The Calgary Underground Film Festival’s (CUFF) 17th edition was initially set to take place back in April, but that wicked bastard COVID-19 had other plans. Fortunately, this year’s CUFF bounced back with an online festival set to kick off the summer in late June.
CUFF 2020 runs from June 22nd to June 28th and it will provide movie lovers with a chance to cast their eyes, “On the newest genre-defying independent films not streaming anywhere else.” What’s not to love?
This year’s festival includes 22 feature films showing for the first time in Alberta, 3 shorts packages, and other special events, including four nights of drive-ins at Big Rock Brewery.
The festival will open with Adam Carter Rehmeier’s Sundance hit, Dinner in America.
Here are all the juicy details straight from the team at CUFF.
The Calgary Underground Film Festival has announced its lineup for the 17th edition of the festival. Originally scheduled to take place in April, like many other festivals around the world, CUFF has shifted to an online model for the 2020 edition. From June 22-28 CUFF fans will have the opportunity to get their eyes on the newest genre-defying independent films not streaming anywhere else, and ensure that these films find an audience while film festivals are paused and cinemas remain closed.
“This festival will look different than most, but, our whole team is really looking forward to this new festival format. Not only do we get to provide our regular audience with some amazing new films, but we also have the unique opportunity this year to have new audiences experience what we have to offer,” said Festival Director and Lead Programmer Brenda Lieberman.
This year’s lineup includes 22 feature films showing for the first time in Alberta, 3 shorts packages, and other special events including four nights of drive-ins at Big Rock Brewery. CUFF will open with the Sundance hit DINNER IN AMERICA (Dir. Adam Carter Rehmeier) about a punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band. Similar to the in-person festival, audiences only have one chance to watch this film at a June 22 live online event. “I loved this film from the minute I started watching it at Sundance. I think I was 5 minutes in, and I had the feeling like I had found our opening film. We’ll be doing opening night as a live event, as close to our in-cinema experience our audience knows and loves, including a live introduction, followed by the screening, and ending with a live Q&A,” said Lieberman.
Following the opening night live event, starting on June 23 at midnight, the lineup of films will be available on demand until June 28 at 11:59pm. With a few exceptions, all films will be available to watch for the duration of the festival and are available to anyone in Alberta.
June 23 will mark the return of the Found Footage Festival: Quarantine Qlassics, a staple of CUFF. In the brand-new virtual show, Joe Pickett (The Onion) and Nick Prueher (Late Show with David Letterman) will present a wide-range of VHS delights to get focused on the theme of quarantine.
Other CUFF 2020 highlights include:
- A live presentation for the World Premiere of FIVE BUCKS AT THE DOOR: THE STORY OF CROCKS N ROLLS about a bar in Thunder Bay that put Canadian music on the map. Director Kirsten Kosloski, who resided in Calgary for 13 years and was involved with FFWD as a music writer, film critic and editor, will participate in a live Q&A.
- A co-presentation with Sled Island for the world premiere of THIS FILM SHOULD NOT EXIST, a documentary about the 1990s garage rock band Country Teasers.
- The world premiere of SLEEZE LAKE: VANLIFE AT ITS LOWEST & BEST from CUFF alumni Andrew J. Morgan and Nicholas Nummerdor.
- Four drive-in events at Big Rock Brewery of the films RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (plays two nights) SYNCHRONIC and UNCLE PECKERHEAD (also available online) from June 24-27. Note: strict social distancing will be enforced and no alcohol will be served. Tickets go on sale June 15. Advance ticket sales only – no sales at the door.
- The Canadian premiere of the Alberta documentary BIG FUR about world champion taxidermist Ken Walker, who is determined to prove that Bigfoot is real.
- A special version of the new Wakaliwood Ugandan film CRAZY WORLD created especially for CUFF.
