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Boston Underground Film Festival unearths more oddities

Paul Giamatti in “John Dies at the End,’’ which kicks off the Boston Underground Film Festival.

Thrills and chills, blood and gore, sex and drugs and, well, you get the idea. The only cinematic competition festival we know of that awards a demonic, vibrating bunny for “most effectively offensive’’ film, the Boston Underground Film Festival turns 14 this year. It opens at the Brattle Theatre on Thursday at 8 p.m. with the East Coast premiere of “John Dies at the End,’’ the 2012 Sundance and South by Southwest hit starring Paul Giamatti. Writer-director Don Coscarelli (“Phantasm’’) will participate in a question-and-answer session following the screening.

“There’s definitely a lot of excitement for opening night,’’ says artistic director Kevin Monahan, who joined the BUFF in 2005 when it was still being run by its founder, local film maven David Kleiler who departed in 2007. “We’ve hit a groove with it,’’ says Monahan of the festival programming that he oversees with Nicole McControversy and Bryan McKay.

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Monahan describes “John Dies at the End’’ as “a bizarre comedy hybrid’’ adapted from David Wong’s book about a drug called soy sauce that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit, allowing users to drift across time and dimensions.

On Friday at 7:30 p.m., the four-day fest presents the East Coast premiere of another 2012 Sundance entry, “Excision,’’ written and directed by Richard Bates Jr., who will attend the screening. Traci Lords, Annalynne McCord, and Malcolm McDowell star in this story of a sociopathic teenage girl on a mission to lose her virginity, become a surgeon, and save her younger sister who is suffering from cystic fibrosis.

It’s followed at 9:30 p.m. by the New England premiere of “Smuggler,’’ a film from Japanese writer-director Katsuhito Ishii about a failed actor who runs afoul of a Yakuza banker, the Chinese mafia, and a group of assassins while fleeing a botched smuggling operation.

Saturday’s diverse program kicks off at 12:45 p.m. with cartoons and shorts and hits a whole different stride at 9:15 p.m. with a screening of the documentary “Inside Lara Roxx,’’ about a young woman’s foray into the adult entertainment industry. The festival closes on April 1, with shorts beginning at noon; a 6:15 p.m. screening of “Some Guy Who Kills People,’’ starring Kevin Corrigan, Barry Bostwick, and Karen Black; and, the 8:30 p.m. showing of “Klovn’’ (“The Clown’’), a movie based on the Danish comedy series of the same name.

Monahan is pleased that this year’s BUFF returns to the Brattle after last year’s stint at the Kendall Square Cinema. “We wanted a more intimate feel and the Brattle welcomed us back,’’ he says. “We were surprised at how many people came out for last year’s ‘Hobo With a Shotgun,’ which sold out. We’re hoping to sustain that interest this year.’’ The BUFF remains the only festival of its kind in New England, says Monahan. “Others have come and gone. There was one in New Haven that was so underground that it was in Hartford. But it didn’t stick around,’’ he says. “Fourteen years is a testament to how long Boston can keep a festival like this going.’’

Schedule and ticket information at www.bostonunderground.org.

Turkish delights

Audiences with less outré tastes will want to check out the Boston Turkish Film Festival, a celebration of emerging and established Turkish filmmakers, continuing at the MFA through April 8. Besides a host of North American premieres, a highlight of the festival will be the awarding of the sixth Excellence in Turkish Cinema Award to Tayfun Pirselimoglu. On April 6 at 7:30 p.m., the festival will screen his 2010 film, “Hair,’’ about an Istanbul wig seller whose life is upended when a beautiful woman enters his shop with a desire to sell her hair. A discussion with Pirselimoglu follows the screening.

Copresented by the Turkish American Cultural Society of New England and the MFA, the festival is programmed by Erkut Gömülü, who first launched the event as part of Boston’s Turkish Arts and Culture Festival. With the emergence of a new generation of writers and directors in Turkish cinema, the film component grew into its own event more than 10 years ago.

One of those new voices is Dervish Zaim, whose drama “Shadows and Faces’’ screens Sunday at 4 p.m. Set at the beginning of the conflict between Turks and Greeks in Cyprus in 1963, it’s about a father and daughter who are forced to leave their small Cypriot village and live with a relative named Veli. When a Greek neighbor spots guns in Veli’s yard, tension and suspicion erupt.

Internationally acclaimed director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest film, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,’’ a hit at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, screens Friday at 7 p.m. The film is a powerful examination of the suffering of children and the recessive role of women in Turkish society.

Other notable films in this year’s festival include “Future Lasts Forever’’ (Saturday at 3:15 p.m.), Özcan Alper’s story of a graduate student in Istanbul who sets off for the southeastern part of the country and is brought face-to-face with Kurdish survivors.

“Recycling Life: I Found Dostoyevsky in the Garbage’’ (April 7 at 1 p.m.), directed by Enis Riza, is about a young, homeless man whose life is changed through chance meetings with university students and collecting discarded books found in trash cans. The film won best documentary at the 16th Boston Turkish Festival Documentary and Short Film Competition, a separate festival. On the lighter side, “Losers Anonymous’’ (April 8 at 3 p.m.) is Tolga Örnek’s 2011 film based on the true story of Kaan and Mete, cohosts of the 1990s hit radio talk show “Kaybedenler Kulübü’’ (“Losers’ Club’’) in Istanbul.

More Boston Turkish Film Festival information: www.mfa.org.

Reel women

Robin Young of WBUR’s “Here and Now’’ will moderate a panel after the screening of “No Way Out But One,’’ a documentary by filmmaker and Boston University professor Garland Waller. The free screening and panel take place Wednesday at 6 p.m. at BU’s College of Communication auditorium at 640 Commonwealth Ave. “No Way Out But One’’ is about Holly Collins, an American woman who flees a life of abuse and goes on the run with her children. She becomes an international fugitive, wanted by the FBI, and the first American to be granted asylum by the Dutch government. Panelists include codirectors Waller and Barry Nolan, Holly Collins, and Eli Newberger of Harvard University and Children’s Hospital.

The screening is part of Women Take the Reel, a festival of films by women presented by Boston University’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and the Graduate Consortium of Women’s Studies.

See www.bu.edu/wgs.

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.
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