What to watch at CUFF 2013

So the Calgary Underground Film Festival starts today, and in my relatively biased opinion (I’m on the board, but I’m not the guy who picks the movies), it’s definitely one of the best things you can spend your time on this week. The programming team has yet again put together an incredibly solid line-up, and thanks to them, Calgary’s going to be the first Canadian audience to see some of this year’s best movies.

But, if you haven’t had the time to peruse the whole 28-film line-up, hers’ a handy list of what I’m most excited about. And I’ll make a similar offer to what one of our programmers did on Facebook — if you’re looking for a more personal recommendation, hit me up on Twitter @peterhemminger, and I’ll see what I can do.

Top Priorities

Act of Killing
Errol Morris and Werner Herzog are the executive producers of this one, and that alone should have you thinking it’ll be one of the more interesting documentaries to come out this year. But then, the premise. The filmmakers found people who would be considered war criminals if they hadn’t won–instead they’re cultural heroes of a weird and awful sort. After talking to them for a while, they realized that these mass murderers were, to some extent at least, inspired by Hollywood movies. So, they get them to re-enact their atrocities in the style of the movies that they were already emulating. It sounds like an impossibly odd blend of whimsy and bleakness that I can’t stand the thought of missing it.

Upstream Color
This one probably doesn’t need much in the way of a push, but here it is anyway: The writer and director of Primer, a super-low-budget sci-fi flick that also happens to be one of the more interesting time-travel movies ever made, waited nine years to follow that one up. Upstream Color is the result, and when the AV Club saw it at Sundance, their reviewer called it “one of the most transcendent experiences of my moviegoing life.” I honestly don’t need more than that to get me into this one.

Frances HA
I’ve never really gotten into Noah Baumbach, for whatever reason. But I do think that Greta Gerwig is impossibly charming, and the trailer for this one looks like it’ll strike a nice balance between Wes Anderson and Woody Allen, which seems like a pretty sweet spot to me.

The Final Member
It’s a documentary on a penis museum in Iceland. When it played SXSW, they fed the audience bull testicles. And my buddy Mark Teo called it “possibly the finest movie I’ve ever seen.” Sold.

Ben Wheatley’s Kill List had a reputation on the festival circuit for leaving audiences with the “Kill List stare” — looking at the screen slack-jawed, trying to wrap your head around what you were watching. It nailed the original Wicker Man creepy-for-reasons-but-I-don’t-know-why vibe, and I told myself I’d definitely watch whatever else that guy did. Now he’s done a pitch black comedy set in rural England, where a couple of vacationers go on a cathartic murder-spree. And it’s produced by Edgar Wright (director of Scott Pilgrim, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), which is another very good sign.

Also, These

Berberian Sound Studio
A tribute to Italian horror movies that’s set in a studio where they’re making an Italian horror movie. Killer soundtrack, too.

The History of Future Folk
Admittedly, this looks pretty twee. But that’s hardly a bad thing. A bluegrass folk musical about aliens who came to destroy Earth but discovered music instead and now play club shows in New York.

“Life, Love, Lyrics and Lobsters”
The annual shorts package. It has a cartoon by Pendleton Ward, who made Adventure Time and is therefore one of the greatest men alive.

The Lords of Salem
Rob Zombie has made one amazing movie, Devil’s Rejects. Seriously, it’s unimpeachable. He’s also made some terrible movies, like House of 1000 Corpses. But I still want to give him the benefit of the doubt, and a movie about evil rock ‘n’ roll and witchcraft seems like a pretty perfect fit.

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