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Event Report: Boston Underground Film Festival 2009





Event Report: Boston Underground Film FestivalThis past week Boston was witness to the 11th annual Boston Underground Film Festival, which kicked off on March 19th and ran until the 26th. I was a part of it this year more than I had been previously, mainly because the savvy ladies and gents behind BUFF asked me to be on the jury for this year’s fest! Needless to say I was honored.

This being my first jury, I didn’t know what to expect, but all in all it was a very cool experience. I got a chance to see a lot of movies I normally either wouldn’t have time for or interest in, and got a chance to expand my horizons a bit on top of all the great perks that came with being a judge.

The festival itself is run by a select group of people who have been steadily making it more and more of a desirable attraction every year. For 2009 they were able to expand to two theaters: Cambridge’s classic Brattle Theater, where the fest had been held exclusively in the 10 years previous, and the Landmark Kendall in Boston. Anyone from the area is likely familiar with the Kendall, as they’re a good-sized multiplex that shows more arthouse fare than mainstream, so them being a part of BUFF only made sense.

The good times began to roll on Thursday night with a screening of the soon-to-be classic Bad Biology, attended by stars Charlee Danielson and Tom Khout, director Frank Henenlotter, and producer RA “The Rugged Man”. The film was exactly what I wanted it to be, to be honest, and wasn’t nearly as stomach churning as I had thought it might be. If anything I would say Bad Biology is the most lighthearted movie Henenlotter’s done, but that has to be taken in context with the rest of his canon. The stars, Henenlotter, and The Rugged Man stuck around after for an often hilarious Q&A, full of anecdotes about shooting a movie full of naked people during the coldest part of the year in a house with no heat. Gotta love the movies!

I didn’t see any films the next day, but Montreal’s finest, Evil Andy and Paul McCannibal, made their way into Beantown that night (Paul’s bizarre short, “Despotic Brume”, was playing the following night) so we made sure to hit the excellent Friday night bash at Noir, where the Maker’s Mark and Harpoon UFO (two well-planned sponsors) flowed mightily. I finally got to meet Joshua/Lo director Travis Betz (he claims we met in San Diego years ago, but I was too drunk to recall clearly) and a good time was had by all. Any night that ends with Andy shirtless (oh, if you could see the pictures) is a good one.

Modern Love is Automatic director Zach Clark and star Melodie Sisk looking shocked that they won The next day was the shorts program “Paranoia (does it annoy ya?)”, which had Paul’s aforementioned slice of fucked-upedness peppered in between a good selection of shorts, the highlight of which, for me, was “The Procedure”, which I highly recommend you check out if it comes to a festival near you; good stuff there. As everyone else went out for “food” (who needs to eat during a film festival?), I toughed it out for Adam Mason’s Blood River, which was well worth the sacrifice. Be sure you check out my full review of it for the reasoning; its good shit, folks, and I hope you all get a chance to see that soon as well.

While I experienced Blood River, Modern Love is Automatic unrolled in front of the BUFF audience, on its way to taking home the “Best of Fest (Feature)” prize, as voted by myself and the four other judges on the panel. Though I didn’t believe it to be the best thing that played (my vote was for Morris County, which thankfully got an Honorable Mention) I can see why the rest of the judges were enraptured with it. Check out the full list of winners over on BUFF’s official website.

Following the film I met up with the rest of the crew for local horror maven J. Cannibal’s birthday bash at Om in Harvard Square. One thing I will say about that particular club; it was not meant for a bunch of film geeks. Though the BUFF crew did their best to make sure everything went smoothly (something they’ve gotten very good at over the years), the place itself was just not accommodating and eventually everyone left en masse back to Noir, where the good times from the previous night were thankfully able to be recaptured.

The next morning was the Judge’s Brunch at the Cambridge Brewing Company, where myself and the other four judges sat down to hash out who would win what. Though there were some minor disagreements, we all got on very well and everyone was happy with the final results. All in all, a damn fine experience!

BUFF is still a small festival, but that is part of its charm. They’ve definitely got a handle on making sure everything runs like a well-oiled machine, which gives them the feel of a festival far older than their scant 11 years. Taking cues from the Fantasia folks has helped loads, I’m sure. If you missed this year’s event, you can be sure you’ll hear about it nice and early on Dread Central next year so it won’t happen again!

- Johnny Butane

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