“It’s a little bit arty, a little bit weirdo, a little bit cult, a little bit horror.”
Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF) Director Stefan Popescu and the team are gearing up for their 2016 outing and local film fixture, boasting Australian premieres and a few flicks very, very off the beaten track.
“This year it’s kind of scary going into it, it’s our tenth year, it needs to be big, it needs to be better than last year,” said Popescu. “In previous years we’ve been getting some good films and some really terrific things happening so we’re like how do we outdo it this time.”
Kicking off the Festival with Todd Solondz’s Wiener-Dog, a focus of Festival-hype around the world starring Greta Gerwig and Danny DeVito, Popescu describes the celebrated independent filmmaker as an “insanely dark human being with a wicked sense of humour… it was quite a coup, we were really happy.”
Taking place over four days, the second night will feature the much-anticipated documentary Room Full of Spoons, centred on the cult phenomenon and counter-intuitive crowd-pleaser that is The Room, the infamous production of which is also being turned into a feature length film by James Franco.
“We screened ‘The Room’ about three years ago and we wanted to screen ‘Room Full of Spoons’ last year and the filmmaker was caught up in some legal stuff so he couldn’t give us the film,” said Popescu. Initially a part of the project, The Room’s creator Tommy Wiseau, according to the filmmakers, later withdrew his support and began to “push back.”
“Everything you ever wanted to know about Tommy Wiseau is in this doco, they go back to his home, where he comes from, it’s a full expose… There was a part of me when I finished watching it that I have to admit for about a split second thought, did this just ruin ‘The Room’ for me, and then I realised it didn’t at all… I actually think this is a new chapter in ‘The Room’… and it’s time for a new chapter. It takes absolutely nothing away from ‘The Room,’ and that’s the beauty of the doco, it comes back full circle and talks about how it brings community together.”
Taking place at Marrickville’s Factory Theatre, the Festival will also screen an entire session of Australian shorts as part of the Ozploit! program, documentaries focused on famed Directors Richard Linklater and Brian De Palma, several horror features and a 40th anniversary screening of Carrie.
“I’m really glad we can transform this space into these theatres, I didn’t want to just do it in cinemas, I go to other Festivals that are held in cinemas and sometimes there’s just not that much of a Festive vibe around it,” said Popescu. “You’re just running from one side of town to another and it gets a bit hectic so we thought let’s just do it all in one space and if people want to sit and have a beer between films they can relax for a little and then go and watch another or go to a workshop.”
Re-staging the SUFF Masterclass following its inception at last year’s Festival, film workshops will run adjacent to the SUFF program.
“We realised it’s such a good thing, if you’re calling yourself a Festival you should be doing other things than just screening films,” explained Popescu. “As part of the workshops we’re actually getting people to make a film as well.”
Expanding on the unique nature of the Festival, Popescu hopes that in addition to thrilling the existing fan-base that SUFF 2016 will expand the new attendees’ “cinematic horizons.”
“I hope there’s a few people who rock up unknowingly and see seeing cinema as a crazy adventure and walk away going, wow, how intense, I want to have this intensity every year. It’s like going to a music fest and thinking, god that was killer, I want to do that again next year.”
The Sydney Underground Film Festival runs from 15-18 September 2016 – for tickets and more information head to the Festival website