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CUFF 2023: Their biggest lineup yet

By Nimra Amir, April 13 2023

For their 20th anniversary, the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) returns to the Globe Cinema this April 20–30 but bigger than ever before — with the lineup including 42 feature films and 38 shorts. 

“The lineup of films this year is just as diverse as ever, with a speckle of retro selections, — many of which are celebrating milestone anniversaries — comedies, documentaries, art-house world cinema, and the latest genre films to hit the festival circuit. The stories vary, as do the budgets and styles of films. We really love a lineup that can speak to many different audiences here, and we hope that everyone finds something to come check out,” said CUFF co-founder, festival director and lead programmer Brenda Lieberman.

The opening night film is the Canadian premiere of Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls — a horror-comedy directed, written and starred in by Andrew Bowser based on his viral internet character. The film follows amateur occultist Marcus J. Trillbury, also known as Onyx the Fortuitous, through magic and mayhem in a “joyful celebration of weirdos of all kinds.” 

There is also a big selection of Albertan films throughout CUFF which includes Influencer — a Shudder horror-thriller directed, written and produced by Alberta’s CUFF alumni Kurtis David Harder. The film follows social media influencer Madison (Emily Tennant) throughout her trip in Thailand which after being largely uneventful, despite what he has been posting online, takes a turn when fellow traveller CW (Cassandra Naud) takes her to a deserted island. 

Another Albertan film is Thunder: The Life and Death of Arturo Gatti — a three-part true crime series directed and written by Calgary’s Guillaume Carlier. The series follows the mysterious death of legendary world champion boxer, Montréal’s Arturo Gatti. Officially, Gatti’s death was ruled as a suicide after he was found allegedly hung by the purse strap of his wife, Amanda Rodrigues. But more than 10 years later, the rumours of murder still linger. 

Even if not Albertan, there is also a big selection of Canadian films throughout CUFF which includes Polaris — a fantasy-thriller directed and written by Canada’s Kirsten Carthew and starred in by Canada’s Dinah Gaston. The film set in the year 2144 follows a young girl raised by a polar bear who pursues her destiny after escaping capture by warriors trying to kill her mother. 

Another Canadian film is Blackberry — a comedy directed by Canada’s Matt Johnson and produced and written by Matthew Miller. The film follows Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), the two men that invented the Blackberry smartphone through their chaotic rise to market dominance and then their quick fall after a few years of shady business dealings, personal grievances and the iPhone. 

There is also a big international film selection throughout CUFF which includes Dad & Step-Dad — a comedy directed by Tynan DeLong and starred in by Colin Burgess. The film follows Jim (Colin Burgess) and Dave (Anthony Oberbeck), dad and step-dad, who have trouble bonding during a three-day trip upstate with their 13-year-old son, Branson (Brian Fiddyment). 

Another international film is The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster — a horror drama directed and written by Bomani J. Story. The film, inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, follows teenage Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) who tries to cure death in a world where death — from police brutality to substance abuse — is almost all she has known. 

“We are counting on our filmmakers, alumni, festival friends and as many audience members as possible to come to celebrate with us. The reason we do this is for the city and our local fans,” said Lieberman. 

The films at CUFF — whether they are from Alberta, from Canada or anywhere else — have continued for the past 20 years to elevate the arts scene in Calgary by showcasing a unique roster of films that rarely get the chance to be seen in Calgary. To celebrate the biggest version of the festival yet, you can find more information on the CUFF website.

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