‘Narrowsburg’ Tops CUFF Winners


By Pat Mullen

Martha Shane’s Narrowsburg led the winners for the 2020 Calgary Underground Film Festival. The film scooped the prize for Best Documentary Feature. Narrowsburg examines the power of cinema by chronicling the peculiar tale of a French film producer and a Mafioso/actor as they transform a small town into a hub for independent film. “The construction of the film using archival footage was perfectly executed,” remarked CUFF’s documentary jury. “We believe the film really embodies the overall CUFF underground spirit.” The jury gave an honourable mention to House of Cardin, directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes. This year’s edition of CUFF followed suit with other festivals by pivoting online as the coronavirus pandemic forced organizations to re-strategize in the face of closures and safety precautions.

Trevor Anderson’s documentary Jesse Jams won CUFF’s prize for Best Short Film, sponsored by William F. White. The film is a portrait of Indigenous trans artist Jesse Jams and his rock ‘n’ roll survival story. “Anderson and his crew push the documentary form forward, creating a low-fi-lush texture, atmosphere, and aesthetic that captures and complements the music of Jesse Jams and the Flams and the journey of this unique and persevering young musician,” remarked the jury. Jesse Jams was recently featured as a Vimeo Staff Pick. Readers may watch the film below. Kaytlyn Turner’s The Mother received an honourable mention in the shorts category.

Jesse Jams from Trevor Anderson on Vimeo.

On the dramatic front, CUFF’s prize for Best Narrative Feature went to A Dog’s Death directed by Matías Ganz. The jury called the film “absurd and tension-filled portrayal of a middle-class veterinarian embroiled in controversy after a mistake at work [that] feels like an all-too-real cinematic reflection of the globe’s current social and political climate.” A special jury mention went to Matthew John Lawrence’s Uncle Peckerhead. Audiences can stream the CUFF winners and other selections through the festival’s run, which ends June 28.