CUFF 2020 Movies:
A Dog’s Death – Matías Ganz
Silvia and Mario enjoy a bourgeois life in Montevideo. But two events will disturb their tranquillity: a dog surgery goes wrong for Mario, and Silvia discovers retirement. After a small dog dies during one of Mario’s final operations, things go awry. The couple is dragged from paranoia to violence and from violence to nonsense. With true-to-life dialogue, A DOG’S DEATH is a poignant class study and sharp satire. The debut feature film from Uruguayan director Matías Ganz is one of the most anticipated Latin American film releases of the festival season.
Big Fur – Don Wayne
BIG FUR is a biographical portrait of Canadian world champion taxidermist Ken Walker. While he’s famous among taxidermists, he’s still seeking a career-defining project. The object of his obsession is seven feet tall and covered in coarse fur – he’s re-creating a female Bigfoot, as seen in the iconic 1967 PATTERSON-GIMLIN film. Ken’s meticulous research includes conversations with eyewitnesses living on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies who are sure – as is Ken himself – that they’ve encountered Bigfoot.
The documentary, which is mostly set in Alberta, follows Ken’s Bigfoot re-creation from start to finish when it is unveiled at the World Taxidermy Championships. While Ken would love to win Best in Show, his real hope is that putting “Patty” on display will prompt a hunter to provide proof that Bigfoot is real. BIG FUR is a wry, funny portrait of an artist with an unshakable belief that eventually he’ll find true love. Or the hairy, 800-pound validation of his life’s quest.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets – Bill Ross IV
In the shadows of the bright lights of Las Vegas, it’s last call for a beloved dive bar known as the Roaring 20s. Regulars gather for one final hurrah at their favourite local, as the audience gets a glimpse into the bar’s last 18 hours in business. BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS is a mosaic of disparate lives, teetering between dignity and debauchery, reckoning with the past as they face an uncertain future, and singing as their ship goes down. Filmed at the end of 2016 just prior to Trump’s inauguration, this is a document of real people, in an unreal situation.
Filmmaking duo Bill and Turner Ross (WESTERN, CONTEMPORARY COLOR) return with an elegiac portrait of a tiny world fading away but still warm and beating with the comfort of community. Their beguiling approach to nonfiction storytelling makes for a foggy memory of experience lost in empty shot glasses and puffs of smoke. Fittingly, the film had its world premiere at Sundance 2020 just months before bars around the world shut their doors amidst lockdown and stay home orders. This timely look at the world inside one American dive bar encompasses all the characters, surly bartenders, mini-dramas, friendships and alcohol-infused moments that you’ve surely been missing.
Climate of the Hunter – Mickey Reece
Sisters Alma and Elizabeth have recently reunited in their secluded family cabin and eagerly await the arrival of their long-lost friend Wesley, who they haven’t seen in 20 years. A writer residing in Paris, Wesley has been dealing with his wife’s deteriorating health issues, which recently landed her in a mental institution. With this news, Wesley has emerged as the town’s top bachelor, leading both of the ageing sisters to compete for his affection. But what the sisters don’t know is that this enigmatic man might just be a vampire.
Alma, a recently divorced free spirit, starts to suspect that Wesley is keeping a secret and isn’t what he seems. Elizabeth, a workaholic lawyer with no a husband or children, questions if it’s Alma’s neurological disorder that’s causing these delusions, and tries to charm Wesley while battling her own demons.
The 27th feature film of Oklahoman auteur Mickey Reece, CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER is a unique twist on the vampire story, a slow-burn erotic dark comedy that invents its own brand of horror mythology.
Crazy World – IGG Nabwana
The latest Wakaliwood release, CRAZY WORLD is a violent action-packed Ugandan film about a gang of child-snatching mobsters called the Tiger Mafia. Operating under the belief that youth blood has supernatural properties, the Tiger Mafia develops a plan to sacrifice children as a scheme to get their blood. But when they kidnap the WAKA STARS, a badass team of kung-fu masters, the mafia is no match for the kids’ cunning wits and deadly skills.
For the past 10 years, IGG Nabwana and his team of gonzo no-budget filmmakers have made movies in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. They’ve created dozens of action films and developed a cult fan following around the globe after the success of their outrageous cult film WHO KILLED CAPTAIN ALEX?
