Niagara Gazette

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March 21, 2008

MOViES: Buffalo Niagara Film Festival looks to build

Local film fans have something to look forward to next week. The Buffalo Niagara Film Festival is back.

This year’s festival runs from Monday through March 29 and kicks off at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Buffalo. North Tonawanda’s Riviera Theatre is another one of the festival’s venues this year, along with Buffalo’s Market Arcade Film & Arts Center.

Festival founder Bill Cowell was happy with last year’s debut. This year, his hopes are even higher.

“The audience is going to be huge,” he said. “The films are incredible. The word has spread ridiculously.”

Cowell, a North Tonawanda resident, has been overwhelmed with responses about this year’s festival, he said.

One of the main draws this year is the opening gala presentation, the 25th anniversary of the filming of “The Natural” in Buffalo. Cast members will be on hand for an interactive session and multimedia event.

Robert Prosky, who played The Judge in “The Natural,” has committed to appear at the event, Cowell said. Hopes are to have Robert Redford there, as well.

“It’s possible,” Cowell said. “At the very least, there will be some video or satellite feed from Redford himself.”

More than 100 full-length and short films will be featured during the six-day festival, and 16 awards will be handed out, Cowell said. The festival will also feature film panels and discussions.

This year, each day of films will be grouped by a general theme, Cowell said. For instance, Monday will feature sports films.

The Riviera will host comedy-themed events Tuesday and sci-fi, fantasy and horror day Thursday. The theater hosted one day of films last year. That day attracted a whole new audience, said Frank Cannata, executive director of the Riviera.

“It brought in people from around the region that had never been to the Riviera Theatre before,” Cannata said. “I think it’s pretty major for the local film scene.”

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