ARIZONA UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: Spelunking for hidden treasures

By ZACK LEDESMA

Every filmmaker needs an audience and every audience needs a film to be made.

There are even audiences that crave strange ideas and unconventional approaches to old questions.

As long as there are filmmakers challenging the status quo, there will always be independent film festivals.

The Arizona Underground Film Festival, founded and directed by David Pike, lets filmmakers from all over the world showcase their film to Tucson indie film audiences.

From horror to documentaries to touching dramas, Pike makes it priority to show a variety of pictures for audiences to enjoy.

“I like the ones that are a little more edgy and a little more different, and that is what the festival encompasses,” Pike said. “It’s different filmmaking and different story telling than what you’re used to.”

The festival screened movies every night during its Sept. 19-27 run, including the world premiere of “The Badger Game” on Sept. 26.

“Killers,” “Time Lapse” and “Unsound” were a few of the movies that I was able to catch.

‘Killers’

The first night featured the Japanese horror-thriller “Killers.” The movie rotates between the stories of an Indonesian journalist whose life is in shambles and a successful Japanese business executive from Tokyo.

The journalist, Bayu Aditya, turns to a mysterious serial killer who films his victims being murdered to help find relief in killing people for his own justice.

Business executive Nomura Shuhei is just looking for someone to relate to with the same lust for blood.

“Killers” is an intense movie. What it lacks in exploding guts, it makes up for in sinister thoughts and the fetishes of Bayu and Nomura.

It’s a thriller that keeps you invested, hoping one of them wins over the other. All in all, it was a very entertaining, elegant horror film that made me assume everyone was a murderer on the way back to my car.

‘Time Lapse’

In “Time Lapse,” housemates Callie, Finn and Jasper discover that their deceased neighbor has been hiding an experimental camera that captures pictures 24 hours into the future.

Each has a motive to look into the future. They begin winning bets and painting pictures that have not yet been thought up, until paranoia, greed and jealousy eats at them with every picture.

“Time Lapse” has a fun premise. From the beginning, you take one look at the camera and think “This will be so silly.”

The movie was silly and fun in so many ways but it was also tied together so neatly that I could not help but think, “Whoa.”

It left me with lots of questions about the idea of the camera, and had me thinking about it well into the week.

Throughout the movie, seemingly obvious clues that felt like nails being banged into my head actually led to something unexpected. I did not think “Time Lapse” would keep me guessing and thinking, but to my pleasant surprise there was a lot more to it than a silly sci-fi premise.

‘Unsound’

Tucson director Darious Britt spent much of his own money directing, acting and producing “Unsound.”

“We’re talking loans and four or five charged-up credit cards that I still pay every month,” Britt said.  “I’m reminded of the ginormous financial risk that I made making this film. Nonetheless, I’m very proud of it.”

Based on events from Britt’s life, the film follows a protagonist as he tries to balance his break-through film project with his mother’s schizophrenic episodes.

Britt gets an all-too-real vision of his personal struggle onto the screen. Instead of feeling like a scripted movie, “Unsound” is like watching someone’s struggle unfold before an audience.

There is not much to complain about with this self-funded passion project other than the location being Tucson. Even then, Britt manages to make the setting visually inviting.

Actress To-Ree-Nee Wolf did an excellent job as the mother of the main character, Reginald Colbert, who is played by Britt.

He made the film to share his experience with an audience and with people who are dealing with similar situations.

I recommend “Unsound” to those people and to anyone looking for a sincere, well-directed independent drama.

Bigger and better for 2015

Pike strives each year’s festival better than the last, and plans to up the ante next year.

“It’s been growing from a three-day festival where I’ve played a few films here and there,” he said. “It’s grown to nine days and is one of the biggest underground film festivals in the country, if not the biggest.”

For more information about the festival and updates for next year, visit azuff.org.

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