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Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival opens Thursday

A documentary celebrating the 30th anniversary of the filming of “The Natural” in Buffalo is one of the highlights of the Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival, opening today in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center.

In all, more than 140 movies – feature-length, documentary and short films – will be shown as part of the BNFF, which continues with daily screenings through May 3.

“The Natural: The Best That Ever Was,” a feature-length retrospective directed by festival founder Bill Cowell, will screen at 7 p.m. Friday. Cowell spent the past year interviewing cast and crew members from the film, including stars Robert Redford, Kim Basinger and Wilford Brimley; cinematographer Caleb Deschanel; director Barry Levinson; and composer Randy Newman.

“It was really great,” Cowell said about interviewing the cast and crew in their homes, offices and studios. “These are all great, down-to-earth people. The film had groundbreaking roles for a lot of these actors. It launched many of their careers.”

Those interviewed shared fond memories of “The Natural” and filming in Buffalo, with a particular emphasis on food.

“Everybody loved Buffalo and loved the food and the people here,” Cowell said. “Wilford Brimley, Caleb Deschanel and others loved the beef on weck. One of Kim Basinger’s favorites was spinach bread. They had a blast here.”

Another festival highlight is “Saving General Yang,” screening at 7 tonight. One of the festival’s biggest films as far as budget and name recognition, this 2013 war epic comes from director Ronny Yu, known for such big hits as “Jet Li’s Fearless,” “Freddy vs. Jason” and “Bride of Chucky.”

It’s based on a Chinese legend of the Yang clan, about seven brothers who fought the Khitan army to rescue their father.

A full list of films and screenings can be found at Here are a few other upcoming movies:

Screenings start at 4 p.m. today with “Brave New West” and the Buffalo-made “Nickel City Vandals,” a documentary by Aaron Ferguson that asks the question, “Is graffiti an art or a crime?” At 6 tonight, “A Toys Story: Life, Death & Rock N Roll,” is a documentary by Elmer Ploetz about one of Buffalo’s biggest punk-era bands, the Toys.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, screenings start with “The Wingman,” an award-winning Canadian bromantic comedy from director Jim Garrison.

Buffalo native Amelie Mc- Kendry co-stars in “NYC Rooftop Story,” showing at 9 p.m. Saturday. The film is a romantic comedy about an Ivy League educated writer who contemplates a fateful decision on a rooftop where he meets a gorgeous model. The film was written and directed by Ricardo Catalan Jr.

McKendry, who lives in New York City, also was an associate producer on the film and did all of the marketing and promotions. She will attend the screening with the film’s lead actress, Lana Asanin, and they will take part in a Q&A after the screening.

“William’s Lullaby” is a drama by Toronto filmmaker Nicholas Arnold that explores the grief and depression of a single father struggling to raise his young son. Arnold and lead actor Richard Roy Sutton will be in attendance. It has its U.S. premiere at 5 p.m. Sunday.

“Tough Aint Enough: Conversations with Albert S. Ruddy” is a documentary about two-time Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy, who tells the stories behind his iconic films, including “The Godfather” and “Million Dollar Baby.” It shows at 7 p.m. Sunday.

“Steel Earth,” showing at 6:15 p.m. Monday, is an educational, funny and award-winning docu-series that follows host J. Paris as he travels America’s wilderness and state parks looking for abandoned machines and scrap metals to restore or recycle. The film has been nominated for three regional Emmy Awards.


What: Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival

When: Today through May 3

Where: Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre, 639 Main St.

Tickets: Individual films are $5 (seniors, students, veterans) or $10 general; $25 day pass; $100 week pass; $200 VIP.