By Liv Ingram
The Calgary Underground Film Festival is dedicated to showcasing fringe films that defy convention. The festival features films from a variety of genres including horror, sci-fi and thrillers to comedies, documentaries and music-related films. This year’s festival features a lineup of over 30 films — many of which will be making their Albertan premieres at the festival.
Festival director Brenda Lieberman says CUFF strives to provide a unique theatre-going experience with its diverse programming.
“Our main focus is to look for films that we feel are new, innovative, provocative, boundary pushing — contemporary independent films from around the world. We’re looking for some unique genre films. We’re looking for some up-and-coming, emerging directors,” Lieberman says. “But overall, we just want to make sure that we’ve got some absurdist, some fantasy, some sci-fi, some horror, some comedy, so we definitely wanted to make sure we’ve got something for everybody.”
The festival opens with Frank, a comedy-drama starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Micheal Fassbender as a quirky musician who lives his life wearing an over-sized papier-mâché head. Other films include Asphalt Watches, an animated Canadian psychedelic road movie; The Machine, a futuristic pro-science, anti-war Cold War story featuring a synthy John Carpenter-esque score; Vannin’, a documentary about van enthusiasts who keep the 1970s dream alive; and a host of other weird, wacky and delightful films that you’ll likely not see anywhere else.
With such an eclectic mix of cinema, Lieberman says it can be difficult to classify the films under any one genre or theme.
“We actually never really feel like we have a theme because we do want the diversity and wide range of subjects and genres,” Lieberman says. “But we definitely have more Asian and martial arts this year, which is not something that happens every year. We have more animation and art related stuff, so that is also a bonus.”
CUFF features the Canadian premiere of the highly anticipated Indonesian martial arts film The Raid 2, which is a follow up to director Gareth Evan’s 2011 smash hit The Raid. The film claims to have more jaw-dropping action than Hollywood’s entire summer slate.
Japanese film R100 from director Hitoshi Matsumoto is making its Canadian premiere at CUFF. The film centres around Takafumi Katayama, a lonely salaryman who signs a contract with an S&M agency specializing in random acts of public sadist humiliation. While he initially finds this invigorating, Takafumi soon discovers that he is unable to end his contract with the agency and finds himself pursued by a gang of ruthless dominatrices.The title R100 references Japan’s movie ratings R-15 and R-18, suggesting that no one under 100 should be permitted to watch this film.
While these mark new additions to the CUFF roster, the program also features some well-known festival favourites. A returning audience favourite is the Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal Cartoon Party, a three-hour vintage cartoon extravaganza, featuring a secret line-up of cartoons from the ’60s through the ’80s — complete with vintage commercials and public service announcements.
“That one has got people who come and bring their kids, to older people who come dressed up in their pyjamas reliving their youth. There is absolutely every age group and demographic there and it’s a lot of fun. Some people bring their own bowls [for cereal], some people use the ones we provide, some people just really nerd out to it,” says Lieberman.
Along with an eclectic mix of cartoons, Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal Cartoon Party features a wide variety of cereals in an all-you-can-eat buffet.
“We’ve been collecting cereal for the last six months from the States. So we do all the Canadian sugar cereals and then we’ve got some wacky ones,” says Lieberman. From the long-discontinued, but temporarily resurrected Fruity Yummy Mummy, to Fruity Pebbles with Pop Rocks, to gluten-free Cocoa Pebbles, the Cartoon Party has a sugary treat for every cereal lover — and can be enjoyed with milk or soy. Due to the popularity of the Cartoon Party in previous years, the event has been extended to two theatres.