Hands thrust deeply into our pockets, we silently traversed a dilapidated alley as the sky darkened and ware-houses loomed ominously on either side. It began to drizzle, and I realized I had been shivering since we crossed the Fort Point Channel. The silence bore down on me, and I glanced at my younger brother. I coughed, exhaling a steamy breath, and noticed that the streetlights made a jagged series of shadows on the adjacent building as we walked. I had the strange feeling that we were in, well, an underground film.
"Where the hell are we?"
My brother stared at me expectantly as we trudged our way through the barren streets of South Boston on Saturday evening. He had come into town for the weekend to spend some quality time with his big brother, and I figured that reviewing a couple of underground films would be a great excuse to get off campus at least once during his visit. It had seemed like a great idea at the time, but as we meandered farther and farther from civilization, I began to wonder if perhaps I had made a judgement error in dragging my sibling away from the warmth and shelter of the Yard.
The street ended, and we rounded a corner only to discover our destination, a six-story red brick building with no visible address, appeared completely devoid of life. A note scribbled on the door instructed us that the films could be found in the rear of the building. As we tiptoed over broken shingles and eyed an obtrusive porcelain toilet next to a dumpster, a female voice said, "The Revolving Museum is over here."
I turned and nodded at the black-clad couple smoking outside as I ducked my head and stepped through a near-invisible door sunk into the back of the building. My brother and I exchanged meaningful glances as we passed over the threshold between the outside world and the first annual Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF). We knew something was about to happen.
After helping ourselves to some coffee, we moved into a white-walled gallery-turned-cinema to take a peek at the current attraction, a series of centrally-themed shorts entitled Bob White Plays with Dolls. While it involves many different flavors of film, the experience focuses on computer generated characters interacting violently and carnally. A few bonus film clips are sprinkled throughout, including that Nissan commercial where G.I. Joe gets Barbie because of his cool car and a scene from Evil Dead 2.
The venue for the event, the Revolving Museum, is bent on providing non-commercial, local artists a place to create. The museum offers the lowest rent anywhere in the city, and its efforts to pair professional artists with particular neighborhood issues produce "an experimental showcase that really gets the local scene," according to the museum's program director, Bo Lembo.
About an hour into the festival, we moved into a second viewing room, also showing shorts. The BUFF programmer, Bernard Broginart, welcomed everyone to "this wonderful hoax of a film festival" with a smile. While I didn't really grasp the intricacies of Bite My Bohonkus, a postmodern nightmare involving a chicken-woman, a mini tank-vehicle from the future and a diva with a four foot behind, I did thoroughly enjoy A Waiter Tomorrow. Two servers in a mediocre sushi restaurant deal with the mounting stress of their disrespectful guests by diving from the kitchen with a pistol in each hand. The film doesn't take itself seriously at all, and the effect is delicious. The patrons of the restaurant are also heavily armed, and the ensuing shootout is a perfect satire of a mindless action movie.
David Kleiler, the director of the event, leads an amazing life. The avuncular character has been passionate about film for decades. In addition to this weekend's festival, he coordinates monthly Local Sightings events, floating showcases of the underground film scene in the area. He assists filmmakers in all stages of the creative process, from screenwriting to production to marketing. He even plans to spend a day persuading potential investors in Providence that film is their best bet. In his own words, "I love film. You go through life, you gotta have something you feel that obsessive-compulsive about. You want what you teach to have a positive impact on the careers and lives of your students." --Marc Wallenstein