For 17 years, the Boston Underground Film Festival has been leveling the cinematic playing field for filmmakers of all echelons. Crowdfunded DIY passion projects appear alongside films featuring Hollywood stars, music videos are showcased as artistic statements instead of promotional tools, and content of wildly different maturity levels—from sex and violence to family-friendly Saturday morning cartoons—is assessed and presented on equal terms. The gender balance of competing filmmakers is a refreshing rebuttal to the machismo of mainstream genre movies, while the coveted “Most Effectively Offensive” jury award separates cheap shock tactics from genuine expression on the edge.
Strange as it is to imagine that a festival dedicated to the sick, saintly and everything in between would ever “grow up,” in its own particular way, that’s what appears to have happened at this year’s BUFF. While still the best place in town to catch the latest output from troublemakers the world over, BUFF has become a hub that results in projects and partnerships that would not have existed otherwise. For example, 1970s genre throwback We Are Still Here—fresh off a well-received turn at SXSW—is the direct result of relationships forged at BUFF 15 in 2013. Directorial Ted Geoghegan (former BUFF publicist), producer Travis Stevens (Cheap Thrills), and stars Kelsea Dakota and Michael Patrick Nicholson (Are We Not Cats), all forged a working relationship at BUFF 15 in 2013, and the resulting film now comes home to Cambridge two years later. Be sure to catch it on Saturday, March 28 at 6:45pm.
The Brattle connection also runs deep with another feature film, the unceasingly engaging surrealist comedy I Am a Knife With Legs. The film tells the story of “European” international pop superstar Bené who hides out in Los Angeles after a fatwa of mysterious origin is issued against him. Writer-director-star-composer Bennett Jones—who spent seven years making this film—is a master of deadpan absurdism, and the many vignettes, tangents, musical interludes and visual puns are as much fun as the bonkers plot. Though Jones is currently a comedian and musician currently based in Los Angeles, he was at one time an employee of the Brattle Theatre and will be present at its New England Premiere on Friday, March 27 at 7:45pm.
Boston’s independent film scene has also grown up alongside BUFF, and many local directors will be returning with their latest and greatest. Magnetic (Sun 3/29 12pm), the second outing from Michael Epstein and Sophia Cacciola, is a headtrip sci-fi parable and a worthy successor to their debut film, Ten, which played last year’s festival. Meanwhile, Ten costar Porcelain Dalya (perhaps recognizable to many as a member of Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys) makes her directorial debut with her short film, One (Homegrown Horror block, Fri 3/27 5:45pm). Director and friend to Boston arts Izzy Lee will showcase the deliciously unsettling Postpartum (shown with Excess Flesh, Thu 3/26 9:55pm) after being featured in last year’s Homegrown Horror block, while BUFF 16 alum Anastasia Cazabon returns with her short Waiting Games (Hope for Something Else block, Thu 3/26 5:45pm).
As it enters its seventeenth year, BUFF has matured and produced its own direct offspring, the first in what is sure to be a beautiful family built on horror, sex, pitch-black satire and the neverending weirdness of the human psyche. Its yearly gathering may looks less like Thanksgiving and more like the dinner scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it’s a family all the same.
BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL
Wed 3/25 – Sun 3/29
40 Brattle St.
For showtimes and tickets, visit bostonunderground.org.