Film Festival Preview
TromaDance New Mexico 2008
A fest for the rest of us
Film festivals are, traditionally, rather highbrow affairs. Genre-busting films are debuted, cinematic trends are discussed, famous filmmakers are feted and abstract golden statuettes are handed to various French, Senegalese and Kazakhstani directors. It’s safe to say that the company behind such movies as Blood Sucking Freaks and Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid would not be sponsoring a film festival of that nature. No, TromaDance New Mexico is not your father’s film festival.
Started in the mid-’70s by the producing/directing/distributing team of Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, Troma Films has dedicated itself largely to the pursuit of “shock exploitation films.” The company achieved permanent cult status in the ’80s with a string of raunchy, gore-filled comedies like The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ’Em High and Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. Ten years ago, hoping to build on his company’s outsider status, Kaufman founded the TromaDance Film Festival. This entry-fee-free film festival coincides with the famous Sundance Film Festival held every year in Park City, Utah, and features all sorts of low-budget indie horror, sci-fi and comedy films that would never find their way into Mr. Redford’s tony fest.
In the years since TromaDance’s founding, Kaufman and his compatriots have created “satellite” TromaDance festivals in places like Portland, Berlin, Edinburgh, Winnipeg, Las Vegas and right here in Albuquerque. In 2004, Burning Paradise video store owner (and longtime Troma fan and Alibi contributor) Kurly Tlapoyawa hooked up with Kaufman to create TromaDance New Mexico.
The festival returns to Guild Cinema in Nob Hill for a fifth year this weekend, bringing with it three days’ worth of twisted entertainment. On Friday night, the festival will open in grand style with Troma President Lloyd Kaufman on hand to screen his latest film, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. On Saturday afternoon, Kaufman will return to lead a “Make Your Own Damn Movie” master class. Writers, directors, producers and actors interested in working on their own low-to-no-budget films will learn the ins and outs of the industry from the man who wrote the book. (Literally. It’s called Make Your Own Damn Movie. It was published in 2003.)
Among this year’s more than 20 hours’ worth of programming are seven feature films and 30 short subjects. Slumber Party Slaughterhouse, for example, is an anthology-style horror film directed by Mr. Tlapoyawa and a collection of his cult filmmaker pals, including Matt Pizzolo (Threat), Ramzi Abed (The Devil’s Muse), Joanna Angel (Joanna’s Angels), Peter Hoare (Beer: The Movie) and Doug Sakmann (Punk Rock Holocaust). “It harkens back to the first TromaDance, where I was in practically all the movies we showed,” notes Tlapoyawa. “But it’s nice to show a movie that I directed. Hopefully people will like it.”
In addition to organizing TromaDance and co-directing Slumber Party Slaughterhouse, Tlapoyawa also pitched in to help write Kaufman’s latest book, Direct Your Own Damn Movie. The book is slated to hit shelves in January. “That one will debut at TromaDance in Park City,” says Tlapoyawa. “There’ll be a big book signing that I might go out for.”
The growing notoriety of both Tlapoyawa and the TromaDance Film Festival has drawn attention from around the world, a fact reflected in this year’s submissions. According to Tlapoyawa, “We got stuff in from Canada, France, Germany. And then New York, L.A., Tucson and a ton of stuff from all over New Mexico.”
Other features appearing in this year’s festival are Matthew Reel’s Jessicka Rabid (about a girl raised like an animal who gets revenge on her demented family) and Gô Shibata’s Late Bloomer (a Japanese import from Santa Fe’s Bone House Asia concerning a severely disabled man who goes on one of those Taxi Driver-style killing sprees). Four blocks of short films will deliver a variety of quick and dirty entertainment throughout the weekend. Among the shorts are several local offerings, including Adam Jarmon Brown’s “I Killed My Girlfriend” and a preview of D. Ryan Mowry’s long-gestating Defective Man! feature.
One of this year’s features manages to combine the best of short and feature-length films. “It’s actually a sequel to a film that debuted at last year’s TromaDance, Alan Himes’ Feature Length Shorts,” explains Tlapoyawa. The follow-up, titled Two Pairs of Pants, spotlights another crazed assembly of Himes comedic short films. It’s one of Tlapoyawa’s favorite pieces in this year’s fest. He calls Himes “one of the great undiscovered talents in this town. His writing is spot-on. His editing is tight. He even does animation.”
If Troma Films can help launch the careers of Kevin Costner (Sizzle Beach U.S.A.), Marisa Tomei (The Toxic Avenger), James Gunn (Tromeo and Juliet), Trey Parker & Matt Stone (Cannibal! The Musical) and others, then maybe TromaDance New Mexico can help launch the careers of Adam Jarmon Brown, D. Ryan Mowry, Alan Himes and other indie-minded New Mexicans.
TromaDance New Mexico 2008 runs Friday, Nov. 21, through Sunday, Nov. 23, at Guild Cinema (3405 Central NE). Tickets are $5 per screening or $40 for an all-festival pass. Passes are available at Burning Paradise Video (800 Central SW). For a complete schedule of films, log on to tromadance.com.