This is the best weekend of the year to remember the irascible Ed Summer. His beloved BIFF (Buffalo International Film Festival) is soaring in the hands of his disciples, flying higher than even he could have catapulted it, were he still alive.
Ed and I, native son and daughter, both returned to Buffalo nearly a decade ago. We met shortly thereafter. His passion for Buffalo rivaled mine, and his vision far exceeded my own. We both saw the immense potential here, but Ed was by far the bigger thinker.
He started BIFF as I revived Buffalo Old Home Week. We collaborated on numerous projects. I will forever remember his momentous discovery that the first purpose-built movie theatre in the world was in the basement of the Ellicott Square Building. He had the landmark Vitascope Theatre declared an International Heritage Site, and I baked the birthday cakes to celebrate the first few anniversaries of the site's discovery.
During a tearful memorial to Ed at Hallwalls during the Opening of BIFF, I recalled his passion for restoring "every blasted theater along the entire New York State Historic Theater Trail." He took me to dozens of dilapidated ruins in Buffalo, pointing to where the marquee had once hung, contemplating ways to find the funding needed to recreate this Trail. Tourism dollars signs shone in his eyes, but the civic pride that would ensue was an even greater prize. He believed that this project would be the key to prosperity on our city's East Side.
I am pleased that Ed lived long enough to see Buffalo's resurgence solidify. By the time he died last November, there was plenty of evidence that his perception of Buffalo's potential had been accurate. Ed Summer did not countenance fools, and there is still no small amount of tomfoolery in this town. His anger and frustration and impatience were never far below the surface. But these were borne of passion and belief, not of malice.
Ed was a tough man to work with, but he was smart and funny and true believer. That his disciples have taken up the reins and are bringing at least one of his dreams to fruition is the best possible way to pay homage to him. Attend at least one of the many BIFF flicks this weekend in memory of Ed Summer. And I will get going on the book he envisioned documenting our community's illustrious theater legacy, starting with the beautifully restored North Park Theater - where BIFF is taking place this weekend. How very appropriate.