Image taken from “Pessoas”, directed by Arturo Dueñas Herrero (by the artist)
“Cinema is an integrating art and everything that happens in your life, or the stimuli you receive, influences your films,” says Arturo Dueñas Herrero, whose Pesoas, a bittersweet travelogue, is playing at the Kansas City Underground Film Festival (KCUFF), taking place this weekend and next weekend at the Charlotte Street Foundation (3333 Wyoming St.). Herrero is among nearly 100 directors whose films across eight categories – Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Feature, Horror, International, Local, Short – have been selected for this year’s festival. Ranging in length from five-minute shorts to hour-plus features, this year’s festival offers a wide range of subjects for festival-goers, especially those deprived of the stimuli of travel. Or from a perspective that informs us of the unknown here at home.
Again, Willie Evans, director and co-founder of KCUFF, included films with a sense of revelation and quirkiness. Which is especially evident in storefront themes. The 1993 cult documentary Damn Jim, I’m just a documentary will be a draw for the Trekkies of the Copyright laws do not apply theme for the opening night of the festival on September 14. The second night of the festival, Americans CAN make good moviespresents the short films Memory of a lonely cloud, good past years, Candy Land, Soft launch (a provocative vignette about the borders of the internet gone awry) and the relationship feature, Good luck with everything. Friday the 16th offers two sequential programs, ultimate world, an absurd comedy with accents reality hurtsand Is there a pine on the mountain from 7:00 p.m. second program on Friday evening, at 9:30 p.m., Awesome kick offdirects French production 201 daysthe canadian product card cheating and ending with the function of outsider of Ivory Coast, Ultimatum: The Rise of a Hero.
Both KCUFF Saturdays will offer full days of programming, starting at 12:30 p.m. Animation & Adjacent Animation opens the Saturday 17 program, with titles ranging from whimsical – local filmmaker Jessica Whitney Love’s The messenger — exploring — Carolyn Shadid Lewis’ Intergeneration, in which the filmmaker works with eight intercity teen animators. Sing in the desertthe feature film of Asian Art & Identity thematic group, follows the members of an ethnic Miao Christian choir and how they struggle to maintain their own lives and dignity despite being exploited for propaganda purposes. The 3rd Side and Te’aa’s Guest, two films which also serve as the title of the following program offer a look at two very different cultures; the former is a must-watch for its heartbreaking look at life in Iraq after the 2018 protests that continue to haunt those who were there. The Showcase of horror complete on the first Saturday of the festival. Oz Overshiner’s disturbing short film, sanctus, is the perfect introduction to Jack James’ claustrophobia and isolation wild bones.
The above Pesoas, a reference to the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, is the flagship feature of Wednesday 21 Road trips and family ties. Herrero’s film offers a dual narrative: the subtle tension between him and his daughter, Greta, as they journey to reunite with the young woman Herrero photographed a decade earlier, and a visual essay on post-Castro Cuba.. As they get closer to discovery, the allusion to Pessoa, a writer who has devoted his life’s work to denying his existence, becomes more poignant.
Equally significant are the voices of the various Cubans Herrero and Greta interact with, who have no desire to go through this century unseen and unheard. A short trio of scenes feature everyday Cubans who Herrero and his daughter give a boost. When asked if they will stay in Cuba, each speaks with anticipation of a thriving Cuba even if, as Herrero puts it, “the opening…hoped for is taking longer than expected.” Herrero’s 2020 short film, Dajla: cinema and oblivionobserving the attempts of Sahrawi refugees from southern Algeria to alter their lives through a film festival, is also included in the festival as part of the opening weekend.
Connor Rickman’s The whole lotof Sweet stories that won’t bother you – except the ones that willRyan Balas’ love is a card of Good movies for nice people and Alexandra Sicotte-Lévesque Greyland of Melancholy and Creativity in Modern America are promising elements of the last weekend of the festival. Greyland, in particular, for its sympathetic review of Youngstown, Ohio, considered the fastest-shrinking city in the United States,” begs to be seen. “For young people like our characters in Greyland”, says director Sicotte-Levesque, “the system around them is so rooted in corruption and elitism, that it’s very difficult to break the cycle.”
Saturday 24 draws to a close with the Local showcase, with 13 directors. On another show, local filmmaker Ji Stribling In the garden of, a dreamlike study of identity, stuns with its opening imagery. “During the conceptualization process,” says Stribling, “I wondered what my paradise looked like. I’m not religious, but my ideal place would be somewhere serene where I could wake up and grow.
The Kansas City Underground Film Festival runs September 14-24 at the Charlotte Street Foundation, 3333 Wyoming St., except September 15, which will feature a one-night program at the Stray Cat Film Center, 1662 Broadway. For more information/schedules, visit kcuff2022.eventive.org/films.