The majority of film festivals, be they in the rarified air of Park City’s Sundance or the bustling business atmosphere of France’s Cannes, strive to bring dignity and respectability to the art of cinema. Silver screen legends like Catherine Deneuve and Liv Ullman are installed as judges, filmmakers like David Lynch and Wong Kar-wai are given awards, and distributors strike up bidding wars looking for their next international art house hit.
Sadly, the Sundance Film Festival is not the sort of place you would see a film like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, the latest horror opus from The Toxic Avenger creator Lloyd Kaufman. Which is precisely the reason why Kaufman, the brains behind cult movie studio Troma Films, created the TromaDance film festival back in 2000. Staged just down the road from ritzy Park City, Utah, as an “alternative to the major studio garbage-fest of Sundance,“ TromaDance was designed as a true film festival for the masses. Questions of “art” and “taste” were tossed out the window. The operative word, instead, was “entertainment.”
Since then, TromaDance has inspired a growing groundswell of spin-off festivals including Tromapalooza, Tromafling, Tromanale, TromaDance North and the now three-year-old TromaDance New Mexico. This Albuquerque-based alternative-
“If there’s a theme to the festival,” declares Tlapoyawa, “it’s crazy-ass, no-budget independent films!”
For its third outing, hitting Nob Hill’s Guild Cinema this very weekend, TromaDance NM will screen seven feature films and 45 shorts. “We had entries from Germany, Canada and England this year,” says Tlapoyawa. Still, “seventy-five percent of [the films] are local.” Tlapoyawa, who prefers to spotlight as many emerging local talents as possible in the three-day festival, is just happy to get films like William Dixon’s “Kinky Karate Call Girls 3” and Jason Witter’s “Hamlet the Vampire Slayer” (both of which are featured in the festival’s many shorts blocks) in front of a receptive audience.
Taking its cue from Troma Films, makers of such B-grade classics as The Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD and Surf Nazis Must Die, TromaDance NM will feature “primarily horror/comedy stuff.” Still, according to Tlapoyawa, the festival’s offerings are expansive, covering everything from horror to comedy to queer to experimental to documentaries and animation.
Among this year’s highlights is LolliLove, a new Troma-produced mockumentary about a wealthy couple who set out to make a difference in the lives of homeless people by giving each of them a lollipop with a cheery slogan on the wrapper. The film is written and directed by (and stars) Jenna Fischer from NBC’s hit series “The Office.” Following the Saturday night screening of LolliLove will be the premiere of Easter Bunny Kill! Kill! starring Troma fave Trent Haaga (Terror Firmer, Zombiegeddon). Among the New Mexico-made features is Mismatch.com, a romantic comedy about online dating by Albuquerque’s Chris Garcia.
Tlapoyawa expects a big turnout this year, thanks to New Mexico’s enterprising filmmakers. “Now, with MySpace, all the individual filmmakers are promoting the hell out of the film festival. I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from filmmakers since we announced the schedule--people from Las Cruces, Grants and Farmington that are gonna try and make the trip.”
As in previous years, Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman will be in town to oversee things. Festivities kick off on Friday with Kaufman signing copies of the new Toxic Avenger novelization at Borders Books & Music (5901 Wyoming NE). After the signing, Kaufman will head over to the Guild Cinema for a test screening of his new film Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, featuring plenty of nudity, blood and zombified chickens. On Saturday, Kaufman will be teaching one of his patented crash courses in “How to Make Your Own Damn Movie.” The two-hour class will cover everything from no-budget special effects to distribution.
Individual (feature or shorts block) screening tickets for TromaDance NM are $5. Kaufman’s “Make Your Own Damn Movie” master class is $10. All-day passes (Saturday or Sunday) are $20. Full festival passes are $35. All tickets/passes are available at Burning Paradise (800 Central SW). For a complete schedules of events, go to www.burningparadise.net. Tell ’em Lloyd set ya.