Attention New England cinephiles: Spring festival season is nigh as the 23nd annual Boston Underground Film Festival returns to Harvard Square’s arthouse hub The Brattle Theatre with five days of vanguard cinemania from March 22nd through the 26th. This year’s lineup is stacked with fearsome folk horror, mendacious miscreants, harrowing horrors and hero/es/ines, godless god-complexes, eco-thrillers and chillers, sensational sci-fi, and all manner of midnight madness.
BUFF is beyond honored to host the World Premiere of Jeffrey A. Brown’s haunting, Massachusetts-based horror thriller The Unheard for a homecoming heroes’ welcome on Opening Night. Starring Lachlan Watson (Chucky, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), The Unheard follows a deaf young woman ensconced in a signal-to-noise mystery of dueling senses, realities, truths, identities, and possibly worlds. Brown (2019’s The Beach House) and local screenwriting legends Michael and Shawn Rassmussen (2019’s Crawl) will be in attendance for a post-screening conversation.
Fresh off its world premiere at Sundance, we are thrilled to bring the East Coast Premiere of Eddie Alcazar’s retro-sci-fi, singularly WTF masterpiece Divinity to the cineastes with different tastes at BUFF. Starring Stephen Dorff, Scott Bakula, Bella Thorne, and produced by Steven Soderbergh, this deranged, drug-addled, dystopian vision, where beauty and grotesquery abound, is 100% uncompromising underground cinema.
On the heels of its SXSW debut, writer/director Bomani J. Story’s The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster lands at BUFF for its East Coast Premiere. Teen science genius Vicaria (The Equalizer’s Laya DeLeon Hayes) plays god when she embarks on a quest to find the cure for death, a disease, she theorizes, versus an inevitability, whose destructive path of substance abuse, brutality, and violence has rended itself through her family and community. Breathing new life into Frankenstein’s monster, Story’s electric feature debut challenges conceptions of mortality and monstrosity through a Black lens.
BUFF is proud to present a double-dose of international folk horror starting with the East Coast Premiere of Tereza Nvotová’s nightmarish Nightsiren, which examines the chokehold grip of toxic patriarchal structures on a remote Slovakian village, where the pervasive fingers of superstition point to witches when two women dare to defy and disrupt the unnatural order. Then we’ll host the New England Premiere of sumptuous cinematic stunner Enys Men, which follows the sole inhabitant of a craggy Cornish island’s descent into madness. Set in the early 70s, British auteur Mark Jenkin returns to his coastal stomping grounds following The Volunteer (Mary Woodvine), a meticulous cataloger studying the growth cycles of rare wildflowers, whose increasingly terrifying experiences lead her to suspect that her surroundings are both sentient and sinister.
Confronting environmental horrors in a completely different way, Daniel Goldhaber’s high-stakes, heist-style thriller How to Blow Up a Pipeline centers on a crew of young environmental activists and their mission to sabotage a Texas pipeline. With a dynamo ensemble cast—including Ariela Barer (Runaways), Lukas Gage (Euphoria), Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant), and Marcus Scribner (Black-ish)—How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a subversive and timely clarion to face the climate crisis.
Never lacking in pure absurdity, BUFF is delighted to present the New England Premiere of Quentin Dupieux’s French dark comedy/quasi-horror anthology/superhero sendup Smoking Causes Coughing, where candy-colored, lo-fi heroes (ala Power Rangers, but called the Tobacco Force) battle giant diabolical turtles and regale one another with lakeside scary stories on a bizarre team-building retreat. Next, we’ll be screening the New England Premiere of Kristoffer Borgli’s Scandinavian unromantic comedy Sick of Myself, which takes toxic relationships to the next level when narcissistic Signe attempts to derail her equally self-absorbed partner’s art career by way of Munchausenian extremes that are as cringe as they are unadmittedly relatable.
Delving into the real-life horrors of a uniquely toxic individual, Kiwi journalist David Farrier sets his lens on multi-hyphenate scammer Michael Organ, an extortionary, mercenary antique shop parking lot enforcer with a wild history of false identities and insane lawsuits at the center of stranger-than-fiction doc Mister Organ. DIY documentarian Ryan Worsley takes a deep dive into the history of culture jamming, plunderphonic prophets Negativland, crafting an experimental piece of media about media-about-media as unique and provocative as the band with her latest, Stand By for Failure: A Documentary About Negativland.
For something beautifully weird and otherworldly, BUFF presents the New England Premiere of Berlin-based visual artist Ann Oren’s sensuous debut Piaffe, which follows the story of Eva (The Untamed’s Simone Bucio), an introvert thrust into the role of foley artist to cover for her institutionalized sibling; when a horse’s tail starts growing from her body, she discovers the joys of foreplay…and horseplay. Equally allegorical and hypnotizing is Ryan Stevens Harris’ incredibly gorgeous Moon Garden, which follows a comatose child on a dark Gilliamesque odyssey back to consciousness.
BUFF’s 2023 program teems with themes of families in crisis (zeitgeist much?). Kirby McClure’s atmospheric debut Spaghetti Junction, which deftly blends elements of sci-fi, fantasy, and social realism in this tale of a Southern family grappling with life after a devastating loss, is a sterling example; BUFF is excited to host the film’s East Coast Premiere with McClure in attendance for a post-screening discussion. To close out the festival, BUFF is ecstatic to screen the New England Premiere of Belgian directing duo Adil & Bilall’s unforgettable, genre-smashing Rebel. Known for Bad Boys for Life and the recently shelved Batgirl, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s deeply personal, poignant, and bold melange of action, drama, and musical centers around a Muslim family caught in the crosshairs of jihadist radicalism. No description can truly encapsulate the mindblowing beauty and power of this modern masterpiece. A cinematic experience like no other.
We’ll also have our usual veritable bounty of shorts programming, celebrating the finest animation, transgressive horror, comedy, homegrown horror, and genre-inspired music videos.