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Amongst the comic book afficionados, overly-intense gamers and stall owners spruiking collectible merchandise, a little film festival strengthens its under-the-radar importance.

The annual Comic Con gathering, kicking off its 4 day schedule in San Diego on July 12, is renowned for work-in-progress presentations by the major studios, keen to get the key movie-going demographic onside asap. This year, there will be sneak-peek sessions and cast and crew Q&As for such high-profile hopefuls as Focus Features’ ParaNorman; Sony Picture’s Total Recall, Elysium and Looper; and Sundance hit The Vacationeers. More will be announced as the event draws nearer.

Less focus, however, is placed upon the sidebar film festival program. Now in it’s 16th year, the Comic Con International Film Festival has become an important resume-builder for genre filmmakers. This year, in addition to a vast schedule of short films, three features will screen, covering topics as eclectic as female professional wrestlers and Chilean comic-book artists. SCREEN-SPACE takes a look at the films that Comic Con’s proudly geekish attendees can look forward to between cosplay extravaganzas and Obi-wan-vs-Kirk panel discussions*…

Director Brett Whitcomb, who examined small-town eccentricity in his 2007 doco The Rock-afire Explosion, goes bigger but no less nuttier with GLOW, his lovingly retrospective look at that intrinsically 80s phenomenon – professional ladies wrestling. Rich in archival footage, Whitcomb’s film revisits with the great names of the era, including Babe the Farmer’s Daughter, Big Bad Mama, Jailbait, Little Egypt and Matilda the Hun.

Attendees needing a break from the hectic Con floor will adore David Barras’ UK comedy Electric Man, the story of two comic-book nerds who go to hilariously ironic lengths to save their fave fanzine shop from foreclosure. An ultra-rare Issue #1 of the titular comic is the kickstarter for an all-or-nothing working-class farce starring two next-big things Toby Manley and Mark McKirdy as slacker-supremos Jazz and Wolf.

So fresh from its successful run in Chile’s arthouse theatres that there isn’t an English-language trailer to be found online, Nico Lorca’s workplace comedy looks at the personalities and peculiarities of the nerdish bunch who publish a successful line of old-school hand-drawn graphic novels (I think – there’s not a lot of info on this film to work with). Assuming a subtitled print makes it to Comic Con, should be a hoot.

*Please don’t send hate mail. I’m one of you.

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