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10 of the world's weirdest film festivals
Mile-high horror, golden apricots and mustaches are some of the more peculiar inspirations for these offbeat movie celebrations
Were we to turn a spotlight on film festivals across the world then stalwarts like Cannes, Toronto and San Sebastian would surely shine brightest. And that’s only natural.
Occupying a darker corner of the stage, however, are scores of cinematic celebrations that showcase the unorthodox, the weird and the creepy.
If it weren't for these quirky additions to the global festival calendar, our great storytellers might never have known, for example, the Kevin Norwood Bacon Achievement Award -- a gong awarded for exemplary achievement to a filmmaker or actor connected to Kevin Bacon in six films or fewer.
With that taster still lingering in the senses, here are some of the oddest and most wonderful celebrations of film, all (well, most) screening at a town near you over the next year or so. Book your tickets now.
1. Mile High Horror Film Festival (United States)
If any part of this festival’s name gives you goose bumps in a good way, head to Denver, Colorado, to experience a showcase of independent horror films.
Celebrating an eerie yet enduring genre, this scare-fest last year featured titles such as “Bunny Boy,” “I Saw the Devil” and “Chillerama.”
We’re too petrified to ask what 2012 brings.
This one is not recommended for those with daemonophobia (fear of evil spirits); hemaphobia (fear of blood); teratophobia (fear of deformed figures); or, given the festival’s high-altitude location, aeroacrophobia (fear of open, high places).
Daemonophobic aeroacrophobes should not even attempt to browse the festival’s website.
October 5-7, 2012, at Denver Film Center/Colifax, Colorado, United States. milehighhorrorfestival.com
2. Golden Apricot Film Festival (Armenia)
This renowned festival is based on the theme “Crossroads of Cultures and Civilizations” -- a fitting subject for an event screened in a country that can’t decide whether it’s in Asia or Europe.
Nine years running, the Golden Apricot now attracts more than 500 international films and this figure rises every time it’s held.
While the festival’s namesake, the apricot, is Armenia’s unofficial fruit, we’re not sure how this ties into filmmaking.
However, both apricots and films are harvested there each July, and this seems like a pretty palatable cause for celebration.
July 8-15, 2012, at various locations in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. gaiff.am
3. Incredibly Strange Film Festival (New Zealand)
What could be weirder than an incredibly strange film festival? One screened in New Zealand, of course. Just kidding, dear Kiwis.
For 17 years, ISFF has dedicated itself to screening bizarre flicks that would otherwise never see the light of day.
The self-professed “greatest collection of cult films ever” last year featured titles including “Troll Hunter” (“Blair Witch Project” meets “Where the Wild Things Are,” apparently), “Hobo With a Shotgun” (down-on-his-luck man attempts to purchase lawnmower yet somehow ends up with a firearm) and “Cold Fish” (serial killer story featuring placid tropical-fish-store owner).
4. KahBang Festival (United States)
This seemingly normal event features more than 50 films from budding makers. Held in the U.S. state of Maine, KahBang is a tribute to music, art and film run by hard-working curators. So far, so good ...
Now, cue the aforementioned Kevin Norwood Bacon Achievement Award, given for those valuable connections to “Footloose’s” very own Kevin Bacon.
The coveted bauble was recently introduced in an attempt to prove that the Internet-powered “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” actually exist, rather than simply being the basis of a mindless pop-culture trivia game.
From August 9 at various locations in Bangor, Maine, United States. kahbang.com/film
5. International Random Film Festival (Estonia)
This homage to all things arbitrary has no fixed abode and does the rounds across Europe each year, but there’s even more randomness afoot.
For filmmakers and punters alike, it’s gotta be hard to know exactly what you’re in for each year, when the festival is run in a randomly selected location, on a random date, with random awards.
The 2012 gongs included the Runaway Turtle Award, and The Spoon and The Goldfish Award, but recipients didn’t know what each accolade was for until presented. Yeah, we know -- those crazy Europeans, eh?
