The Buffalo Niagara Film Festival Returns

Buffalo Niagara Film Festival

The Buffalo Niagara Film Festival has grown from its modest beginnings on the University at Buffalo campus in 2007.  Since then, it has become the region’s premier gathering of professionals and dreamers who aspire to bask in the glow of the silver screen.

Bill Cowell, the founder of the BNFF, points to this year’s new venue as proof of the growth and popularity of the Festival.  This year, the Four Seasons Cinema at 2429 Military Road in the City of Niagara Falls will play host to the event, starting on Wednesday, September 20.  The Four Seasons has six screens and all of them will be in use during the Festival.

“Usually we’ve had 100 to 120 films – features, shorts and documentaries,” Mr. Cowell said.  He expects over 250 films in 2017 and the roster is not yet complete.

The BNFF is not just a showcase for cinematic product, but also an educational resource for those willing to share their experience, and those eager to learn.  Seminars and panel discussions will pepper the festivities with film industry professionals.

An acting workshop will be conducted by South Buffalo-born Tom Todoroff, a New York City based acting coach and producer, who has worked with such acclaimed actors as Liam Neeson, Rene Russo, the late Bob Hoskins, among many others. There will be panels discussing entertainment law, cinematography, and screen writing.

The Festival’s newly appointed Executive Director, Rocco LaPenna, has been spearheading a screenwriting contest involving school children.  In partnership with five local schools, Mr. LaPenna developed the five-minute short screenwriting contest.  Enlisting colleagues from graduate school to serve as judges, the group evaluated the students’ submissions, and chose one to be produced and screened at the festival in September.

“The primary goal is to get kids interested and involved in writing,” said Mr. LaPenna. “I’m grateful to every school that participated.”

Since one of the screenplays written by the students is going to be produced, Mr. LaPenna had to raise funds for the production.  He was able to successfully raise $2,500 and will serve as producer, director and as an actor in the finished product.

“It wasn’t my intention to act in the project, but once everyone chose this script, it became one less part to cast,” Mr. LaPenna noted, pointing out that a big part of his job is problem-solving.  Niagara Falls resident Mark Pasqualotto is serving as co-director.  Shooting for the short film is set for the first two weeks of August. 

The list of special guests appearing at the Festival is still being developed, but cult horror actress Lynn Lowry is slated to appear.  Actor Robert Davi, perhaps best known for his roles as a villain, is also scheduled.

The Festival website – – is a work in progress.  But soon it will list the many entrees to be featured at the Festival, along with crucial information related to event scheduling, ticket packages and film listings.

The Buffalo Niagara Film Festival is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, September 20 and will run through Saturday, September 30, 2017.

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