Werewolves, Outlaws and Range Roads among the first wave of films for the 2021 online Calgary Underground Film Festival

On the cusp of the unknown, we go with what we know.

For organizers of the Calgary Underground Film Festival, that means dipping into the murky waters of 2021 with a clear plan to keep people safe, keep the festival alive and thriving. They’re doing so with an eye to satisfying all of the excellence fans have come to expect from the fest, now in its 18th year, while still looking down the road to a time when things are sunnier, safer and more conducive to an in-person, communal filmgoing experience.

That’s why this year’s CUFF will actually be split into two different events — a 10-day online buffet of their lovingly curated weird, wired, wonderful, challenging, profound and profane filthy fun running April 23 to May 2; and then a weekend of drive-in screenings June 3 to 5 showcasing on a big, outdoor screen their delightfully degenerate fare

“With all the uncertainty in 2021, we are embracing the new industry normal right now,” Festival Director and Lead Programmer Brenda Lieberman said.

“We’ve attended some amazing online festivals over the past few months, and are really looking forward to continuing to showcase groundbreaking filmmakers and indie gems that our audience will be excited about!

“Both our June 2020 festival and November’s CUFF.Docs Documentary Film Festival were really successful online events, with great feedback about the streaming process and the ability for our audience to watch a lot of films. While we miss the experience of being in-cinema together – and can’t wait to return – we’re really working on building unique experiences from the comfort of home. We’ll encourage household passes, watch parties, and CUFF will continue to bring an accessible festival experience with closed captions, diverse voices and unique events.”

Organizers have just revealed their first wave of films and events that will be part of their April offerings.

Among the flicks are some tantalizing at-home experiences. They include: Alberta-made, female-led flick Bloothirsty, which turns the werewolf trope on its head; local filmmaker Kyle Thomas’s family drama Range Roads; a pair of musical documentaries — the re-release of the mid-’70s outlaw country classic Heartworn Highways and the crate-diggers doc Vinyl Nation; as well as fest faves The Found Footage Festival and the Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal (At Home) Cartoon Party!; and an interactive live script reading of Calgary filmmaker Michael Peterson’s Hurt Them, which is a “violent revenge thriller (that) tells the story of an elderly man in a nursing home who’s drawn into bloody games, which he thought he left behind 50 years ago.”

“We always love showcasing local films and our talented crews. I’m excited for the Alberta films we’re screening this year,” said Lieberman. “We also look forward to our classics, that are newly curated each festival, and well-loved events — such as our Saturday Morning Cartoons, and The Found Footage Festival. CUFF wouldn’t be the same without either of those.”

Most of the screenings will be available to watch on-demand throughout Alberta over the 10 days — up from seven to add another weekend of viewing onto things — with some of the special events, including the yet-to-be announced Opening Night Film, panels and other happenings surrounding the showings, available to stream live at set times

This year’s full festival lineup will be revealed on April 7, with single tickets going on sale then (passes are already available).

CUFF, always a local favourite, was recently named “one of the World’s 50 Best Genre Film Festivals” by MovieMaker Magazine.