Hollywood is coming to Buffalo.
Actress Vivica A. Fox, filmmaker Peter McGennis, blues great Magic Slim and dozens of local cast members will walk the red carpet before a screening of the Buffalo-made feature film “Queen City” at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre.
McGennis, a Buffalo native, wrote, directed and stars in “Queen City” as a cop seeking revenge on his father’s death by exposing corruption. Fox plays the jazz singer who helps him. The musical homage also stars an impressive cast of musicians including Susan Tedeschi, James Cotton, Sharon Jones, Maria Muldaur and Allen Toussaint, plus it boasts a cool soundtrack with more than a dozen songs written by McGennis about Buffalo.
“The songs give Buffalo a voice and are a character in the film,” McGennis said. “It’s honoring the struggle of different people and different cross sections of community, so the songs deal with the same subject from different points of view.”
The music was written over a three-year period as the various musicians were available to come to Buffalo. This gave McGennis an advantage for the music to “evolve as a unique layer of the film. I used the long gestation as a way to gain a higher vantage point, to see what the film might also require. I think that use of time gives the film an organic feel.”
Working over time is a bonus afforded to independent filmmakers who are working outside of the studio system.
“You’re not caught in a whirlpool of time and studio deadlines. You can let it [the film] evolve and take a new direction,” he said. “I feel I’m going deeper and deeper into my work. Music has been a vehicle because it taps so much inspiration, so much joy.”
His film is also a way to support Buffalo’s “living history.”
“I certainly find a connection between Buffalo’s history and the blues: an honoring of struggle and the enduring spirit. The film is an intersection of metaphor, history, music, architecture and it shifts from earnest to shenanigan, and that’s the Buffalo that I feel that I lived through,” McGennis said.
“Queen City” was shot entirely in Buffalo and showcases such landmarks as the Colored Musicians Club, the Central Terminal and the Ellicott Square building. It’s the second movie in McGennis’ trilogy about Buffalo that started with the 2009 film “Buffalo Bushido.” He is currently filming the final film, “Bubble Girl,” which McGennis calls a “children’s film tapping into the healing power of the imagination and hope for the future.”
Sunday marks the second Buffalo showing of “Queen City,” The film premiered here Nov. 14 with the musical cast – including the legendary James Cotton, Sharon Jones and Toni Lynn Washington – performing at an after-party jam in the Tralf Music Hall. Sunday’s event, dubbed the “celebrity screening,” is a chance for stars like Fox to attend a Buffalo showing, as well as an opportunity for those who might be home for the holidays to see the film, McGennis said.
He is especially pleased that Fox will return. “It shows she had a good experience here,” McGennis said about his star. “For a lot of these folks, it’s the first time they are in Buffalo and we are ambassadors to our city while they are here.”
McGennis recently had the opportunity to see “Queen City” when it screened on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise to the Caribbean in late October. “I got to see the film playing in front of a non-Buffalo audience. It was an amazing opportunity to sneak in a preview and pretty cool to have the Queen City represented in the Dominican Republic,” McGennis said.
Sunday’s special event will include a performance by the Community Gospel Choir in the Market Arcade lobby at 6:30 p.m. prior to the screening. An after-party concert starts at 9 p.m. in the Hotel @ Lafayette with music by Magic Slim and the Teardrops as part of a “Then & Now” tribute to the hotel – about 20 percent of the film was shot in the hotel before its recent renovation.
Tickets are $30 for both the screening and the after-party through the Market Arcade box office. Tickets for the after-party alone are $20 (Tralf box office, Ticketmaster).