For a film event that features a sexually-explicit French short called Plug and a closing night film that the organisers describe as a 'white trash psychobilly nightmare', the directors of the 3rd annual Sydney Underground Film Festival seem pretty serious in their intent.
“People are realising the community aspect of cinema, and the active involvement of the viewer in the film – film as a unique experience,” says Katherine Berger, who shares the Festival Director role with SUFF founder Stefan Popescu. “I like to think that we are contributing to this cultural phenomenon, by providing a platform for experimentation, creativity and a unique viewing experience.”
Unique indeed. Launching tonight with The Yes Men Fix The World, the latest no-holds-barred attack on big business ethics from 'anti-capitalist comic-terrorists' Mike Bonnano and Andy Bichelbaum, the program of the four-day event features such dubiously-tasteful but compelling works as Chusy Jardine's heartfelt and hilarious Sundance-hit Anywhere U.S.A. and Greg Blatman's Porndogs: The Adventures of Sadie – a hardcore porn parody featuring a cast of up-for-anything canines.
Berger is most proud of SUFF's commitment to Australian content. “We were very impressed with Australian entries this year as the level of experimentation and originality was very high. It seems Australians are starting to loosen up in their filmmaking”, she says. Popescu agrees, citing a lack of daring vision in the mainstream local cinema that needs addressing. “Basically we are trying to promote a local cinema culture that is based on diversity, creativity, experimentation and play. We are way over due for cinematic growth in this country.
“We are really proud of the program this year – animation, comedy, docos, experimental; we even introduced a women's cinema program this year.”
Though Berger and Popescu's programming betrays an underlining commitment to making the world a better place, they haven't forgotten their core audience. Front and centre at this year's festival is John Water's 1972 bad-taste epic Pink Flamingos, to be screened with the added enhancement of Odorama – a cardboard panel of scratch-&-sniff smells that you inhale when the cues on screen tell you to. Described by trade paper Variety as “One of the most vile, stupid and repulsive films ever made”, its worth as an underground classic is immeasurable.
Barely hiding his glee at the anticipated response Pink Flamingos will inspire, Stefan Popescu suggests that the third instalment of the Sydney Underground Film Festival should be a lot of fun. “We have become a little more confident... a little more daring, provocative and playful with our festival ideas”.