The Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF) is a little bit more underground than it planned to be this year, given the loss of a key backer (Marrickville Council in the inner West suburb of Sydney, pulled its sponsorship this year).
Instead, the running costs will be covered solely by its box office takings. Making up the $1,000 shortfall shouldn't be a problem; the program this year contains the type of films that made it popular amongst its loyal, mostly inner-city audience as well as some slightly more mainstream though no less challenging works.
The event opens with the Australian premiere of Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (pictured), the big screen debut of American television comedians, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. The surreal, almost non-linear narrative and eccentric cameos from the likes of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly suggests that all boxes are ticked in terms of the festival keeping its cult credibility.
Other feature film highlights include The Keyhole, starring Isabella Rossellini, from Canadian auteur-of-oddness, Guy Maddin; Richard Griffin's retro-themed softcore/grindhouse/glitterball odyssey, The Disco Exorcist; Frankie Frain's suburban-kinky ensemble comedy, Sexually Frank; and the otherworldly portmanteau film The Fourth Dimension, featuring new works from directors Aleksei Fedorchenko, Jan Kwiecinski and underground poster-child, Harmony Korine (Gummo, Mister Lonely). Closing the event will be Bobcat Goldthwait's scathing takedown of modern pop culture inanity, God Bless America.
An international roster of documentaries will present some of SUFF's most fascinating and truly left-field visions. These include the meta-musings of James Franco in his first-person murder mystery, Francophrenia; Bob Ray's character study of drug-addled Texan Wildman Chad Holt, the appropriately titled Total Badass; and Daryl Stoneage's Donkey Lovers, about lonely South American farmers who, well, love donkeys. Two films examine the maddening process of moviemaking: Penny Vozniak's festival favourite Despite the Gods, and Gil Kofman and Tanner King Barklow's account of their labyrinthine dealings with the Chinese film industry, Unmade in China.
The short film strands return in 2012 under cage-rattling monikers The LSD Factory, Love/Sick, Animation Fornication and Reality Bites. Premiering this year will a 16-film line up called Sin City, comprising of work from Sydney-based filmmakers. And fresh from the like-minded west coast gathering Revelation Perth International Film Festival, is the retrospective of British '60s enfant terrible Jeff Keen.
The organisers' greatest coup this year is undoubtedly their unearthing of the popular internet satirist MrDoodleburger. The mysterious figure will make a rare live appearance to present his scathing soap opera deconstructions Summer Bay Slaughter Part 1, The Dungeon, Alf Stewart at the Logies and a sneak peek at the soon-to-launch Summer Bay Slaughter Part 2. Juxtaposing the SUFF offerings with the glistening beaches and tanned surfer bods of Home and Away perhaps represents the ultimate act of giggly cultural subversion by this iconic alt-lifestyle event.
The Sydney Underground Film Festival run from September 6-9. Visit the official website for more information.