I love to support a new film festival, especially an ambitious one, and the Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF) certainly falls under that designation. The fest debuted a few weeks ago and apparently drew more than 10,000 people. That’s a fine tally, and it likely means NIFF will be back. Here is a short preview I wrote for the Buffalo news “Gusto” blog.
The first Niagara Integrated Film Festival might not have the flashiest name, but it is hard to top the location. Running from June 19 to 22, NIFF will take place in and around the Niagara Wine Region, with a number of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries serving as venues. (Other venues include two locations in St. Catherines.)
The four-day event is the brainchild of Toronto International Film Festival co-founder Bill Marshall, and his ambitious plan seeks to connect film, food and wine. The festival website, www.niagarafilmfest.com, has a full rundown of the unique events, dinners and screenings on tap.
Yes, the location is lovely, we know the wines will be wonderful, but what of the films? It is a nice mix of features and shorts, including a special Mary Pickford program featuring the silent icon’s recently discovered “Their First Misunderstanding.” (Pickford was born in Toronto.)
A few additional highlights include:
“Love Is Strange”: John Lithgow and Alfred Molina received huge praise when director Ira Sachs’s drama about a same-sex couple forced to live apart premiered at last winter’s Sundance Film Festival. Sachs, the consistently interesting filmmaker behind 2012’s “Keep the Lights On,” will hold a Skype Q&A following the film’s June 21 screening.
“Frank”: Yes, “Frank” is the one in which Michael Fassbender wears a giant, weird, fake head. He plays the lead singer of a dysfunctional band in this Sundance breakout, which is directed by Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson.
“God Help the Girl”: The songs of twee indie icons Belle and Sebastian always have felt vaguely cinematic, often telling short, witty stories of lovelorn, bookish individuals. It is no surprise, then, that band leader Stuart Murdoch has written and directed a musical, “God Help the Girl.” The reaction to this one so far has been … mixed, at best. But for Belle and Sebastian fans, “God Help the Girl” could not seem more intriguing.
NIFF is a festival to keep an eye on. Closer to Buffalo than TIFF and certainly more ambitious than any Buffalo-based fests, it could be a welcome addition for film lovers.