Having fun at the Niagara Falls International Film Fest
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Original Article Link – Article By: Michele DeLuca
I love short films.

Good or bad, they don’t take a lot of time but still manage to showcase the colorful crevices of someone’s imagination. The best short films drag you in to their plot, make you feel an emotion of some sort, — like horror, laughter, compassion or wonder — and then quickly close the story-telling window and send you on your way.

Because of my appreciation for celluloid short stories, I particularly enjoy the Niagara Falls International Film Festival which opened Wednesday night with a red carpet and lots of fanfare.

While there have been many wonderful feature films and documentaries being shown throughout the course of the four-day festival at the Regal Niagara Falls — which ends tonight with a big celebration — there are also blocks of short films being screened. On Friday, I spent an hour-and-a-half watching six. Having done this before, I know that in such blocks there are bound to be clunkers. but I saw six wonderful short films on Friday. No clunkers.

Afterward, to my surprise and delight, there was a discussion with three of the filmmakers, led by the festival’s public relations director, John Wildman, a filmmaker himself who also does PR for many other prestigious film festivals.

As someone who hopes to one day make short films, this discussion was an unexpected treat for me. The three filmmakers included two actors who made short films to showcase their skills, and a director who hopes to sell a series from her short film “Airport Run,” starring Brandon Michael Hall, who most recently starred in the TV series “God Friended Me.”

Each filmmaker shared background details. Like the challenges of shooting in New York city traffic for the writer/director of “Airport Run,” Eliana Ujueta, whose short film was about limousine drivers who rob the homes of passengers they’ve driven to the airport, and which showcases the charming Hall.

The actress/writer/producer who created “Tree Game,” which I also viewed, said she had produced the film to showcase her acting skills, kind of like a movie resume. Her film involves a brother and sister reuniting after a terrible tragedy that he took the blame for and highlights a game the siblings used to play prior to their falling out.

Also in the discussion was Jordan Heron, talking about his film “GPS,” about a man attending the funeral of his mom, whose voice comes through the GPS in his car. It was a funny dark-humored film and I enjoyed hearing Heron talk about his own mother — who he said in real life has never told him she loved him…that he could remember — and the comic relief in creating a film in which the voice of his dead mother says “I love you,” through the GPS.

Other short films I saw in the block included:

“Raw,” a short film about a female soldier and the PTSD which nearly destroys her life when she returns home. This film was so well done with battle scenes and all, and the soldier’s struggle so real, that it brought tears to my eyes.

“Lemons,” a weird and little bit scary film about a missionary who knocks on the door of a woman who is strangely connected to his past. There are murders involved and somehow, lemons, but the whole film was weirdly fascinating.

“La Ricetta della Mama,” or “Mama’s Recipe,” from Italy with subtitles, another dark comedy based on a short story by a prominent Italian author, about a hitman who kidnaps a man so he can use the man’s apartment to kill a snitch, but whose success rate is challenged by an unexpected dish sent by the man’s mother.

Today at the film festival, there lots more to see and do. Closing night festivities will culminate with a tribute to Samuel Fuller, a legendary director and writer and a red-carpet gala, all open to the public.

There will also be a blood drive in honor of film festival founder Bill Cowell’s daughter, Alyssa Justine Cowell, who died unexpectedly one year ago, just prior to the start of the first Niagara Falls International Film Festival. Those who give blood at the Regal Niagara Falls, will receive a free ticket to a film festival movie showing. Proceeds of the evening will go to the Alyssa Justine Cowell Youth Foundation.

Festivities begin with a 2 p.m. screening of the animated, family-friendly “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” about a dog who was the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry in World War I.

At 4:45 p.m., there will be a showing of Samuel Fuller’s “The Big Red One,” as part of the celebration of Fuller’s work, with special guests Christa and Samantha Fuller, Michael Schlesinger, Perry Lang, Kelly Ward, Bobby DiCicco, and Robert Carradine.

At 7:30 p.m., the closing night red carpet gala and awards presentation will culminate with the “Icon of the Industry” award, a posthumous tribute to Fuller and family, followed by a Samuel Fuller highlight video, filmmaker awards and presentation of the “Humanitarian Award” to recent Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and WNY hero, David Bellavia, for his actions in the battle of Fallujah.

At 9 p.m. there will be a gala closing night party at the Comfort Suites adjacent to the Regal Niagara Falls cinema and Home Depot plaza.

There are tickets available to all of the above events. So, I’m going to suggest that those who enjoy watching movies might consider spending some time with those who make them.

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