The Brock University Film Series offers St. Catharines a cinema experience like no other in the city. BUFS boasts some of the best international and independent films plucked from festivals, many of which you probably wouldn’t hear of anywhere else.
This year, BUFS has moved to The Film House at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, with screenings held every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. for the next 11 weeks. Some of the films that have already been announced feature a number of familiar faces, including Charlie Hunnam and Ethan Hawke. These aren’t just the typical mainstream movies you could find anywhere else; they’re movies that deserve to be seen. BUFS has often made sure their film selection is more interesting and unique than you would find at your average cinema. It’s an important attempt to make sure the art of cinema stays alive and respected.
While 11 weeks may seem like no time at all, those who curate BUFS still managed to squeeze as much variety as possible out of the short time period. In the first six weeks alone, we’re seeing a documentary, a remake of a 1973 film and a performance from Lakeith Stanfield that critics are already predicting to see honoured at the Oscars.
This year’s Film Series kicked off with Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, which was shown on September 20. Artfully made with an important message, this film was a strong start to the series. Starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried, the film follows a priest struggling with questions of morality. First Reformed asks tough questions about religion and politics, imploring the audience to think critically about what they were watching. It’s a welcome change from the latest summer blockbuster. First Reformed was a fantastic choice to start off the season with, as in the context of BUFS, the movie is a perfect showcase of why films matter. You might be coming for entertainment on a free night, but more likely than not, you’ll be leaving with big ideas rattling around in your brain.
If you missed out on it, there’s still five more weeks to look forward to. This Thursday sees a big change from First Reformed in the form of Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In. Juggling the genres of romance, drama and comedy, it’s described by critics as the chronicling of one woman’s disappointing affairs with numerous men. More than anything, they say, Let the Sunshine In is about the woman at the heart of it all, marking it as rigorous and psychological. For fans of rom-coms who are desperate for a more interesting take on the genre, this isn’t one to be missed.
Next week highlights a film that is almost unarguably the biggest attraction of the first six weeks of BUFS. Sorry to Bother You has been receiving favorable reviews from critics. This film, the directorial debut for rapper-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley, is probably the opposite of what you’d expect from a first attempt at film-making. It’s been said that Sorry to Bother You ties down its often surrealist humour with a serious thesis about oppression in today’s society. The countless positive reviews pouring in are encouraging, especially for fans of Atlanta who have been waiting for Lakeith Stanfield to find the role that launches him into star territory — this very well may be it.
The later entries to the series add even more variety into the mix. There’s Madeline’s Madeline, a coming-of-age drama being praised for an electrifying performance from lead actress Helena Howard. Uniting Sons of Anarchy and Mr. Robot fans the is biographical drama Papillon, a remake of the 1973 classic, this time starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek. Finally, for something completely different, we have the documentary Three Identical Strangers, a twisted true story about triplets separated at birth.
For St. Catharines’ film enthusiasts, BUFS should be an essential. The lineup is intriguing and the films are generally thought-provoking. Even if not all of the films BUFS has to offer jump out at you right away, they’re usually worth a look into.