What to see at Calgary Underground Film Festival

Ah, spring. The grass is getting greener, buds are starting to form on trees, birds are returning from the south, the Ship & Anchor patio is finally open. I can’t think of a better time to spend the week in a dark, cool theatre watching the wonderfully weird programming the Calgary Underground Film Festival has cooked up.

In its 15th year, the Calgary Underground Film Festival (or, CUFF, as it is affectionately referred to by its loyal attendees) has been serving up a weeks worth of alternative film festival fun since 2003. Almost an antithesis to Calgary’s other major film festival, the Calgary International Film Festival, CUFF steers away from big-budget award show darlings and touching (albeit lengthy) foreign dramas, and instead focuses on the films you might not normally get to see in theatres. Think dark comedies, obscure documentaries, offbeat animation, perverse horrors, and a Saturday morning cartoon party served with over 80 varieties of sugary breakfast cereal (seriously).

With 30 films in this year’s roster, deciding what to see in this smorgasbord of alternative film can be a little daunting. But do not fret!  I have rigorously researched this years schedule to bring you Vamps best bets for CUFF 2017.

The Space Between (directed by Amy Jo Johnson)

Do you ever find yourself sitting home alone at night thinking, “What ever happened to the Pink Power Ranger?” (No? Just me?) Well that mighty morphin’ powerhouse grew up to be a director, and you can catch her first feature length film on the Friday night of this year’s festival. In this coming-of-age comedy, new father Mitch (Michael Cram) discovers that his precious bundle of joy, isn’t actually his. And then, in a logical next step, hits the road to find the baby’s real father, and hopefully some answers. Falling into the classic road-trip genre, you can expect this film to take some unexpected turns; a backwoods burlesque festival and small town funeral home, just to name a few. If you’re in the mood for a feel-good story of love and family, then make sure to add this film to your CUFF schedule. Had a little too much family time of the Easter holiday? Then maybe a Finnish slasher flick will be more appropriate (Lake Bodom), but even so, The Space Between can serve as a nice palette cleanser for your cold, dead heart.

Screening Friday April 21st, at 6:45 pm.

Band-Aid (directed by Zoe Lister-Jones)

Zoe Lister-Jones is one of those actresses who you know you’ve seen her in something before, but you can’t quite remember where. With roles in TV sitcoms Whitney and Life in Pieces (that’s where you know her from!) and indie comedy Lola Versus (which she also co-wrote) Lister-Jones is no stranger in front of the camera. Band-Aid, however, marks this indie darling’s first behind-camera role, serving as writer, director, producer, star, and composer of the films original songs. Talk about a quintuple threat. Joined by Adam Pally and Fred Armisen (who also star in aforementioned film, The Little Hours), Band-Aid tells the classic story of married couple, Anna and Ben, who on the brink of divorce, try to save their marriage by forming a band. Tale as old as time, am I right? Turing their fights into songs, Anna and Ben pull in their quirky neighbor (played by none other than Fred Armisen) to round out their trio, forming a band that even rivals Calgary’s own favorite matrimonial duo, Pre-Nup. So if you’re looking for a whip-smart comedy with a killer cast, and a bad-ass boss babe at its helm, then this is the film for you. And if you’re not, well, you probably don’t even know what you want.  

Screening Saturday April 22nd, at 7:00 pm.

People That are Not Me (directed by Hadas Ben Aroya)

Let’s keep going with these bad-ass female directors, shall we? Directed by Israeli filmmaker Hadas Ben Aroya, People That are Not Me follows millennial, Joy (played by the filmmaker herself), and her life in urban Tel-Aviv. Both enthralled and bored by the casual-sex scene, Joy grapples with a struggle that is all too real: the desire for intimacy while being simultaneously terrified by it. Ben Roya’s directorial debut, this young director portrays the generation Y experience in a way that can only be done by someone who is of that generation herself. Coming off like a middle-eastern Girls, both cringeworthy and reassuring in its relatability, this is a film that will make all us insecure millennials feel a little less alone.  

Screening Thursday April 20th, at 7:15 pm.

Some Freaks (directed by Ian MacAllister-McDonald)

CUFF isn’t like your run-of-the-mill film festival, and Some Freaks isn’t your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. The couple at the centre of this film, a misfit with an eyepatch and a chubby gal with a rebellious side, don’t coincide with the typical rom-com tropes, and that is what makes this film CUFF material. Forming a bond over a world that refuses to accept or acknowledge them, Some Freaks offers a fresh take on the tired teen-romance genre in a way that feels entirely authentic. So if you’ve ever been a) a teenage misfit , b) a teenager in love, c) a misfit in love, or d) a teenage misfit in love, I guarantee this unassuming film will make you feel all the feelings.

Screening Tuesday April 18th, at 9:15 pm.