Emersonians surface at underground film festival

Lewis Savarese, Beacon Correspondent 

The lineup for the 13th annual Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF) is loaded with Emerson alumni competing against fellow directors for the festival’s coveted Bacchus Award as best in show. Each year, BUFF features horror, surrealist, exploitationist, and twisted comedy genres.

Emerson’s own Anna Feder, visual media arts programs coordinator, has been the executive director and programmer of BUFF for six years and is excited to see the eight-day festival — which takes her and her fellow all-volunteer staff all year to program — come to fruition.

“The dream someday is to find some sugar daddy to fund me so I can just go to festivals for the rest of my life,” said Feder. “I go to Cannes (this year for Emerson’s Creative Minds at Cannes internship program), I’ve been to Toronto, but mainly I go to the genre festivals.  It makes sense for me when I do BUFF.  Like Fantasia I do every year and Fantastic Fest in Austin.”

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Emerson alumnus Jeremy Kasten, who graduated in 1993, opened the 2008 BUFF with his remake of The Wizard of Gore after negotiating with Feder, who continues to keep Lions in this underground festival’s den.

“We always try to do some tie-in with Emerson if I can,” said Feder in an interview with the Beacon.

Senior film production major Gregory Hanson is screening his exploitation — or “nunsploitation”, as the crew referred to it — film Thy Kill Be Done for the first time at BUFF. The short will be showing before Machete Maidens Unleashed on Friday and Monday evenings.

In a phone interview with the Beacon, Hanson reminisced about the moment Feder asked for his film to be shown at BUFF.

She told Hason his film would be shown before Machete Maidens, a film that had just made a splash at the Toronto Film Festival.

“I freaked out because it’s a really cool film,” Hanson said. He said he was influenced by 70s-era exploitation flicks and credits the re-kindled interest to the 2007 Tarantino/Rodriguez production Grindhouse.

“That kind of kicked off this neo-grindhouse style, exploitation kick,” said Hanson. “We were inspired by films like Death Wish and Switchblade Sisters, and on the nunspolitation end of it, stuff like Killer Nun.”

Novelist-turned-screenwriter and Emerson alumnus Jack Ketchum, who graduated in 1969, wrote the screenplay for The Woman, an exceptionally violent thriller involving a country lawyer who captures and then “civilizes” — a euphemism if there ever was one — the last remaining member of a violent clan which then puts his family in danger. The BUFF website calls The Woman director Lucky McKee’s “latest study in human cruelty.” The film is produced by Emerson film production graduate Andrew van den Houten, who graduated in 2005.

“In any really good horror film, people walk out, they get offended. We had a walk-out towards the end of the film,” said Ketchum in a phone interview with the Beacon. “This woman walks out so fast she fell, hit her head, and they had to call the paramedics…It’s the kind of film that’s going to outrage some people.”

Feder said she believes BUFF is an important festival because it provides a venue for controversial, fringe filmmaking that otherwise might not get the chance to be displayed on a big screen.  More than 100 short films and a dozen music videos will also screen.

The opening film is Hobo with a Shotgun, the feature that evolved from the fake trailer in Quentin Tarantino’s and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse. Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) stars as a vagrant, “delivering justice one shell at a time,” according to the film’s website. If its first reviews at the SXSW Film Festival are any indication, audiences are in for a blood-drenched good time.

The Woman will be screening for free in the Bright Screening Room tonight at 7 p.m.  BUFF runs through March 31 at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge.  Tickets and showtimes at bostonunderground.org.