It wasn’t Hollywood. It was Hertel Avenue.
It wasn’t a major studio production. It was an independent film.
It wasn’t shot on the West Coast. It was filmed mostly in Western New York over a four-year period with a mostly local cast and crew of 500.
But the atmosphere was electric Saturday afternoon as a well-dressed crowd of more than 500 cast, crew and friends gathered for a “public wrap party” in the North Park Theatre for their first viewing of “Let Them Have Their Way.”
Cast members were excited as they saw themselves on screen and their names in the credits at the end of the 2½-hour film.
“Yeah! I exist,” Raquel Long of the City of Tonawanda said to her friend and fellow cast member, Brenda Richert, as the credits rolled.
Long, who played an angry announcer, said she was pleased with the way the film turned out. Despite the negativity her character portrayed, she said the film was touching and “very human.”
Her friend, who played a TV and radio personality, agreed.
The reviews were generally positive, with the audience applauding as the film ended to the strains of Bobby Rydell’s 1960s version of “Volaré.”
As they exited the recently restored theater to attend a cast party in the nearby Shadow Lounge, audience members described the production as “outstanding” and “interesting.”
The film, a joint effort of the Buffalo-based Monolopolus Productions and the New York City-based Casa de Luz production house, looks at six characters who try to “navigate a world in which inflexible rationality, programmatic living, political polarization and consumerism compete against desires for warmth and human connectedness.”
In other words, it’s about the eternal conflict between the brain and the heart, or rationality and emotion, said film director Dien Vo.
The Kansas native, who is working on a master’s degree in fine arts at the University at Buffalo and who teaches at the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech, said the film was not the final cut.
He said it needs to be cleaned up before it is released. He plans to show it at film festivals.
The director said the music in the film, ranging from familiar classical pieces such as Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” to popular classics like “Volaré” and “I’ll Never Smile Again,” reflects the movie’s schizophrenic feeling.
Ryan Monolopolus, the producer and assistant director, said the film features nearly 50 Western New York locations, including Ellicott Square in downtown Buffalo and UB’s North Campus in Amherst, as well as Virginia and New York City.
It also features hundreds of Western New York actors, including four of the six main characters: Guy Gane III, Adah Hagen, Elizabeth Oddy and Doug Hendershot III.
The other two main characters are portrayed by New York City actors Evgenya Radoliva and Ashley Leach.
Monolopolus said the production shows what Buffalo can do in film, describing it as part of a resurgence in art films that are accessible to the public.