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Deep in the MUFF

The fourth annual Minneapolis Underground Film Festival is unearthed once again for its weekend among the living.
A still from explicitly camp French horror film Last caress to screen Saturday evening
Image by Photo courtesy MUFF
A still from explicitly camp French horror film “Last caress” to screen Saturday evening


What: Minneapolis Underground Film Festival

Where: Theaters 1, 2 and 3, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Ave., Minneapolis

When: Friday, Dec. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 4, times vary

Cost: $6 individual ticket / $29 festival pass

In a post-apocalyptic world, all movies will be shown in dank, sparse rooms beneath the earth, in places without stadium seating,  a medium-sized bag of popcorn will cost upwards of $6 and all credit sequences will include at least one song by Joe Cocker.

Fortunately, weâÄôre only halfway there. For now, the âÄúUndergroundâÄù in this local film festivalâÄôs title can remain a metaphorical signifier of its content. This year, MUFF âÄî an acronym favorable to the gynecologically inclined âÄî will unfold a three-day, triple-theater slumber party in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. ItâÄôs a full-on ode to cinematic projects marginalized by mainstream film culture, and if event organizers Greg Yolen and Mark Hanson have anything to say about it, this blowout wonâÄôt feature John Travolta.

âÄúThe whole concept of an underground film is a film that is hidden or a film that is brought to light,âÄù Yolen said, âÄúTheyâÄôre not films that you can get on Netflix or at the multiplex or download off iTunes.âÄù

 In 2008, Yolen started MUFF on a whim after yet another filmmaking peer received a rejection from a film festival. He was on the phone with a friend whose work had just been turned down when inspiration struck.

âÄúI was like, âÄòOK, thatâÄôs it. YouâÄôre in the film festival … YouâÄôve just been accepted to the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival,âÄôâÄù *********** Yolen said.

When his friend asked how long the event had been around, Yolen replied, âÄúabout 30 seconds.âÄù

MUFF is now in its fourth year and has drawn work from across the globe for the sprawling, 30-plus film screening series that will take place this weekend.

For this yearâÄôs festival, Yolen passed the curatorial torch to Hanson, who was coordinating screenings at Riverview Theater with his project âÄúBlack Market CinemaâÄù before he put it on hold to organize MUFF full-time. HansonâÄôs selections range from the adorable to the horrifying, from enlightening documentaries to exploitation flicks, from an earnest documentary of European do-it-yourself culture to an art house narrative about a Muslim dominatrix coming to terms with her inner demons.

At one end of the spectrum is Québécois filmmaker Syl DisjonkâÄôs âÄúEthereal Chrysalis,âÄù whose title points to the hyperbolic imagery penned by Disjonk as both a âÄúnightmareâÄù and âÄúlabyrinth of madnessâÄù where a viewer will experience an âÄúannihilation of all rational thought.âÄù ItâÄôs a refreshingly committed eight-minute short that Disjonk spent $15,000 out of his own pocket to film and then polish in post-production âÄî a budget almost twice that of the entire festival.

Certain moments of the film âÄî such as a scene where DisjonkâÄôs decapitated, screaming head flies through a red sky âÄî push the piece onto camp ground, but Disjonk emphasizes that it isnâÄôt just some costly and elaborate gag.

 âÄúI know itâÄôs kind of funny at some places but for me âĦ itâÄôs not campy at all. ItâÄôs really serious and has a lot of meaning,âÄù Disjonk said.

At the other end of the spectrum is Minneapolis director Dan S.âÄôs rough-hewn âÄúInvincible Force,âÄù a feature film that follows one manâÄôs mental and physical transformation from pudgy couch potato to a beefy muscle-fiend. In a case of life imitating art, actor Drew Ailes had to shed 35 pounds over 90 days for the role.

âÄúHe tried to drop out a week before we started filming, but he toughed it out,âÄù Dan S. said. âÄúInvincibleâÄù was made for exactly $0 and, as a formal counterpoint to DisjonkâÄôs tech-savvy project, exclusively with outdated technology like Betamax.

The festival honors all breeds of massive film-related undertakings âÄî often, Yolen adds, by those who still work other jobs. The event will be kicked off by Tyler JensenâÄôs ambitious âÄú30 Films in 30 DaysâÄù project, which he made during his last summer in Minneapolis before moving to New York. After a month of consecutive 14-hour days, Jensen concluded his project in a ceremony no doubt shared by other bleary-eyed filmmakers.

âÄúI just kind of sat at my computer and cried for 20 minutes,âÄù Jensen said.

MUFF has its share of films that dutifully oblige genre, others that defy it. Some are funny; some are serious. Others may be funny while trying to be serious. Some are solemn and sensitive, while others are screaming and covered in blood. But these films all have one thing in common: they are all underground, and they are ready to come up, if only for just one weekend a year.

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