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Calgary Underground Film Festival

Celebrating 21 Years of the Calgary Underground Film Festival

Hot picks and previews — we got the lowdown from CUFF curator Cameron Macgowan.

by Liam Dawe

The snow is melting in Calgary and as sure as the popcorn pops, the Calgary Underground Film Festival will return once again to the Globe Cinema from April 18 to 28. 

Featuring 10 consecutive days of air-tight indie programming, CUFF finds strength in a dedicated community and programmers who find new ways to energize the format each year. 

“We are always looking to ensure that we have a well-rounded offering of genres in our cinematic feast to keep the week fresh for our fans and the entire Calgary film community,” says Cameron Macgowan, one of the festival’s lead programmers.

Macgowan and the rest of the CUFF braintrust have opted to serve up the Canadian premiere of A24 release I Saw The TV Glow as the festival’s initial offering. Directed by non-binary New York native Jane Schoenbrun, the sold out opening film is characterized in the program guide as being “a haunting tale of self-actualization.”

CUFF regularly hosts Calgary’s annual flagship event for the National Canadian Film Day (CanFilmDay), a one-day, coast-to-coast celebration of cinema now going on 10 years and running. On April 17, moviegoers can take in a free screening of the 1981 homegrown slasher Ghostkeeper – an intriguing festival primer for both casuals and cinephiles alike. “This year is special,” claims Macgowan, “Ghostkeeper is the only Albertan film made under the legendary Canadian Tax Shelter System of Canuxploitation filmmaking and we will have many of the brains and faces behind the film in attendance to celebrate their supernatural shocker, filmed entirely at Lake Louise in 1981. Beautiful stuff.”

With 47 feature films and 37 shorts screening over the duration of the festival, we’ve refined a shortlist of must-sees based off of Macgowan’s own curation and personal picks, in no particular order:

RATS! – International Premiere (Directed by Maxwell Nalevansky and Carl Fry) 

 Saturday, April 20 @ 7:30 PM

CUFF alumni Maxwell Nalevansky and Carl Fry’s debut feature film delivers a chaotic comedy following the unfortunate fate of young Texan Raphael Tinski, as he navigates falling in love, psychotic cops, and the potential of getting nuked during 2007’s peak emo era. “We love celebrating the accomplishments of our past filmmakers, especially when they are as funny, wild and colourful as Rats!” says Macgowan.


THE VOURDALAK (Directed by Adrian Beau) 

Tuesday, April 23 @ 9:00 PM

40 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a novella titled The Vourdalak first told the tale of a vampiric blood disease. “In this very transgressive adaptation of that story, we see a family’s uncomfortable encounter with a stranger when he stumbles across  a reunion with their uncle, who has returned from war with a mysterious blood disease, and who is played by a life-sized puppet vampire,” says Macgowan. 


TEACHES OF PEACHES – Alberta Premiere (Directed by Judy Landkammer and Philipp Fussenegger)

Saturday, April 27 @ 9:15 PM

An homage to Canadian electro-punk trailblazer Merrill Nisker through archival footage and intimate behind-the-scenes looks at “The Teaches of Peaches Anniversary Tour ” from 2022. Follow the feminist icon Peaches through her pop-cultural subversions of gender identity and LGBTQIA+ agency. “Peaches and her band are so cool,” says Macgowan. “Spending time with them in this documentary is an utter joy.”

“Peaches and her band are so cool. Spending time with them in this documentary is an utter joy.”


SERIAL MOM 30TH ANNIVERSARY (Directed by John Waters)

Wednesday, April 24 @ 9:00 PM

Relive the 1994 cult classic that “turned many of us into movie nuts” through killer comedy and the ultimate satirical response to society’s true crime obsession. The film will be introduced in-person by John Waters himself(!), who will also be performing the one-night only, spoken-word show Devil’s Advocate earlier in the evening. 


OFF RAMP – Canadian Premiere (Directed by Nathan Tape)

Monday, April 22 @ 9:45 PM

Co-written by Edmontonian Tim Cairo, this film chronicles the pilgrimage of two lovable, degenerate juggalos, Trey and Silas. Along their way to The Gathering of the Juggalos, the duo get themselves in and out of trouble a few times over, prompting self-discovery and their tethered destinies revealing themselves in gory, chaotic fashion. Macgowan begs the question: “Does an unhinged and violent Juggalo crime dark-comedy sound appealing to you?! It should if you’re looking for an exciting time at the movies!”


The Calgary Underground Film Festival runs April 18-28