The 23rd Annual Boston Underground Film Festival Returns to Cambridge March 22nd — 26th With Incredible Line-Up Of Genre-Blending Films Featuring the World Premiere of Shudder’s The Unheard, starring Lachlan Watson, as Opening Night Film and Adil & Bilall’s Intense and Unforgettable Rebel Making its New England Premiere as Closer
Additional highlights include the East Coast Premieres of Hit Sundance Sci-Fi Mindmelter Divinity, From Producer Steven Soderbergh, and Frankenfantastic SXSW Selection The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster, plus New England Premieres of NEON’s Hotly Anticipated Eco-Heist Thriller How to Blow Up a Pipeline and Folk Horror Fever Dream Enys Men— and so much more!
March 8th, 2023 — Cambridge, MA – 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 a crew of young environmental activists and their mission to sabotage a Texas pipeline. With a dynamo ensemble cast—including Ariela Barer (Hulu’s 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.
BOSTON UNDERGROUND 2023 FEATURES LINEUP
THE UNHEARD – World Premiere / Opening Night Film
Jeffrey A. Brown | USA | 2023
In this haunting Massachusetts-set thriller, 20-year-old Chloe Grayden (Lachlan Watson – Chucky, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) begins to suffer from auditory hallucinations following an experimental procedure to restore her damaged hearing. Seemingly related to the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Chloe’s grasp on reality will rely on discerning between signal and noise. Director Jeffrey A. Brown and writers Shawn and Michael Rassmussen will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A!
NIGHTSIREN – East Coast Premiere
Tereza Nvotová | Slovakia, Czech Republic | 2022
A young woman returns to her native mountain village searching for answers about her troubled childhood, but as she tries to uncover the truth, ancient superstitions lead the villagers to accuse her of witchcraft and murder.
SPAGHETTI JUNCTION – East Coast Premiere
Kirby McClure | USA | 2022
August, a recently disabled Southern teen, sees a flash in the sky and begins having strange dreams that beckon her to a cave in the woods. There she encounters a mysterious injured young man called “The Traveler” who needs her help.
ENYS MEN – New England Premiere
Mark Jenkin | UK | 2022
Set in 1973 on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast, a wildlife volunteer’s daily observations of a rare flower turn into a metaphysical journey that forces her as well as the viewer to question what is real and what is nightmare.
DIVINITY – East Coast Premiere
Eddie Alcazar | USA | 2023
In another time, in another place, scientist Sterling Pierce (Scott Bakula) dedicated his career to searching for the answer to eternal life, over time creating a substance known as “Divinity.” Now Jaxxon Pierce (Stephen Dorff) controls and manufactures his father’s once-benevolent serum… Society on this barren planet has been entirely perverted by the supremacy of the drug, whose true origins are shrouded in mystery. When two mysterious brothers arrive with a plan to abduct the mogul, and with the help of a seductress named Nikita, they will be set on a path hurtling toward true immortality. Featuring Bella Thorne and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, Divinity defies description and demands your attention.
HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE – New England Premiere
Daniel Goldhaber | USA | 2022
A crew of environmental activists plot a daring plan to disrupt an oil pipeline.
MISTER ORGAN – New England Premiere
David Farrier | New Zealand | 2022
Journalist David Farrier is drawn into a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious individual. Delving deeper he unearths a trail of court cases, royal bloodlines and ruined lives, in this true story of psychological warfare.
MOON GARDEN – Massachusetts Premiere
Ryan Stevens Harris | USA | 2022
A comatose five-year-old girl journeys through an industrial wonderland to find her way back to consciousness.
PIAFFE – New England Premiere
Ann Oren | Germany | 2022
When her sibling Zara suffers a nervous breakdown, introverted Eva is forced to take on Zara’s job as a foley artist. Suddenly, a horsetail starts growing out of her body.
SICK OF MYSELF – New England Premiere
Kristoffer Borgli | Norway, Sweden | 2022
Increasingly overshadowed by her boyfriend’s recent rise to fame as a contemporary artist creating sculptures from stolen furniture, Signe hatches a vicious plan to reclaim her rightfully deserved attention within the milieu of Oslo’s cultural elite.
SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING – Massachusetts Premiere
Quentin Dupieux | France | 2022
A group of vigilantes called the “tobacco-forces” is falling apart. To rebuild team spirit, their leader suggests that they meet for a week-long retreat, before returning to save the world.
THE ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER – East Coast Premiere
Bomani J. Story | USA | 2023
Brilliant teen scientist Vicaria (The Equalizer’s Laya DeLeon Hayes) theorizes that death is a curable disease and embarks on a dangerous journey to bring back her recently murdered brother.
STAND BY FOR FAILURE: A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT NEGATIVLAND – New England Premiere
Ryan Worsley | USA | 2022
Documentarian RyanWorsley explores cut-and-paste sonic social critics / sound collagists / pranksters Negativland, who have held a mirror up to media and culture and defied copyright laws from the fringes for the last 40+ years.
REBEL – New England Premiere / Closing Night Film
Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah | Belgium, Luxembourg, France | 2022
When Kamal resolves to change his life for the better, he leaves Belgium to help war victims in Syria. But, having arrived, he is forced to join a militia and is left stranded in Raqqa. Back home, his younger brother Nassim quickly becomes easy prey for radical recruiters, who promise to reunite him with Kamal. Their mother, Leila, fights to protect the only thing she has left: her youngest son. Filmmakers Adil & Bilall (BAD BOYS FOR LIFE, and the recent, infamously shelved BATGIRL) deliver an immensely powerful and nuanced portrayal of a family torn apart over a little Muslim boy’s future that epitomizes a transformative cinematic experience.
BOSTON UNDERGROUND 2023 SHORTS LINEUP
DESTINATION – Animated Shorts
! / Elaina Couse / United States
Ascension / Griffin Roessler / United States
Disappearing Acts / Sarah E. Jenkins / United States
Drifter / Joost Jansen / Belgium
HORSE / Diana Gong / United States
Hospes / Stephanie Williams / United States
Perfect City: The Mother / Shengwei Zhou / United States
Somebody Take the Wheel / Kenzie Sutton / United States
Speck / Diane Christiansen / United States
The Flypaper Spectacular / Luke Liberty / United States
THE SPRAYER / Farnoosh Abedi / Iran
Today, I Will Be The Bread / Andrew Cahill / United States
TRIGGER WARNING – Midnight Shorts
A.i. MOVIE / Brian Zahm / Canada
BOND / Kam Duv / France
Delivery / Imanol Ortiz / Spain
EARWORM / Bryan M. Ferguson / United Kingdom
Fop Wash / Sylvea Suydam / United States
Garbage Days / Julien Jauniaux / Belgium
Mickey Dogface / Zach Fleming / United States
Pretty Pickle / Jim Vendiola / United States
Tistlebu / Simon M. Valentine / Norway
THE DUNWICH HORRORS – New England Shorts
Christmas Wrapping / Mike Canale / United States
Dead Language / Erica Stockwell-Alpert / United States
Last Train / Andrew Connelly / United States
Penny / Rachel Thomas-Medwid / United States
Petunia / Miriam Olken / United States
Pray / Amber Chilton / United States
Rest Stop / Eric Bielakiewicz / United States
Reverberance / Alex DiVincenzo and TJ Frizzi / United States
Skin & Bone / Eli Powers / United States
The Old God! / Samuel Carlson / United States
The Watcher / Nathan Sellers / United States
BUTTER MY NOODLE – Comedy Shorts
Brief / Finnegan Haid / United States
Chipped / Costa Karalis / United States
Dead Enders / Fidel Ruiz-Healy and Tyler Walker / United States
High Moon / Kevin James / United States
Lobster Spouse: Pilot Episode / Michael Elliott Dennis / United States
Prairie Girls / Benett Holgerson / United States
Shanti Shanti Sayonara / Phoebe Parker / United States
Silicone Wave / Jeff Hilliard / United States
The Plant Mechanic / Aidan Payne / United States
Ursula / Hannah Heller / United States
Wild Bitch / Kate Nash and Rebekka Johnson / United States
SURVIVAL IS INSUFFICIENT – Existential Shorts
CONTENT: The Lo-Fi Man / Brian Lonano and Blake Meyers / United States
From.Beyond / Fredrik S. Hana / Norway
INCUBUS / Tito Fernandes / United Kingdom
It Takes A Village / Glam Hag / United States
Pool Party / Ellie Stewart / Canada
Rhyme Or Die / Max Lincoln / United Kingdom
Scooter / Chelsea Lupkin / United States
They Call It… Red Cemetery! / Francisco Lacerda / Portugal
SOUND & VISION – Music Videos
The Black Album / TOBACCO / Joe Cappa
Sugar/Tzu / Black Midi / Noel Paul
Technicolor / The Comet Is Coming / Charlie Robins
Backbone / MacGray / Aline Magrez
Du Sang Du Singe / La Jungle / Alex Orma
Crazy / Doechii / C. Prinz
Undertow / Son Lux / Alex Cook
I Died (Zdechłam) / Kuba Kawalec / Zuzanna Plisz
Do Better / Ab-Soul / Omar Jones
M.I.A. / SOHN / Vira-Lata
1.The Void / Shovel / Alexandros Papathanasopoulos
Heart Of Vengeance / Crooks / Snorre Fuglsang Ruhe
Crystal Ball / idkconundrum / Mike Canale & Mena Guy
Down Here / Claudio Olachea / Omer Ben Shachar
Fatty Tissue Thorn / FonFon Ru / Wes Sterrs
We Go Back / Animal Collective / Winston Hacking & Michael Enzbrunner
Everybody Hertz / Kal Marks / Michael Decker
Highest Building / Flume & Oklou / Michael Hili
Eww, Gross / Planet SARIAN / Dylan Kaufman & Alissa Wyle
No Curves / Superintendent McCupcakes / BABYBABY
Follicles / Five Hundred Bucks / Matthew John Lawrence
Stay Soft / Mitski / Maegan Houang
Don’t Forget My Love / Diplo & Miguel / Kinopravda
No One Dies From Love / Tove Lo / Alaska
Caution / Cuco / Cole Kush
Bicstan / Hudson Mohawke / Alan Resnick & Patti Harrison