The Calgary Underground Film Festival is proud to be streaming a special version of Crazy World re-mixed’ by the filmmaking team just for CUFF!
Dead Dicks – Chris Bavota
When a young nursing student named Becca receives a series of panicked messages from her older brother Richie, she rushes over to check on him. Following a seemingly successful suicide attempt, Richie, who suffers from mental illness, has discovered what appears to be his own dead body. When Becca gets to his apartment, they find more dead versions of Richie and together, try to figure out how and why he keeps being reborn each time he takes his own life.
The directorial debut of Canadian filmmaking team Chris Bavota and Paula Lee Springer, DEAD DICKS is an emotional rollercoaster; blending trippy horror, morbid humor, and heavy mental health themes to create a film that’s challenging, grotesque and wildly entertaining.
Dinner in America – Adam Carter Rehmeier
An on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band embark on a series of misadventures through the decaying suburbs of the American Midwest. Patty is a socially awkward, sheltered 20-year-old escaping her banal existence through punk music; Simon, is a snarling anarchist and seemingly toxic punk seeking refuge from the law. When these two cross paths, their radically different personalities make them an unlikely duo. DINNER IN AMERICA is a love letter to the early ‘90s punk scene in Lincoln, Nebraska, and an underdog love story about two very different characters, each marginalized misfits in their own right.
Five Bucks at the Door: The Story of Crooks N Rolls – Kirsten Kosloski
An indie-rock oasis in the Boreal forest. FIVE BUCKS AT THE DOOR: THE STORY OF CROCKS N ROLLS shares the history of how a bar in the middle of nowhere put Canadian music on the map.
In the mid-’80s and early ’90s, the heyday of indie rock, one unlikely venue became the epicentre of Canadian pop culture. In spite of its location, or perhaps because of it, Crocks N Rolls was one of the country’s premiere live music venues. Located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, atop the iconic Highway 61, Crocks (as it is affectionately called by its patrons) was a bridge for East and West coast musicians crisscrossing their way through the country. The story focuses on those pre-internet days of the D.I.Y. punk rock culture and grassroots alternative movement. The film talks with seminal independent Canadian musicians – Sook-Yin Lee, Dave Bidini, Bob Wiseman, Ian Blurton, Lucy DiSanto, Slo’Tom Stewart, Mike McDonald, Steve Loree, Dave Ullrich – each having a personal connection to the venue and its owner Frank Loffredo. A well-loved curmudgeon, known for his curly mullet and unfiltered approach to small business ownership, Frank decided to turn his family-owned Italian restaurant into a premiere “must-play” venue, hosting some of the most influential artists in hardcore, punk rock and independent music and becoming a champion for live music. All roads lead to Crocks, and 30-years later its impact is still being felt.
Found Footage Festival: Quarantine Classics – Joe Pickett
In their brand-new “virtual” show, Joe Pickett (The Onion) and Nick Prueher (Late Show with David Letterman) beam live into your home with a whole bunch of VHS delights to get you through the quarantine. Highlights include home haircutting instructional videos, a tape called “101 Things for Kids to Do,” hosted by puppets, and a slew of exercise videos like “The Sexy Treadmill Workout,” to help you stay fit at home. Participate in the show via live chat and take part in an interactive game show called “Excited or Not Exciting.” Stay home, rewind.
Homewrecker – Zach Gayne
The shackles of Canadian politeness are the source of nightmares in the pop-horror-satire, HOMEWRECKER. Michelle (Alex Essoe) meets Linda (Precious Chong) at a yoga class. Linda’s wide-eyed enthusiasm is clearly off-putting, but Michelle’s aversion to conflict makes it difficult for her to brush off the increasingly pushy woman. Things escalate once Linda asks Michelle to redecorate her home and refuses to let her leave. Written by director Zach Gayne and the film’s two stars, Precious Chong and Alex Essoe, HOMEWRECKER has an unusual tone informed by late 1980s pop sensibilities. With the energy of a Jane Fonda workout tape, the movie escalates into the uncanny, especially as it deals with gendered expectations surrounding femininity and romance.
