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Event Report: The First Annual Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival

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In an old mob joint down in South Philly on one rainy day in October, something amazing happened: Philadelphia got a taste of something special. Of course, I am talking about this past weekend’s Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival (PUFF), which this writer attended during their eclectic Saturday, the day they screened their International Oddities collection of shorts. This diverse selection of horror, sci-fi, and bizarre shorts from around the world mirrored the tenor of the festival overall. While the mission statement for the festival said it was to ‘hang out and watch great movies with cool people,’ it didn’t take long to realize something else was going on there.

When asked about the idea for PUFF, Madeleine Koestner described an overwhelming sense of boredom she and fellow festival director Alex Gardner felt upon noticing the sheer lack of new genre films in the city. What started out as monthly screenings quickly turned into something truly exciting. An appetite for this kind of genre films began to grow. More and more people kept showing up. Thus, PUFF was born. After much time and energy, Koestner and Gardner culled a line-up of that they loved watching, movies that were “gory and weird, shocking and entertaining, and made by filmmakers who put their hearts into every frame.” This couldn’t have been clearer to anyone who walked through the door.

When asked why Koestner and Gardner chose to be ‘Unnamed,’ Koestner said they “wanted to keep the doors open for all types of genres, and for the fest to grow and change, so it would always be different and always be special.” Furthermore, Koestner discussed how many films get passed over at film festivals such as Sundance for being a bit too bizarre, gory, or just plain weird. This writer couldn’t help but think about all the ‘prestige pictures’ at such festivals: stuffy, derivative, uninspired, but more than anything else, boring!

PUFF’s movies were fun, interesting, and different! Of all the shorts that played, this writer’s personal favorites were MIND CITY TERROR by director Curtis Jaeger and PRIMITIVE TECHNOLOGY by director Bo Price. The former is about a young man who battles his own anxieties the best way he knows how, with a Giant Nuclear Powered Robot! As a special treat, Jaeger was in the audience and answered questions about the film, making the screening a much more intimate experience.

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The idea for MIND CITY TERROR (which is now available HERE) to have a young man have a kaiju (i.e. old school Godzilla) style battle with a giant depression monster came from a dream he had many years ago. Having always been obsessed with the POWER RANGERS from the ’90s, Jaeger put together a kickstarter and went to literally turn his tongue in cheek dream into a reality. Jaeger talked about how difficult it was to find someone to build those old ‘mighty morphin’ suits. Because they were all handcrafted, Jaeger had to reinvent the wheel to make his kaiju suits, noting how this was one practical effect that had indeed become a dead art.

While many of the films at PUFF had a sci-fi or horror bent to them, PRIMITIVE TECHNOLOGY offered viewers something truly creative and hilariously strange. PRIMITIVE TECHNOLOGY centers on a group of losers who form a club where they’ve apparently taken a vow against technology. They steal electronic devices and turn them into steampunk like devices that they later use to make each others’ dreams come true, including a new member of their club whose dream it is to “fly like a big, beautiful bird.” The audience erupted into uncontrollable belly laughter throughout the film. Needless to say, it was a smash hit and was a terrific finale to the international shorts portion of the fest.

The rest of Saturday’s program included screenings of BAD BLOOD, a werewolf movie that replaces the wolf with a Gill-man-like amphibious creature; the paranormal thriller WE GO ON, about a young man’s haunted quest for proof of life after death; and the bloody, schlocky slice of Japanese martial arts exploitation, KARATE KILL. But if there’s one thing that needs to be said about PUFF, it’s that Koestner and Gardner did an amazing job at curating a series of films that really captured the essence of the experience they described. This writer cannot wait for next year’s lineup which promises to be just as unique an opportunity to experience something fun and unusual, something you can’t quite put your finger on. A certain je ne sais quoi… something unnamable. And for that, I cannot thank them enough.

Interested in learning more about the movies screened at PUFF? Visit Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival’s official website HEREand be sure to keep an eye out for PUFF in future years.

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Josef Luciano
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