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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona Underground Film Festival brings edgy stories to screen


    Courtesy of Jane Clark

    “Crazy Bitches” is a horror comedy film written and directed by Jane Clark. It will be screened on Sept. 22 at The Screening Room for the annual Arizona Underground Film Festival.

    If it wasn’t for the Arizona Underground Film Festival, then titles like “A Taste of Blood” or “Wolfcop” may never get the chance to be seen on the silver screen.

    Powering through its seventh year, this annual grotesque fest of cinema is an opportunity for both local and international filmmakers to premiere their low-budget creations. For some filmmakers, it’s a chance to get feedback from a first-time audience.

    Of the more than 500 submissions that it receives every year, the film festival tries to pick out independent films that have a bit of an edge to them. Whether that edge is in the form of alien call girls or drug-addicted dwarfs, David Pike, the founder and director of the festival, said that the festival accepts all types of genres and narratives.

    Taking place at The Screening Room on Congress Street, the film festival will begin with a showing of the Japanese horror film “Killers” Friday night, and then end on Sept. 27 with the Arizona premiere of the campy comedy “Wolfcop.”

    According to Pike, roughly 50 other feature and short films will be shown in-between, which are broken up in the categories of horror, animation, exploitation, documentary and experimental film.

    Though, it should not be assumed that all these films are just garbage pails of gratuitous violence; some do have a little heart to them. Darious Britt’s feature “Unsound” is a painful exploration of the detrimental effects mental illness can afflict on a person’s loved ones.

    “It’s basically a slice of my life that’s been sculpted and molded,” said Britt, the writer and director of “Unsound.” Based on Britt’s autobiographical experiences, the film follows a mother-son relationship that is plagued with schizophrenia.

    Britt said that his mother was first apprehensive about having their family’s dirty laundry dumped into celluloid. After meeting the actress who would be dramatizing her life, Britt said she came to understand the potential of the film’s earnest depiction.

    Britt graduated from the School of Theatre, Film and Television’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program in film and television in 2012. His senior thesis film was a condensed, 10-minute short titled “Seafood Tester,” which is what “Unsound” has expanded into. Within one month of graduating, Britt maxed out his credit cards and recruited his college friends to begin the principle photography on the full-length version of “Unsound.”

    Production on Britt’s passion project wrapped in January, and now “Unsound” will be screening at 10 different film festivals this year. Britt has already won the Best Arizona Film award at the Prescott Film Festival.

    “I hope it ends up reaching and finding its audience in the mental health community,” Britt said. He will be participating in a post-show Q&A after “Unsound” screens on Sunday.

    Finding an audience is part of the benefits of screening at the Arizona Underground Film Festival. Pike said that many films get looked at by distribution companies that can grant wider releases to these thrifty projects.

    “[The festival] has got a great international and national reputation,” Pike said. Pike added that one previous film that screened at his festival ended up getting a week-long booking in Amsterdam.

    It’s a distribution deal like this that filmmaker Jane Clark hopes her slasher-comedy, “Crazy Bitches,” can grab at the festival.

    Screening on Monday, the California filmmaker describes “Crazy Bitches” as a personification of the deadly effects vanity can afflict on others. Using familiar cabin-in-the-woods clichés of the horror genre, the film follows a group of old sorority sisters reuniting for a weekend getaway on a secluded ranch. As tensions start to rise, so does the body count, and the women find themselves at the mercy of a mysterious killer.

    “I want the audience to care about the character when they die,” said Clark, who is taking her first stab at the horror genre with “Crazy Bitches.” Clark said her inspiration mostly came from classics like “The Exorcist” and “The Shining,” films that focus less on the gore and more on the psychological terror of its characters.

    Clark said that her film may be more story-oriented than other horror films, which she partly attributes to her feminine perspective as a filmmaker. She adds that horror films directed by men tend to exploit the shock-value of each individual death scene.

    “Crazy Bitches” has plenty of blood to satisfy the average horror junkie, but Clark said that she hopes the audience will recognize her characters’ depth, which may get the viewer to react more passionately.

    “Horror is very contagious,” Clark said. She said she is expecting “Crazy Bitches” to get a wide release on Valentine’s Day in 2015.

    Clark won’t be the only female director representing at this year’s festival, as Australian filmmaker Penny Vozniak screens her documentary “Despite the Gods” on Saturday.

    Chronicling the private and sometimes destructive moments of the making of an Indian film called “Hisss,” Vozniak’s documentary follows its director Jennifer Lynch — daughter of “Twin Peaks” creator David Lynch — as she attempts to complete the film while maintaining her sanity.

    Vozniak found Lynch as her next documentary subject almost by complete accident, as she got sucked into babysitting Lynch’s daughter while stopping off in Mumbai, India, to visit a friend. By the next week, Vozniak said she had found in Lynch the perfect subject to document, with her tenacious personality oscillating between fearlessness and vulnerability.

    Vozniak said that “Despite the Gods” fits into the underground genre with its gritty, raw portrayal of a woman’s life, which doesn’t fit into mainstream media’s mold. Vozniak added that underground films are usually harder for an audience to swallow but are still necessary to make.

    Tucsonans can judge the artistic integrity of the films at the Arizona Underground Film Festival for themselves. Moviegoers should take note that if they’re looking for an inspirational, Oscar-worthy tearjerker, then they might want to try the Sundance Film Festival: The only tissues needed for this type of festival are for mopping up the fake blood.

    Follow Kevin C. Reagan on Twitter @KevinReaganUA

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