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8 Reasons To Attend CUFF’s Most Daring Roll-Out Yet

Festival Director Brenda Lieberman shares the low-down on this year’s hottest underground flicks.

by Christine Leonard

Entering its 19th year, the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) has a reputation for being true to its roots as a celebration of motion pictures that thrive outside of the commercial film industry. Venerating independent filmmakers and producers who redefine the limits of artistic expression on the screen and in the halls of public discourse, CUFF invites audiences to step outside of their regular viewing habits to find a new comfort zone beyond the mainstream.

Back in cinema and online, this year’s line-up of short and feature-length films tap into the festival’s ability to integrate a nuanced spectrum of genres and cultures into their menu. Combing through the dozens of titles that have been pulled into this year’s programming, originating in countries ranging from Finland to India, requires a cinematic sommelier. 

Festival Director Brenda Lieberman is looking forward to sharing her team’s hard work that will be heating up the Globe Cinema, Calgary’s independent art-house theatre. “We’re really excited to be back in cinema,” says Lieberman “We really want to have some fun and great conversations and filmmakers in attendance and other full-on CUFF attractions. Things like having live DJs before the movies, our customized concession with fun local items, and trying to really bring the community back together again.”

Remounting their successful choose-your-own-adventure approach to screening options, Lieberman and her fellow programmers hope to engage with viewers in-person while taking advantage of their increased capacities when it comes to accessibility and reach.

“We’ve definitely gained more of an Alberta-wide audience. For those who haven’t had a chance to make it to the festival, so far, we have about half the line-up available online in the last three days. We also have a hybrid pass, that’s ideal for enjoying our selections in the company of others and then catching up on what you missed online.”

According to Lieberman, reduced theatre capacity means that some of the hot-ticket events will fill up quickly. Opening night feature, Dual, demonstrates the power and foresight of CUFF’s curation process as the film’s director Riley Stearns (who will be in attendance) is also responsible for The Art of Self-Defense which was the Secret Screening Selection for CUFF 2019. What will the mystery title be in 2022? Place your bets and pick up your Secret Screening tickets to find out.

“Some of the fans are looking for something edgy or a genre that’s tough to find content in,” she acknowledges. “They might enjoy discovering films like After Blue (Dirty Paradise), or Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes.”

While CUFF staple The Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cereal Cartoon Party remains a popular sugar rush for the senses, the 2022 line-up also provides a selection of high-brow cinema to please even the most discerning palate. 

Down With The King (pictured above) is a really quiet film but it’s such a great work and it’s gonna be so much better experienced in the theatre given its tone and style, so I would recommend that one for sure,” Lieberman suggests. “Personally, I really like Wild Men. It’s a really great Danish film. You should also check out a quirky small indie comedy The Civil Dead, which is kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum from these other films.”

Given the constant deluge of new material being paraded before audiences through various virtual and physical means, how does CUFF go about presenting motion pictures that will appeal to an increasingly fickle underground film fandom? Easy, they look for provocative projects that spark curiosity and smack of authenticity, just like the Festival itself. 

“This is definitely a rather daring festival line-up overall. We have a few that have well-known actors that people are going to recognize, like Tim Roth in Sundown, but I would say that we’re definitely leaned more towards ‘This is not what you’ve been watching over the last while on Netflix or Prime!’ It’s gonna push some boundaries, with conversational pieces and experimental concepts, like A Night of Knowing Nothing, is such a different documentary form. We’ve got that kind of mix in there this year – and maybe that’s a reflection of the appetite for something different and a little more challenging based on all the content everyone’s watched at home.”

For more information visit calgaryundergroundfilm.org