runs Oct. 5-14 at Little Theatre and Grand Illusion

WHAT IS SUFF? Now in its third year, the upstart alternative festival


What lies beneath

Under the radar, an oddball fest returns.


runs Oct. 5-14 at Little Theatre and Grand Illusion

WHAT IS SUFF? Now in its third year, the upstart alternative festival doesn't boast the size, sponsorship, clout, or prestige of SIFF. Rather, like the Sundance alternative Slamdance, the homegrown, shoestring-budget fest serves as a refuge for orphaned features and shorts from across the country—plus some avant-garde classics and kitschy old curios—that have been, shall we say, overlooked by those snobs at Toronto, New York, and Venice. Does that mean that the 16 features and 112 shorts are a bunch of second- or third-tier rejects, the chaff to other festival's wheat?

Not exactly. Call SUFF a grab bag, if you will, an uneven, engaging, fringe-y assortment that provides a welcome alternative to the depressing reality of world events on CNN. It begins Friday with the local premiere of The Wedding Cow, a slight, sweetly innocent, German- language road flick that's totally kid- appropriate. Any movie that resorts to frequent bovine reaction shots is all right in our book, even if the courtship tale of a stolid, shy plumber and a flighty librarian is otherwise pretty conventional stuff.

Several local directors are represented at SUFF. Michael Wilde's Running Out of Time to Kill is an angry political AIDS drama, while Lilith Piri's Mirror Box Stories takes a look at those naked women in the Lusty Lady booths. This Is What Democracy Looks Like will doubtless inspire some WTO-protest nostalgia; Pervula promises a naughty Nosferatu-like vampiress; A Fu Good Men! boasts chopsocky-style martial arts action in the ID; The Gibraltar Code sounds like a two-minute spy spoof.

SHORT FILM packages have always been integral to SUFF, and are here divided into narrative, documentary, comedy, horror, and experimental programs. There's also a "Perverts & Propaganda" package, a compilation of old educational and classroom films—and even a sidebar on pigs! Among titles we've seen in the various packages, Family Values amusingly profiles two Pittsburgh lesbians with a gory crime scene-cleanup business; Dreaming in Code examines the ecstasy-fueled San Fran dot-com culture; Slitch concerns a horny 17-year-old Long Island teen, and—we're abbreviating the title—3 Derelict Vehicles finds art in abandoned vehicles in Brooklyn and Queens. The somber, prize-winning, and very accomplished Dog Days isolates a family during a not-so-futuristic wartime crisis; seek this one out (Sat., Oct. 13).

Top-tier names in the avant-garde shorts programs include Kenneth Anger, Stan Brackhage, and Jonas Mekas, while SUFF's own John Behrens presents his co-directed All Saint's Day, simultaneously filmed in two different locations, then edited together.

In the spirit of SUFF's inclusive, catchall sensibility, I randomly pulled Cow Monkey (Sun., Oct. 2) from a cardboard box of preview tapes and the Bigfoot hunting spoof comedy emerged as my favorite title. Maybe it's improvised, maybe it's not, but as two dumb, redneck brothers vie with an inept anthropology student to find a Sasquatch (and its possible companion, "the Pee Howler"), Monkey is a damn funny, almost Guffman-esque little movie. Muses one character, "Sometimes I wish humans had never been discovered by society."

For more SUFF details, pick up a program guide, visit, or call 382-0926.

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