised, to the Roma director Cuarón’s delightful Potter entry, Prizoner of Azkaban. BFS screenings are held at the Dipson Amherst Theatre; visit csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html for more info.
BIFF continues to get bigger and better
Did you catch Thunder Road at October’s Buffalo International Film Festival? It is one of 2018’s essential indies, and the fact that it screened at BIFF demonstrates why the fest has risen to the top of the local scene. Recently, BIFF executive director John J. Fink discussed the 2017 festival, and looked ahead to 2019. (Visit buffalofilm.org throughout the year for updates.)
What made BIFF 2018 such a success?
The 2018 festival saw an increase in attendance, from both filmmakers who joined us from as far away as Lebanon and Germany to present their works, as well as local audiences. BIFF has grown to include new programing lines including youth and our episodic series, which celebrates storytellers working in narrative and documentary projects that unfold over a longer trajectory than a feature or short film. We also added new events for Bison Pass holders which included parties and off-site events in addition to access to all films screening at the festival.
What can attendees expect in 2019?
We will again present around 120 films from approximately twenty to thirty countries over four days in Western New York, and address patron and filmmaker feedback to create a more immersive experience for our guests. Our programing work starts in January with our open call and again members of our team will be traveling to Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca and elsewhere to bring the year’s best films back to Buffalo. I always look forward to a new crop of films that creep into the conversation from parts unknown; it’s possible something that’ll become known as a landmark in American cinema is being shot in a backyard in Hamburg or North Tonawanda right now. Anything can happen, and that’s part of the excitement.
More 2019 news
riverrun Global Film Series to return in 2020
Regular readers know that the riverrun Global Film Series is one of my personal favorites. Each year the series, curated by UB Assistant Professor Tanya Shilina-Conte, chooses a different country as the basis for screenings, music, and special events. Shilina-Conte says riverrun will take a break in 2019, but plans for 2020 are already underway: “Each year the film series presents a specific chapter of world cinema history from a transnational perspective. In 2016 and 2017, the series highlighted Iran and Cuba, while in 2018 the focus was on Mexican cinema and culture. In 2020, the film series hopes to come back with a rich program on Chinese cinema and culture.”
Keep checking facebook.com/riverrunglobalfilmseries for updates throughout the year.
More pitch-black fun from Noir Essentials
Host Alex Weinstein says his Noir Essentials series, held at the Dipson Eastern Hills Cinema, is set for 2019. The next season follows its hugely successful Joel and Ethan Coen series. “We had a great response with our Coen brothers shows; it’s really been a thrill,” says Weinstein. “And part of the joy has been seeing it bridge movie lovers of all kinds—young and old. Noir has so much to offer, and we look forward to exploring more in the new year.”
Schedule news is coming soon to dipsontheatres.com.
Thursday Night Terrors, part six
Terrors organizer Peter Vullo says his hugely popular horror screening series at the Dipson Amherst Theatre will be back for a sixth season. Stay tuned for schedule updates at facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors.
Poppins and Dragon Ball at the North Park
It was a fall of biggies at the North Park Theatre, including Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. January starts with a continued run for Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns (through Jan. 19), while the month will also feature the much-anticipated anime movie Dragon Ball Super: Broly.
As always, visit northparktheatre.org for news and updates.
Christopher Schobert is a film critic whose work has appeared in the Buffalo News and other outlets.