This Wednesday (March 28th), the 14th Annual New York Underground Film Festival kicks off with a screening of VIVA, pictured above, a "tribute to the best of vintage sexploitation films" by writer/director/actress Anna Biller. We talked about that flick and the rest of this year's wild-ass lineup with NYUFF co-director Mo Johnston, and you can read the Q&A after the jump. Also, if you live in New York City: GO SEE SOME MOVIES! We recommend the interactive YouTube/found video throwdown Tube Time, as well as Professor Murder-er Michael Bell Smith's experimental short film Battleship Potemkin Dance Edit (120 BPM).
How long have you been with the film festival?
This will be my fourth festival, my second working as a festival director.
How would you say the NYUFF has grown and developed over the last few years?
I think that we've become closer to the world of contemporary art. We've programmed as screenings some things that are show in gallery spaces, like Mike Kelley's Day is Done last year, and Ryan Trecartin's A Family Finds Entertainment the year before. And this year VIVA, our opening night film, is definitely more than just a sexploitation remake.
The best thing about the festival, and the work that we show it the commitment that the artists/filmmakers make to each project. There is so much time and care and thought put into the work, and it really makes for a great community of people to round up each year.
Have you noticed more interest in this festival as other film festivals like Sundance seem to get progressively cheese-ed out with each passing year?
We're in a really special place in that respect. Some stuff that shows at Sundance shows at NYUFF too, but all the work that we show is highlighted, I think, instead of being lost in the hundreds of screenings and parties and premieres that go with the higher-tier festivals. We aren't a market, but we are critically well-regarded, and I'm a fan of everything we screen. As for interest, it comes and goes within the festival itself, it depends on the film. I don't know if that's a very good answer, but we are definitely not Sundance or Tribeca. No interest in red carpets.
Was 2005's Asia Argento screening, for The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, one of the highest profile events for the festival yet?
It definitely was a big screening. It was great, because so many people took notice, and Lou Reed came out which was fucking awesome. But it's like, you still have to think about the next screening, and hopefully things like Heart is Deceitful and Crispin Glover's movie will point people in the direction of some of other films/filmmakers.
It's always really cool to see Anthology packed with people, because it's such a great organization that should be packed all the time. The NYUFF is only once a year, but they provide interesting alternative screenings all year.
I'm sure its hard to pick favorites, but what screenings are you particularly excited about this year?
Well I'm psyched for opening night's VIVA. It's a contemporary recreation of sixties/seventies sexploitation - it's really hilarious, and the detail is impeccable.
I also like this documentary Frank & Cindy, which is showing on Sunday. The filmmaker made a documentary about his stepfather and mother's failed (and failing) marriage. The dad was in a band called OXO, which was kind of a Menudo-type one hit wonder; Cindy married him thinking it would be like easy street, and has been supporting him for 25 years. And they seem to hate each other.
Random Lunacy is our closing night, it's about Poppa Neutrino, who is this guy who decided to live his life in a certain way. He's "homeless," and travels all the world with his tribe/family performing and just hanging out. It's really inspiring, actually. He built a raft out of NYC street trash and sailed it across the Atlantic. The documentary made from all this footage that he took during the last 20 years or so.
Then there's Tube Time, of course! Nice Bombs is really great, it's a personal documentary shot in Iraq in 2004 (when things were bad but not this bad). It just got distribution from 7th Art and will be probably be showing this summer, but we are the NY premiere. And then there's Celluloid #1, which is all about celebrity culture. A starlet
named Caprice is interviewed by an "artist" who's really a hack. It stars Julie Atlas Muz and is creepy hysterical.