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The Sydney Underground Film Festival enters its teenage phase; the 13th annual festival of warped, wicked celluloid is set to unnerve and entertain from September 12-15. The tone is set from Session 1, with ageing enfant terrible Harmony Korinne’s raucous celebration of self-medication The Beach Bum, starring Matthew McConnaughey-hey-hey, set to open the festivities, complete with skank-scented smoke machines (yeah, that’s right). There is a myriad of alternative content on offer - 23 narrative features, 12 documentaries and 45 short films, as well as strands dedicated Virtual Reality, Nigerian cinema and splendidly splattery no-budget effects wizardry.

But if you need your mind quickly blown, just where should you focus your secret, sordid cravings for the offbeat and unusual? SCREEN-SPACE zeroed in on five features from the 2019 SUFF line-up that may satiate those urges, for a while at least…

BRAID (Dir. Mitzi Peirone | 82mins | USA)
Program Prose: A candy-coloured, hallucinogen-fueled lunacy binge, (debut director Mitzi perone) makes one hell of a first impression, applying
a dizzying sense of dream logic and an uncompromisingly feminist edge to a Gothic, almost fairy tale-like psychological horror.
Critical Condition: “What sort of mind would concoct something this peculiar and undeniably personal, and fill it with gaslighting, torment, torture, disfigurement, murder, slapstick, and scenes of adults playing dress-up like kids? I came away feeling that I'd seen, if not a major film, then a film by major talents.” – Matt Zoller Seitz,
Screen-Space thinking…: Buzz is this is a stylistic companion piece to Anna Biller’s The Love Witch, with narrative echoes of The Killing of Sister George and Daughters of Darkness. Tick, tick and tick…

Mope Trailer from LUCAS HEYNE on Vimeo.

MOPE (Dir. Lucas Heyne | 105mins | USA)
Program Prose: In the world of pornography,
the term ‘mope’ refers to a low-level, wannabe porn actor who perhaps isn’t quite well endowed or attractive enough to achieve the success granted to “bigger”-name porn stars…Heyne crawls right under the skin of this grimy landscape, crafting a melancholy portrait of two misguided souls seeking love and acceptance, just like the rest of us.
Critical Condition: “Mope is a ballsy movie.” – Kyle Brunet, Boston Hassle
Screen-Space thinking…: Full disclosure – pornography and the machinations that produces it hold an ugly allure; it is why I am drawn over and over to not only Boogie Nights, but also sad, sickly tales like Auto Focus, Lovelace, Inserts and Wonderland. Critics are citing the very human connection that Heyne draws from his characters, which is something new for this sub-genre…. 

GREENER GRASS (Dir. Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe | 95mins | USA)
Program Prose: Eschewing all decorum and boundaries, Greener Grass mercilessly shreds all the institutions western society holds dear… this deranged lovechild of John Waters and Tim & Eric grows more inappropriate, unhinged, and surreal by the frame.
Critical Condition: “It’s basically the best ‘Saturday Night Live’ movie that Saturday Night Live never made, and if Lorne Michaels were half the talent scout we believe, he’d hire both DeBoer and Luebbe on the spot.” – Peter Debruge, Variety
Screen-Space thinking…: Skewering the faux morality and middle-class nightmare that is American suburbia is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but when the filmmakers go for broke and the satire is razor-sharp, film classics are born (Blue Velvet; American Beauty; The Graduate). Fingers-crossed…

THE WOLF HOUSE (Dir. Joaquín Cociña, Cristóbal León| 75mins | Chile)
Program Prose: Inspired by the infamous Colonia Dignidad, a German commune that doubled as a clandestine torture camp under Augusto Pinochet, The Wolf House distils the horrors of history into a hellish folktale… a dark, compelling, enigmatic puzzle box of a film that will continue to burrow deep into your subconscious long after the credits roll.
Critical Condition: “Sometimes reminiscent of an Eraserhead-style Lynchian nightmare turned into sculpture, paintings and stop-motion, beasts become human, a body forms out of a head like something out of science fiction, and inside every constrained girl is an eager bird desperate to fly free.” – Sarah Ward, Screen Daily
Screen-Space thinking…: The burning passion for ground-breaking animated storytelling that defines the brilliant career of Jan Svankmajer is a clear influence. Good enough for us…

USE ME (Dir. Julian Shaw | 91mins | Australia)
Program Prose: Australian filmmaker Julian Shaw (as himself) travels to the United States to direct a documentary featuring ‘mental humiliatrix’ Ceara Lynch (as herself)… what was meant to
 be entertainment becomes a matter of life and death.
Critical Condition: “A sort of post-truth thriller which feels deeply era appropriate and cleverly engages with its subject matter.” – Anthony O’Connor, FilmInk.
Screen-Space thinking…: Shaw has demonstrated with his past docos (Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story, 2007; Cup of Dreams, 2011) that he’s a deft hand at first-person factual filmmaking. He inserts himself into the narrative he constructs about his real-life subject, which is creatively fraught with risk, yet finds unexpected insight and honesty. He makes really interesting films…

The 2019 Sydney Underground Film Festival will be held at The Factory Theatre, Marrickville from September 12-15. Session and ticket information is at the event's official website.

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