Kansas City Underground Film Festival offers its strongest lineup yet

The free film festival runs through Sept. 16 at the Charlotte Street Foundation.

Eldritch, USA. // Courtesy image

Sam Raimi. George Romero. Greta Gerwig. Richard Linklater. Cheryl Dunye. All of these filmmakers (and many more) are among the cinema luminaries who got their start making low-budget and no-budget independent movies with little more than vague dreams, available equipment, and a cadre of willing collaborators. But we wouldn’t know any of these names if they hadn’t had early supporters and local fans who came out to see their work turn them into word-of-mouth successes.

For the last three years, the Kansas City Underground Film Festival has offered a space for up-and-coming filmmakers to show their work and find audiences. Entry fees are waived for local filmmakers, and tickets to the films are free and open to the public. The latest iteration of the festival, held at the Charlotte Street Foundation starting tonight and running through next weekend, offers KCUFF’s strongest lineup yet, with movies from around the world made with a variety of budgets. The common denominator: determination, ingenuity, and wild creativity. Here are a few of this year’s programming highlights.

Eldritch, USA

Screens Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7:00 p.m.

Produced regionally in Springfield, Mo., Eldritch, USA, is an ambitious horror-comedy-musical from directors Tyler Foreman and Ryan Smith, with songs co-written by members of the indie rock band Fox Royale. Brothers and rival newsmen Geoff and Rich Brewer kick off a journey into the arcane and supernatural when Geoff discovers a hillbilly cult who claim they can raise the dead. After a horrific accident, Geoff is forced to call on the cult for help, with mounting, world-endangering consequences. Foreman and Smith’s film features solid monster performances, clever, catchy tunes, and a wicked sense of humor. 

See it if you like: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Great Glitch

The Great Glitch. // Courtesy image

The Great Glitch

Screens Friday, Sept. 8 at 7:00 p.m.

Described by KCUFF organizers as “Under the Silver Lake meets Primer,” this Danish film from director Søren Peter Langkjær Bojsen tackles the multiverse from a lo-fi angle. Restless twentysomething besties Ronja (Joos Støvelbæk) and Serb (Lukas Gregory) each experience a bizarre summer in Copenhagen, as one joins a secret activist network, and the other falls for a girl (Leonora Saabye) who mysteriously vanishes.

See it if you like: Something in the Dirt, Primer, Under the Silver Lake


Work Dreams. // Courtesy image

Work Dreams

Screens Friday, Sept. 8 at 9:30 p.m.

A trippy, DIY delight from the Austin indie scene, Work Dreams follows a disaffected factory employee trying to get to the bottom of sinister goings-on at his employer in Galveston, Texas. Hank’s experiences cause him to question reality and bring him into contact with a saxophone-playing, beach-dwelling bum who believes shadows have a life of their own. Amy McCullough and Jimmie Buchanan Jr.’s film features surreal effects and a handmade aesthetic that should appeal to fans of Michel Gondry or Kentucker Audley.

See it if you like: Slacker, Strawberry Mansion, Be Kind Rewind


Pomp & Circumstance. // Courtesy image

Pomp & Circumstance

Screens Saturday, Sept. 9 at 2:50 p.m.

Absurd, acerbic, and knowingly twee, Pomp & Circumstance lovingly skewers liberal arts college life and college town culture as it follows a trio of undergrad students and their self-important adjunct professor over the course of an academic year. Episodic vignettes tackle dating, class struggle, and characters finding their artistic voice. Adrian Anderson and Patrick Gray’s comedy radiates 90s intellectual indie cinema vibes, so if you’re a fan of early Noah Baumbach, Whit Stillman, or Hal Hartley, this is one you won’t want to sleep on.

See it if you like: Kicking and Screaming (not the Will Ferrell one), Henry Fool, Rushmore


Ghosts of the Void. // Courtesy image

Ghosts of the Void

Screens Saturday, Sept. 9 at 8:10 p.m.

Part of KCUFF’s Saturday night horror showcase, Ghosts of the Void makes great use of limited settings and a limited budget to tell a compelling story of a recently evicted millennial couple (Tedra Millan and Michael Reagan) spending their first night sleeping in their car. Writer-director Jason Miller threads in flashbacks to establish the characters’ relationship and explore their personal anxieties, while in the present, strange occurrences slowly but effectively ramp up the tension.

See it if you like: The Stylist, Get Out, Locke


Dog Movie. // Courtesy image

Dog Movie

Screens Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 8:00 p.m.

Henry Hanson’s charming, funny, and relatably cringe roommate comedy draws inspiration from queer underground filmmaking as well as the improvisational “let’s-put-on-a-show” ethos of mumblecore filmmakers like Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujalski. Nonbinary couple Arrow and Haven are reluctantly hosting their messy, freeloading pal Blue on their couch for an undetermined period of time. When the pair inherits a dog also named Blue from a dead relative, the well-meaning Arrow and Haven are forced to reckon with the increasing burden of caring for a dog and their self-involved friend who can’t take a hint.

See it if you like: The Puffy Chair, Computer Chess, The Watermelon Woman


It Started With a Horse. // Courtesy image

It Started with a Horse

Screens Friday, Sept. 15 at 7:00 p.m.

Joshua Dubois began his documentary on Kansas outsider artist M.T. Liggett in 2002 as a film student at the University of Kansas. Over the next 15 years, Dubois continued visiting and cultivating a relationship with Liggett, whose quirky, sometimes provocative sculptures are the stuff of statewide legend and art world lore, until the artist’s death in 2017. Filmed over the course of 20 years, It Started with a Horse is an unfiltered look at a unique Kansas institution.

See it if you like: Junebug, Earthwork, In the Realms of the Unreal


The Pool of the Nobodies. // Courtesy image

The Pool of the Nobodies

Screens Saturday, Sept. 16 at 2:30 p.m.

La Llorona’s María Mercedes Coroy stars in director José Luis Solís Olivares’ heavy drama about indigenous migrants trying to survive while torn between the Mexican government and cartel threats. Based on real events, the film follows Coroy as indigenous migrant Anayeli, a woman trying to save her unborn child, and fellow migrant Alex (Alex Bautista) as a man forced to work with druglords to survive. Olivares will be in attendance at the Sept. 16 screening.

See it if you like: La Llorona, El Norte, Come and See

Categories: Culture, Movies