House of Cardin – P. David Ebersole
A rare peek into the mind of a man many call a genius, HOUSE OF CARDIN is an authorized documentary chronicling the life of design icon Pierre Cardin. Millions know the logo and ubiquitous signature but few know the man behind the larger than life label. Who is Pierre Cardin? And what is the story behind his legendary icon?
Granted exclusive access to Cardin’s archives and his empire, along with unprecedented interviews, the filmmakers examine Cardin at the sunset of a glorious career.
I Blame Society – Gillian Horvat
A darkly comedic and timely satire, I BLAME SOCIETY stars director Gillian Horvat as a struggling filmmaker determined to prove her talents to both herself and her peers. After parting ways with an indifferent manager who finds her latest script too controversial and her female protagonist too “unlikeable,” Gillian decides to pick up an old project: I, MURDERER. The short documentary was inspired by a pair of friends who told Gillian that with her cunning, intelligence, and ability to rationalize anything she chooses to believe in, she’d make a pretty good murderer.
So Gillian decides to finish her once abandoned film – and commit the perfect murder. Blending dark comedy and horror, while confronting gender issues head-on, the film asks – how far does one have to go to be taken seriously when trying to make it in LA?
My Name is Clitoris – Daphné Leblond
Twelve young women aged 20 to 25 tell the journey of their sexuality since childhood. In their own bedroom, facing the camera, they discuss it openly with the two women directors who are facing the same interrogations. They describe the very first sensations, the random explorations, the stories shared in the dark, and the unexpected obstacles. All of them share the same urge to find sexual equality, happiness and freedom.
The documentary rebuilds a dialogue that most of them longed for as teenagers but could not find, and offers young women, and consequently young men, a safe space to reflect on inequalities which turned into our entire social structure.
Narrowsburg – Martha Shane
Martha Shane (she/her) is an Emmy-award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her directorial debut AFTER TILLER premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and won the Emmy for Best Documentary. In 2019, her film PICTURE CHARACTER, a feature-length documentary about emoji, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Martha produced and co-wrote the award-winning documentary FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, which was theatrically released by Argot Pictures and broadcast on the PBS documentary series POV. She produced and co-directed the feature documentary BI THE WAY, which had its premiere at the SXSW Film Festival and was broadcast on MTV’s LOGO channel. In addition to directing and producing, Martha is an editor whose recent credits include 11/8/16 (The Orchard, Netflix, 2017), ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM (Independent Lens, 2018), and the Emmy-nominated PERSONAL STATEMENT (PBS’s America ReFramed, 2018).
Nobadi – Karl Markovics
When his beloved dog dies during the night, a stubborn old man is determined to dig a hole on his property to put his dear friend to rest. He soon realizes that he is incapable of the strenuous task, and begrudgingly enlists the services of a migrant from Afghanistan. Their day takes an unexpected turn after what appears to be a harmless wound evolves into tremendous and irreversible consequences. NOBADI is a loud and violent movie, occasionally scattered with grotesque. But at its heart is the unlikely and caring friendship between two men: a 91-year-old Austrian and the much younger Afghan.
Random Acts of Violence – Jay Baruchel
A comic book writer, Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams), and his publisher, Ezra (Jay Baruchel), made their careers on their comic book based on a real-life serial killer called Slasherman. Twenty years after the Slasherman killings, the duo coordinate a press tour to announce the launch of their final issue, and visit the town where the original murders took place. Soon the two notice scary similarities between the character they created and horrific real-life events that begin unfolding once again in the town.
Based on a comic book by the same name, RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE is the second directorial effort from Canadian actor-turned-director Jay Baruchel (GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS). The result is an extremely violent and gruesome slasher that offers commentary on the influence of media violence.
Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal (Cartoon Party)! – Kier-La Janisse
It’s the at-home Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cereal Cartoon Party! It’s that special time when kids and kids-at-heart get to relive the exciting Saturday Morning ritual of non-stop retro cartoons, and binge on the multi-colored sugary cereals that used to be a part of every “balanced” breakfast! The cartoon lineup is always a mystery, but in this all-new program you’ll see both faves and obscurities spanning the ’60s through the ’80s, all punctuated with vintage commercials, PSAs and station IDs! So get ready for a sugar rush and an explosion of nostalgia all wrapped up in one candy-coated package.
To complement this 3-hour trip into the weird and wonderful world of yesteryear’s animated antics, we encourage you stay in your jammies and pick-up your favourite sugary cereals.
Sleeze Lake: Vanlife At its Lowest & Best – Andrew J. Morgan
In 1977 groups of young people took to the open roads in shag-carpeted custom vans, as they searched for freedom. They called themselves “vanners” and their hippie counter-culture was a strange cocktail of irreverence and hedonism. On the south side of Chicago, the van club Midwest Vans Ltd. was born. These blue-collar outcasts set out to build their own personal utopia, free of rules and restrictions. They erected a ramshackle resort town around a small pond and called it “Sleeze Lake”. When over 20,000 people showed up to the party all bets were off. Set among the foggy memories and ephemera of a subculture lost into the arms of time, SLEEZE LAKE tells the story of Midwest Vans and the biggest party you’ve never heard of.
Synchronic – Aaron Moorhead
New Orleans paramedics Steve and Dennis have their lives ripped apart when they stumble upon a bizarre plot involving a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects. From Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead – the writer-director duo behind THE ENDLESS and the CUFF 2015 selection SPRING – comes a stylish and genre-bending new sci-fi film.
This Film Should Not Exist – Gisella Albertini
THIS FILM SHOULD NOT EXIST is a slight-of-hand trick replete with all the details of a rock documentary. Archival footage from the orgiastic 1995 tour with The Oblivians and stories of everyday life leads the audience down a familiar path, and with a delicately insistent grin, transports us somewhere else completely. Echoing the artistic path taken by Ben Wallers, the film winds through the underground world of the 1990’s garage rock band Country Teasers to form a portrait of a man, musician, and leader.
Uncle Peckerhead – Matthew John Lawrence
As the bassist of the three-piece punk-rock band, DUH, Judy dreams of quitting her job and touring full time. With no van and a string of gigs booked, the slacker band is getting desperate. Enter Uncle Peckerhead. Soon the band finds themselves on their first tour with a man-eating hillbilly for a roadie and “gig life” is filled with nightmares and half-eaten bodies.
UNCLE PECKERHEAD is a bloody feature film debut that splatters the screen with great music, cheap thrills, gory mayhem and a helluva lot of fun.
We Are Little Zombies – Makoto Nagahisa
When four young orphans—Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi, and Takemura—first meet, their parents’ bodies are being turned into dust, like fine Parmesan atop a plate of spaghetti Bolognese, and yet none of them can shed a tear. They are like zombies; devoid of all emotion. With no family, no future, no dreams, and no way to move forward, the young teens decide that the first level of this new existence involves salvaging a gaming console, an old electric bass, and a charred wok from their former homes—just enough to start a band, and then conquer the world. Tragedy, comedy, music, social criticism, and teenage angst are all subsumed in this eccentric cinematic tsunami.
Yummy – Lars Damoiseaux
A young couple travels to a shabby Eastern European hospital for cheap plastic surgery. The woman wants a breast reduction, and her mother comes along for yet another facelift. Wandering through an abandoned ward the boyfriend stumbles upon a young woman who is gagged and strapped to an operating table. It appears that she’s at the clinic to undergo an experimental rejuvenation treatment. When the boyfriend frees her he unknowingly causes the outbreak of a virus that will change doctors, patients and his soon-to-be mother-in-law into bloodthirsty zombies.
Taking grotesque body horror to a whole new gross-out comedic level, YUMMY – Belgian’s first zombie feature film – is an orgy of blood, violence and fun.