Arizona Underground Film Fest Digs Deep

August 31, 2013 |

Still from “Loves Her Gun.”
photo courtesy AZUFF

The sixth annual Arizona Underground Film Festival is like a curated trip through several genre film festivals, all rolled into one. With a diverse mix of styles – horror, documentary, narrative, experimental and even animated – the fest is a great way to see the highlights without having to see the other less spectacular films that you might encounter.

Festival director/founder David Pike has done an impressive job again this year with his line up of eclectic titles that are at times mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful. Not only is Pike nabbing Arizona premieres and screenings of films that have premiered at fests like Sundance and South By Southwest (SXSW), he has also created a name for his scrappy fest on the circuit that enables him to get world premieres occasionally.

According to Pike, the core vision for the AZUFF is “a best of midnight and underground film festival, along with world premiere films.” With submissions increasing every year, and the reputation of the fest growing globally, Tucsonans again are in for a real treat.

Still from “Worm.”
photo courtesy AZUFF

One film in this year’s line up stands out for me as a must-see is the film Worm. I can be a bit jaded as a film writer and critic, seeing between 750-1000 films a year, but occasionally something causes me to rave to anyone who will listen, that they must see what I’ve just witnessed. Worm is that film for a number of reasons. The story itself is that of a man wrongly framed for a murder and his quest to find the real killer and clear his name. But what makes Worm special is the technical and aesthetic sides of the production. The black and white film is shot as one continuous take, a 90 minute shot without edits or breaks. And on top of that it is the first film to be shot entirely with a chest-mounted GoPro Hero 2 camera strapped to its lead actor, Andrew Bowser. The resulting film, a Neo-Noir affair of sorts is mesmerizing.

A strong documentary film in this year’s line up, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, is hauntingly beautiful for both its cinematography and at the times when the film’s subject breaks into song. Long used as a character actor by a legion of directors, Stanton has a chance to shine in this film, which serves as a retrospective through his amazing career as well as a look at his personal life. The film debuted at SXSW in March and left audiences stunned. Its screening at the AZUFF will be followed by a wide release from the distributor who bought it at the festival.

Another narrative film of note is Loves Her Gun, which also came out of this year’s SXSW film festival. The story is about a woman who flees New York City following a mugging to start over in Austin, Texas; the film details her struggles to feel truly safe. Before long she falls in with the local firearm culture of Austin and begins to fancy herself an avenging angel. As you can imagine, complications arise. The film has generated some controversy for its portrayal of gun culture and violence. The resulting film is a romantic tragedy of sorts. It features an excellent cast and the soundtrack was done by Tucson’s Howe Gelb.

Additional films of note on this year’s schedule include: White Reindeer about a woman’s quest for “normal” following her husband’s death near Christmas, Very Extremely Dangerous is about singer Jerry McGill’s battle with cancer, In The House of Flies, a new horror film from Henry Rollins and the campy new film Fateful Findings, which premiered this year at the Seattle Film Festival.

The Arizona Underground Film Festival takes place Sept. 13-21 at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. Opening night takes place at the Crossroads Cinema at 4811 E. Grant Rd. For more information on films and tickets, visit

Category: Film