New England cinephiles prepare for five days of cine-madness this month with the return of the the 21st Annual Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF).
This year’s program includes a fierce and fresh collection of transgressive, unholy, and unthinkable underground cinema, with titles including Hail Satan?, Mope, Tone-Deaf, Knife+Heart, The Unthinkable and More!
The 21st annual Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF) returns to Harvard Square, bringing with it a five-day film frenzy to the Brattle Theatre and Harvard Film Archive from March 20th through the 24th.
For over twenty years, BUFF has been bringing the finest in vanguard filmmaking from all over the world to New England cinephiles. The festival celebrates unconventional stories, idiosyncratic voices, fever dreams, nightmarish visions, and all manner of cinematic forms, in service of an audience ravenous for an annual sensory bacchanalia from beyond the mainstream.
Director Penny Lane’s provocative Sundance-sensation Hail Satan? crowns this year’s festivities with its inspirational and entertaining chronicle of the extraordinary rise of one of America’s most colorful and controversial religious movements, The Satanic Temple (TST).
A damning commentary on the role of organized religion in our purportedly secular society, Hail Satan? challenges preconceived notions about the objectives of the nontheistic, Salem-based, political activist movement and offers “a timely look at a group of often misunderstood outsiders whose unwavering commitment to social and political justice has empowered thousands of people around the world.” Filmmaker Lane and TST co-founder & spokesperson Lucien Greaves will be present for a post-screening Q&A.
Reaffirming last year’s commitment to giving first-time feature filmmakers a broader presence at the festival, BUFF celebrates a bounty of exhilarating visions from the cinematic edge, including Lucas Heyne’s Sundance-smashing porn-drama-cum-true-crime tragicomedy, Mope, and Crazy Pictures’ Swedish, precisely-paced disasterama The Unthinkable, which delivers a pulse-pounding stunner of a closing night!
BUFF revisits its roots with a double-dose of 90’s DIY Queen of the Underground Sarah Jacobson—her 1997 feature debut Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Anymore, paired with her seminal short from 1993, I Was A Teenage Serial Killer—painstakingly restored in 2K by the American Genre Film Archive.
In perfect complementary fashion, BUFF also presents Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records—Julia Nash’s personal chronicle of her father Jim and his partner Dannie, who formed an unlikely family of punks, queers, and outsiders on their transformative, breakneck ride through the music and culture of the 80s underground scene—to Boston’s industrial devotees.
BUFF’s queer flag flies high with coming-of-age wartime musical Canary, Christiaan Olwagen’s electrifying tale of a smalltown boy coming out to a Bronski Beat in mid-80s South Africa, and Yann Gonzalez’s synth-infused, erotic queer giallo, Knife+Heart, which marries lush De Palma-esque mise-en-scène with a spellbinding score by M83 (which is helmed by Gonzalez’s brother, Anthony).
Outsiders rule the screen at #BUFF21, and Alexandre Franchi’s part autobiographical coming-of-age, part D&D-fuelled fable Happy Face bears an antidote to the tyranny of beauty with no makeup, no sfx, no filter and all heart, as a quixotic teen goes incognito to group therapy for the facially different in a misguided attempt to reconnect with his cancer-stricken mother. Attendees will be treated to a post-screening Q&A with the director as well.
Fans of horror have plenty to look forward to with this year’s festival as well. Adrian Panek’s harrowing, horrifying Werewolf, raises the bar for siege films to disorienting new heights, while this year’s midnight Secret Screening is guaranteed to be one of the year’s most groundbreaking works of terror.
The festival also boasts a space-themed brunch, with the filmmakers, at the US Premiere of the dark sci-fi gem Assassinaut from Drew Bolduc (The Taint), which follows a group of space-wrecked teens on a mission to save the President of Earth from a murderous astronaut.
For those that love their scares with a side-order of laughs, festival alumnus Richard Bates Jr. returns with Tone-Deaf, a brilliantly bleak critique of the bizarre cultural/political climate those of us trapped in timeline B are experiencing, starring Amanda Crew (Silicon Valley) and Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) in a home-away-from-home invasion horror comedy fresh off its world premiere at SXSW!
And the laughs keep coming with Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein’s internet-age lambasting horror comedy, Clickbait about a college student who will do just about anything for Internet fame. When she is kidnapped by a fan, her reluctant roommate becomes the only one who can save her in this horror satire of popularity culture.
If all that’s not enough, the festival will also host their annual kid-friendly Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cereal Cartoon Party with three hours of ‘toons and cereal smorgasbord, hosted and programmed by renowned curator, author, publisher, and founder of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, Kier-La Janisse. PLUS a veritable bounty of shorts programming, celebrating the finest animation, transgressive horror and genre-inspired music videos, awaits!
Festival passes sold out online last month through BUFF’s annual crowdfunder. However, individual screening tickets are available online for advanced sales and at the Brattle Theatre box office.