Learning from Buffalo
“Provokes a historical and sociological reflection on the transformations of Buffalo from archives and testimonies...and generates a living portrait of Buffalo, where it’s possible to contrast past and present to understand part of its history through its architecture and culture, its landscapes and urban dynamism.” - desistfilm
- Cinema du Réel
- Anthology Film Archives (NY)
- National Museum of Art (D.C.)
- Buffalo International Film Festival
A multi-faceted study of Buffalo, New York's architectural heritage, this visual essay film captures the city's vanguard past to reflect on its current state of urban distress, as the city struggles with severe economic and racial disparities.
Once a prosperous industrial center bubbling with American ingenuity, the city of Buffalo, New York has long been struggling to stay afloat in a post-industrial, globalized economic reality that has pressured similar cities across the United States with possible bankruptcy. Yet a unique and historically-significant collection of architectural masterpieces can still be found in the city, symbols of a vanished former glory and the promise of modernity the city once embodied.
The city's preservation movement has been hoping to restore and celebrate its heritage. Among Buffalo's distinct landmarks are the Darwin D. Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guaranty Building by Louis Sullivan, and Kleinhans Music Hall by Eliel and Eero Saarinen. While some important buildings, including Wright's Larkin Building, have already been demolished, others require comprehensive restoration work to remain functional. And while the city's architecture is embraced as a national treasure, projects of urban restoration pose an increasingly formidable challenge in a city facing constant economic decline, and remain in competition for resources desperately needed by the the large number of vacant, decaying properties in need of demolition.
Structured around stark visual encounters with Buffalo's architectural landscape, Rima Yamazaki's observational survey reveals a city plagued by departing industries, a plethora of vacant properties, and severe economic and racial disparities. Learning from Buffalo captures the city's grace and demise in equal measure. And by including interviews with locals and tracing sociological insights in historical documents, it also evokes a sense of urban disintegration and municipal disarray that connects to a familiar, if not uniquely, American narrative.
100 Minutes | English.
Directed by: Rima Yamazaki
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