Five reasons to check out the Montreal Underground Film Festival
Don't expect any of the films to play it safe
The Montreal Underground Film Festival (MUFF) turns eleven this year as it continues to provide festivalgoers with a singular celluloid experience. Founded by Karina Mariano and Zoë Brown in 2005, the festival is now in the hands of the six programmers — filmmakers, teachers, artists, archivists, writers, and scholars — who curate MUFF: Mario DeGiglio-Bellemare, Anne Golden, Karina Mariano, Oriana Tevi, Annaëlle Winand, and Kristopher Woofter.
Together, they've selected 95 works from 20 countries, features and shorts that range in genre from bubble-gum B-movie tributes to kaleidoscopic blue-movies — surreal portraits and corporeal cut-ups. According to the festival, "'calling-card films (aka, slick, thinly disguised shout-outs to the commercial industry)" — don't appear at MUFF.
"We will continue to pass over this kind of safe (and irresponsible) filmmaking for films that are visceral, raw and challenging in style and content," programmer Kristopher Woofer adds.
Keeping that mission in mind, here are five reasons to check out this year's MUFF. And if they're not enough to intrigue you, you can check out the rest of the lineup here.
Opening Night Party
Amid pink drinks, music, and dancing, revelers are invited to partake in Steven Woloshen's Scratch Guest Book, which involves etching messages directly onto 35mm film. Woloshen, who is an experimental filmmaker from Montreal, will then show the collaborative hand-made film at the festival's closing Hangover Brunch. Opening night — held from 8pm onwards at La Vitrola — also features a selection of shorts, including work from local artists Shayo Detchema, Jackie Gallant, lamathilde, and Dayna McLeod. Their films should give audience members a sense of what to expect over the next three days.
Alek Gruszczynski and Ewa's multidisciplinary alternative cinema, which also houses the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, is home base for MUFF's 13 programs. Woofter describes the venue's basement as a "veritable installation of the macabre and bizarre, with multiple screens flickering from all the dark corners, and all kinds of found-objects, detritus, and creepy collectables presented with the care and inventiveness of a curator of the darkly carnivalesque." Aside from a sizeable screen and HD projection, MICROCINEMA [être] boasts red velvet lamps and the requisite skeleton. "It's the coziest you'll ever be in a space that feels co-designed by Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde."
Golden B's and Midnight Dread
Lovers of the strange and unusual are invited to spend Friday night revelling in the sinister as MUFF hosts two back-to-back showcases for horror buffs. First, there's Golden B's, with Anne Golden programming fifteen shorts that descend into a creeping gloom alongside Neil Needleman's presentation of a collage of classic monster flicks from the 1950s. On the cusp of the witching hour, Midnight Dread offers frights from around the world — a claustrophobic venture through innovative (de)composition.
Since the era when sex on film was only available on 16mm 10-minute loops in peepshow theatres, up until the contemporary all-access of online porn, a near-infinite number of XXX films and fantasies have been produced. MUFF promises that this screening challenges "reductive perspectives on the porn genre." Exquisite Porn celebrates work made with a range of materials: repurposed adult VHS clips, erotic poetry, and other forms of smutty excess. Louise Carrin's Venusia, which is nominated for a 2016 MUFF Jury Award, depicts an insightful dialogue between a brothel madam named Geneva and Lena, a sex worker.
The festival's main venue is located in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood, so there's no shortage of bars for post-screening revelry. Hence, the Hangover Brunch. Woofter says that the event will include "an array of culinary delights and, of course, a feature." The brunch also sets the stage for the MUFF Jury Awards ceremony, where winners receive custom pink ribbons designed by Montreal-based artist Glenn Gear. The awards will be preceded by a screening of Jonathan Culp's "Canuxploitation" found-footage film Taking Shelter and the aforementioned debut of Steven Woloshen's Scratch Guest Book.
Montreal Underground Film Festival. May 19-22. Various locations. Montreal. www.muff514.com