2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Photos courtesy CUFF

CUFF: Get stuck in your seats with screenings straight from the underground

By Matty Hume, April 4 2018 —

Some folks are lucky enough to call a massive film-head a friend — a pal who knows when the festival circuit features are playing at the community theatre and orders the best foreign flicks — and you’re somehow never disappointed by what they make you watch. For one week each year for the past 15 years, everyone has that friend in the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF). Running from April 16–22, CUFF includes 40 flicks from the coolest recesses of the world, plus panels with many of the film’s directors and an independent video game arcade, all at the Globe Cinema.

CUFF co-founder Brenda Lieberman says that despite massive growth over the years, the festival stays true to its programming and spirit.

“Our mandate has always been the same,” she says. “We try and focus more on genre films, slightly more provocative or boundary pushing films in some form or another.”

Cameron Macgowan, a lead programmer for CUFF, has a unique perspective gained from going from a fan in the audience to a curating mind for the festival.

“I fondly remember at the end of a lot of screenings the audience would help pack up the chairs or would chat with the filmmakers or whoever was in attendance. It really had this great vibe that we still try to hold onto today even though we’re getting more popular,” he says. “We’re not a big organization, we’re just a bunch of film nuts who want these weird movies shown in our city and now have the capacity to do so.”


Most of these ‘weird movies’ truly fit the underground moniker, so much so that three of the films screening at CUFF 2018 are world premieres — Paper Year, Slave to the Grind and The Secret Poppo

Paper Year is film from Rebecca Addelman, who hails from Ottawa and boasts writing credits in shows like New Girl and Netflix’s LOVE. Macgowan says Paper Year follows in the same stylistic footprints as LOVE.

“This is kinda based on [Addelman’s] first-hand experience of trying to make it in Los Angeles while being married to kind of a floundering artist. It kind of looks like a romantic comedy on the outside but like the show LOVE, it’s quite dark in a way,” he says. “It’s not really a love story, it’s more about what happens when you try to live with someone who has different baggage from you. A lot of people are calling it a ‘feel-bad romance.’ ”

Slave to the Grind is a documentary that explores the metal music sub-genre of grindcore, a film that Macgowan says is more accessible than people might think.

“You don’t necessarily have to be huge fan of grindcore music to enjoy this,” he says. “It goes out of its way to show what a progressive music movement this is and how inclusive that genre is, despite sounding quite aggressive to the untrained ear.”

Slave to the Grind includes interviews and performances with Calgary grindcore legends WAKE, who will be attending the screening.

The final world premiere is The Secret Poppo, a mind-bending noir adventure from the trio of directors who made Meathead Goes Hogwild, a 2016 CUFF selection. Macgowan says The Secret Poppo is line with fan favourites such as Inherent Vice and The Big Lebowski.

“This is an extremely trippy movie. It’s kind of the most zen-Buddhist take on film noir imaginable,” he says. “They wrote the film around this unique fellow that they met in Chicago. It’s almost more of a documentary about how strange and lovely this man is himself. They improvised this noir movie around his personality.”

Other stand-out films featured at the festival include Revenge, a bloody grindhouse revenge thriller from French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat, and Tigers Are Not Afraid, a modern fairy tale from Mexican filmmaker Issa López.

Tigers Are Not Afraid is a beautiful movie from Mexico. Any fans of The Devil’s Backbone will definitely want to check that out,” Macgowan says. “Her next film is being funded by Guillermo Del Toro, so he’s a big fan of this film.”

In addition to the films themselves, CUFF also features the CUFFcade, a collection of video games from independent developers from Calgary and beyond in custom arcade cabinets.


“The world of independent filming and the world of independent video game making are both very rough around the edges and fuelled by passion,” Macgowan says. “A lot of these games are typically released on Steam, but the opportunity to play multiplayer games in an arcade cabinet beside an actual person who you probably just watched a movie with, it just really brings the sense of community home.”

CUFF runs from April 16–22. For the full schedule, film lineup and tickets, go to calgaryundergroundfilm.org and find physical CUFF programs scattered across the city. Regular admission is $10 per film or $8 with a student ID.

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet