By Jason Herring, November 17 2015 —
Though the annual Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) doesn’t take place until April, festival coordinators are hosting CUFF.Docs, a mini-festival showcasing a diverse range of documentary films, from Nov. 19–22.
The festival began after CUFF received a high quantity of documentary submissions for its main festival three years ago. Lead programmer Brennan Tilley says CUFF.Docs started as a way to fill demand for more documentary film screenings in the city.
“We can only really show six to eight documentaries in the April festival without it feeling too doc-heavy. We really have to keep the ratio there,” Tilley explains. “As we looked into it, there wasn’t a lot in Calgary for top-level docs and buzz films coming out of Sundance. There was no one who was putting together a solid, consecutive day festival that was highlighting non-fiction films.”
The festival is screening 12 films at the Globe Cinema over four days. CUFF.Docs will open with Raiders!, a film about three 11-year-old kids from Mississippi who created a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark before finishing their project 25 years later.
Other films at the festival include serious entries like Pervert Park, which examines a Florida community that houses 120 convicted sex offenders, as well as lighter fare like Frank and the Wondercat, the story of a 20-year-old performing house cat and his owner.
Tilley says the festival’s diverse offerings are a conscious effort, and he hopes everyone can find a film that intrigues them.
“There’s a small committee of us who view films and put together the ones that make for the best package,” he says. “For instance, this year there were two really good documentaries that had a video game angle. We ended up just going with one of them, because we wanted to make sure we could hit all audiences. There’s a couple that are good for the all-ages crowd. We’re making sure Canada is represented and we have short films playing before that feature local talent.”
Having more local films also gives festival-goers an opportunity to get closer to the subject matter. Two of CUFF.Doc’s Canadian films — Frank and the Wondercat and The Sandwich Nazi — will have their directors in attendance at the screenings to answer questions after the movies finish.
Given the success of the first two years of CUFF.Docs, it’s obvious that Calgarians are captivated by documentaries. Tilley has a few theories as to why.
“One thing that helps a lot on a film-by-film basis is that docs typically hit really specific interests or topics. There’s defined audiences for each film and people see documentaries as something enriching,” Tilley says. “There’s a lot more you can get out of a documentary because you’re learning something and you’re interacting with the world and it’s more of a shared experience. And when you make something crazy go on in a narrative film, you lose the audience. But when something crazy happens in a doc, you draw them in more.”
Individual film tickets are $8.25 for students at the door.