2012’s Random Grand Prix was awarded to German film “Sudstadt.” To learn how it was chosen, watch this video. It has something to do with sprouts, and yes, it’s as random as it sounds.
IRFF 2012 has been and gone, but it is due to run again from December 8, 2013, in Garpenberg, Sweden (location and date randomly selected at 2012 festival). randomfilmfest.com
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6. Fake Film Festival (Canada)
Virgin Radio Vancouver regularly presents this competition where developing directors ham up their own parodies of movies. For a silly 60-second submission, money and fame abounds, we’re told.
Entries are judged for their ability to entertain and recapture the essence of the original movie, a process known as "sweding."
This year’s shortlist included impressions of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Juno,” “Bridesmaids” and “Salt.”
The Festival ran in February this year. Look out for 2013 details on the website.
7. Cinema in the Cemetery (Australia)
Surely a field planted full of corpses makes for a tough audience, right? If you invite some live ones too, though, it’s not so bad, we hear.
In fact, Sydney’s Cinema in the Cemetery is proof that motion pictures are alive and well even in the deadest of locations.
St John’s Cemetery annually screens a diverse range of classics -- this year’s selection included Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “Rear Window” and 1980s cult classic “Ghostbusters.” You’ll probably need someone to cuddle up to, so it’s a great occasion for a first date.
Will next screen in 2013 at St John’s, 81 Alt St., Ashfield, Sydney, Australia. Check the Facebook page for details.
8. Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival (Japan)
This Hokkaido festival lives on after 22 years and for that alone it deserves the gushing “fantastic” moniker, simply because it’s survived insurmountable odds.
The festival revived the coalmining town of Yubari when, around 1990, the coal ran out.
As Yubari shifted its focus from black diamond to silver screen effortlessly, the festival attracted movie royalty like Jon Voight, Angelina Jolie and Steve Martin.
Quentin Tarantino even penned “Pulp Fiction” in his Yubari hotel, we’re led to believe. Would have hated being in the next room when he did the read-throughs, though.
In 2007, however, Yubari fell off a cliff (not literally) and became Japan’s first bankrupt municipality. The festival was gutted, losing its international competition section.
However, a community drive to continue in some form saved the Off Theater program, which offers young Japanese directors ¥2 million (US$25,000) as the Grand Prize.
Today, locals greet festival dignitaries with candy made from the celebrated Yubari melon, a delicacy fetching up to ¥2 million per pair. No kidding.
That’s why Grand Prize winners at this festival don't buy drinks for everyone -- it’s slices of melon all round instead. Very thin slices.
Last year’s Grand Prize winner was “Invasion of Alien Bikini,” directed by Oh Young-Doo. The festival runs early in the year, so look out for 2013 dates at yubarifanta.com
9. Bring Your Own Film Festival (India)
Could this be sheer laziness on the part of the festival’s organizers? Why spend hours on film selections when punters could bring their own?
In its defense, this east-coast Indian festival has the noble ethos of removing standard film festival hierarchies, competition, juries and laurels.
By inviting all comers to showcase their work, it supports a vibrant grassroots community of film enthusiasts.
The next festival is set for early 2013 in Puri, India. byoffpuri.com
10. International Moustache Film Festival (United States)
While this list is in no particular order it should, like most every festival we’ve mentioned, issue a prize -- a grand poo-bah of weirdness, if you will. And the International Moustache Film Festival surely deserves to take home that accolade.
To enter this fur-fest, your film must contain a mustache-related theme, or a key cast member must be “mustachioed” (organizers’ term).
Fake moustaches qualify, if you’re curious.
Prize categories include Best ‘Stache Growth Story, Best ‘Stache Shaving Story, Best Moustache Death Relationship Story and Best Collection of Moustaches in One Film.
According to the IMFF, “one lucky filmmaker will win one hundred, U.S., American dollars.”
Guess that’ll cover the barbershop fee immediately after the festival, then.
Deering Grange Hall, Portland, Maine, United States. IMFF 2012 was held in March -- check the website for 2013 details.
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