It may come as a surprise to know that Buffalo’s reputation as a center for innovative filmmaking stretches across the globe and dates back more than 50 years. In fact, the history of experimentation and exploration of film at the University at Buffalo is internationally renown.
Halfway around the world in Iran, media artist and filmmaker Mani Mehrvarz had admired the work of Tony Conrad as well as Steina and Woody Vasulka, who were early pioneers of video art and beloved educators in UB’s Department of Media Studies dating back to the 1970s. And it was Conrad who personally encouraged Mehrvarz to apply to the University’s Ph.D. program for Film and Media Study. So, in 2015, Mani arrived in Buffalo, having already established himself in Tehran, where he attended university, as well as in Poland, where he received his Master’s Degree in Intermedia Art. His installations and documentary films had already received international recognition in solo and group exhibitions in Japan, Norway, Poland, Germany, Chile, and India; and now, in Buffalo, New York.
Mehrvarz is also the creative lead and multimedia designer with UB’s Arts Collaboratory. In this capacity, he works with a broad array of local arts organizations and creative individuals including musicians, dancers, visual artists and filmmakers. I sat down with Mani right before he was scheduled for his Ph.D. defense, to talk about his passion for filmmaking as well as his impressions of Buffalo’s cultural community. A self-described “good listener,” he uses filmmaking as a means to expand the borders of mainstream storytelling. “This could be anything from a feature documentary to a short animation,” he said. “Through film, we share oral history, and often untold and unheard stories.”
The founding director of “The Buffalo Documentary Project,” Mani partners with others in producing short films that focus on our city’s diverse population and creative communities. His first project with the Collaboratory premiered in September 2019, with ““Live Your Art,” which showcased women artists in Buffalo. After the success of that film and observing Mani’s process, the Collaboratory’s director, Bronwyn Keenan brought Mani onboard to oversee the creative content that is produced across multiple channels. “Working with Mani is truly a gift,” said Keenan. “His skill and passion are assets that benefit all who collaborate with him.”
“One can find many historical and inspirational individuals in Buffalo’s cultural communities. And there are many young, emerging artists,” said the filmmaker. “And it’s the goal of the Arts Collaboratory to support them and give them a voice to be seen and heard. Working with the Collaboratory has been a joyful experience.”
To see more of Mani Mehrvarz’s work, visit the Buffalo Documentary Project. To learn more about the UB Arts Collaboratory, visit www.ubartscollaboratory.com.
Lead image: Mani Mehrvarz, ‘Live Your Art’ (2019), behind the scene (photo credit: Jacob Vogan)