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Under the radar films showcased at Calgary Underground Film Festival

By Troy Hasselman, April 4 2019 —

The Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) will return for its 16th edition this year with features, short films and panels playing from morning to night at the Globe Cinema. The festival showcases genre pieces and overlooked titles with work coming from local and international filmmakers.

Abe Forsythe’s Little Monsters, starring Josh Gad and Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, will open the festival on April 22. The movie premiered in the midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival, later screened at South by Southwest (SXSW) and was chosen by the organizers as an opening film as a means of setting the tone for the festival.

“I was at SXSW this month and spoke to the director a bit about where the story came from,” says CUFF lead programmer Brennan Tilley. “It’s the story of his own son, who had severe food allergies and how much his kindergarten teacher meant to him and we felt this hit all of the buttons we were looking for in terms of a CUFF film of it being a great family story with comedy and horror elements. We think it’s the perfect kickoff to our festival.”

Local works are highlighted as well with a number of feature films and short films being showcased. Red Letter Day by local filmmaker, NUTV executive director and CUFF programmer Cameron McGowan is a horror-thriller with a sense of humor. Harpoon is another local horror-comedy that situates a paranoid love triangle on a stranded yacht in the middle of the sea. The festival will also include the local short films Megacrime Unit, I Swallow Your Secrets and Kill ‘Em With Kindness.

Returning features include the Found Footage Festival, which has become a staple of the festival throughout its run. Found Footage will run over two nights and be presented by comedy writers Joe Pickett of The Onion and Nick Prueher of The Colbert Report. The two nights will showcase two different versions of the Found Footage Festival. Volume 9 of Found Footage takes place on April 25 at 7 p.m. with finds including a tape labelled “bonion surgery” and a fitness video called Jugglercise. The After Dark edition of Found Footage will be on April 26 at 9 p.m. and feature raunchier, more unsettling material.

“Joe and Nick are a couple of comedy guys who are just always so great to us and so willing to come and it sells out nearly every time they play,” Tilley says. “It’s just a great night of playing old VHS tapes and Joe and Nick making funny comments. This is the first time we’ve had a themed package. This year, they’ve added two themed ones and, being an underground festival, we went with the after dark option which is the more risqué videos they’ve come across. I think it’s a highlight of the packages they’ve put together.”

The popular Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal Cartoon Party will also take place this year with retro cartoons and up to 90 varieties of cereal from five different countries. Flavours range from classics like Lucky Charms to oddities like Chicken & Waffle, Sour Patch Kids or Pop Tarts.

“There will be a variety of retro cartoons, both classics people remember from their childhood as well as real hidden gems,” Tilley says. “We have it in both theatres so we get about 800 people out and we’ll have cereal mascots here as well. We really focus on sugary treats, the types of cereal that I try and eat only once a year. It’s nice to have that throwback and remember when you used to not really care what sugar did to your teeth and body and watch cartoons all morning and eat all of the cereal that you can manage.”

Tilley also noted some films that he is particularly excited for in this years’ edition of the festival. He highlighted Who Let the Dogs Out, which tells the history of the song by the Baha Men and its cultural ubiquity. He as well noted Happy Face from Canadian director Alexandre Franchi.

“I am actually really excited about Who Let the Dogs Out. Maybe that’s because it premiered at SXSW and I’d already seen it so whenever anyone there asked me what to see I would say that, says Tilley. “Happy Face is another one that is kinda falling under some people’s radars. It’s made by an alumni filmmaker who won Best Feature [at CUFF] about eight to 10 years ago with The Wild Hunt and he’s back with Happy Face and that’s a real treat.

“We made this festival to showcase films that were flying under the radar,” he continued. “Pretty much everything we play will be stuff you haven’t heard of but I get really jazzed about the stuff that even under our festival people have overlooked.”

Two new panels have been added to the festival for the year. The first is a script-reading of local film Events Transpiring Before, During, and After a High School Basketball Game. The reading is free and open to the public. The second panel is Distribution: The Inside Scoop, a panel detailing the distribution and release of films, that will be open to questions from anyone in attendance.

CUFFcade will return to the festival for its fifth year. CUFFcade involves the construction of five custom arcade consoles showcasing independent video games. CUFFcade runs through the festival and is free and open to the public. Two local games showcased include Neon Noodles, a cyberpunk cooking game where robots are programmed to cook food and Coven Run, a sidescroller shooter where the player shoots at bats. Other games include the RPG Swords of Ditto, the ninja-themed The Messenger and the gorilla escape game Ape Out. Anyone who doesn’t have a ticket to a screening can enter into the gaming area after the main box office lines have been let into the theatre.

CUFF runs from April 22–28 at Globe Cinema. Regular admission tickets for individual films are $10 and festival passes are $120. More information about the festival and tickets can be found on their website.

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