Tony Buba has spent the last 50 years making documentary films about the workers, activists, and “mafia wannabes” in the struggling Rust Belt town of Braddock, Allegheny County, his hometown made prominent in recent years by its former mayor, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
It’s how Buba, 75, earned his moniker: the Bard of Braddock. Now he’s coming to Philly.
Starting at 7 p.m. Thursday, West Philadelphia’s Scribe Video Center will host a series of screenings of Buba’s films as part of its “Body of Work” retrospective program.
In a feature for Topic magazine that details Buba’s talent for building rapport with his on-screen subjects and his conflicted feelings about being an artist among his working-class neighbors, writer Steve Macfarlane says this about Buba’s 1996 Struggles in Steel: A Story of African-American Steel Workers — which Scribe will screen Thursday:
Buba’s work is unique because of the way it combines his “serious political commitment” with a “bizarre comic sensibility,” said Jed Rapfogel, film programmer for the Anthology Film Archive in New York, which celebrated Buba’s work in 2012.
“In a perfect world there would be a sizable portion of American cinema with a deep interest in the lives of working people. Tony is making the sorts of films I wish other people were making, but he doesn’t stint on the comedy, they’re not overly earnest, they reflect his charismatic personality, and yet they’re about things that are pretty tragic.”