I’m gonna be upfront about this. I’m biased about the quality of this year’s Cinedelphia Film Festival because I’m one of the programmers responsible for putting it together. I absolutely think this is the best film festival you’ll see in the Northeastern United States this year, and especially in Philadelphia. That’s not a knock on other festivals. It’s just the truth. Our lineup is insane. Not only is it the best of what’s screened elsewhere, but the majority of the films in our festival have never been screened in Philadelphia or the Northeast more broadly.
So, my message is simple: don’t sleep on this. The Cinedelphia Film Festival has become an annual tradition for Tri-state cinephiles, but the screenings that take place each year are all one-time only events. Didn’t make it to our 2014 festival? Well, you’re never going to see (or hear) Psychic Teens perform a live score to The Shining ever again. Miss 2015? The Best Worst Marathon isn’t coming back. That’s why I want to highlight four screenings you absolutely CANNOT miss this year.
We’re kicking off 2016’s festival with a special appearance by cult personality, gonzo film critic, and former television host Joe Bob Briggs. I don’t think I can stress in words the ineffable nature of Joe Bob’s status among genre film fans. His legacy is long, it stretches back to the mid 1980s when he first started gaining notoriety for his wilds reviews of drive-in movies in Dallas, TX, and it’s well-deserved. Joe Bob introduced many a young weirdo to psychotronic gems like Return of the Living Dead, directors like Tobe Hooper, and personalities like Linnea Quigley on his seminal ’90s late-night movie showcase MonsterVision; for me personally, it was The Wraith, a Knight Rider-esque killer car movie starring a pre-winning Charlie Sheen and the always fantastic Clint Howard. That’s why this is event is worth your time and physical presence. Joe Bob is brining one of his favorite movies, the 1979 gangland thriller The Warriors, with him and he’ll be screening it as it was presented on MonsterVision in the 1990s. As was customary of the program, he’ll be keeping a running tally of the dead bodies, explosions, and shootouts. Even better, Joe Bob will close the night with a post-screening Q&A. Be sure to ask about aardvarking.
While it’s not unheard of for a documentary to focus on an obscure visual media like VHS, it’s exceedingly rare that one would highlight an aural format like a cassette tape. Who even owns a tape player in 2016? But that didn’t stop director John Woods from chronicling the 1980s New York City’s hardcore punk scene. How do you tell the story of a scene? You go to the source. The New Breed compilation was a cassette that showcased twenty of New York’s best hardcore bands from the late ’80s. The tape wasn’t just a direct transcription of the sound of New York at the time, it was a microcosm of the city itself; the filth, the fury, and the frustration. It merged the senseless violence of 1980s street culture with the wild imagination of its art scene. And in doing so, it captured a period that can never be replicated no matter how many bands try. The best we can hope to recapture it is to look back on it through the lens of a documentary which interviews the people who made New York scene what it was.
To say Edwin Borsheim is not normal is to say the sky is blue or the ground is hard. It’s accurate, sure, but it doesn’t capture the reality of the man in the flesh. He’s not only not normal, he’s completely fucked on a fundamental level. Misanthropy drives the man and his art, it’s what made his shock-metal band Kettle Cadaver so effective, and it’s also what makes him such a grotesque display on both professional and personal levels. Onstage, he’s an abomination; he staples his lips together, he engages in deliberate self-harm through cutting, and he nails pieces of wood to his body. But that’s not the most disturbing thing about Edwin Borsheim. It’s when we see Edwin in his most private moments, isolated and off-stage, that things become unsettling. Through intensely personal interviews and archival home video footage, we come to see his on-stage antics are kind of living manifesto for rejects and outsiders. Every staple is a rallying cry and every cut is a call-to-arms. His acts of self-harm aren’t intended to incur sympathy in the viewer, we’re not supposed to feel his pain, they’re meant to disgust us and drive us away. In spite of this, Dead Hands Dig Deep is fascinating because it never judges Edwin’s personal philosophies or actions. It engages with him on his level so Edwin can have a larger platform to reach disaffected weirdos (who can maybe one day unite and destroy the world). This is outsider art of the highest order.
[editor’s note: Dead Hands Dig Deep is now available to pre-order on iTunes, release set for 9/15/2017}
Satan’s having quite the year, isn’t he? We’re barely three months into 2016 and The Witch is making everyone’s head spin. Don’t think this is anything new, though. Satan has a posse and they’re diverse and weird. One of the weirdest groups to pledge their allegiance to the Dark Lord was the Process Church of the Final Judgment. Were they devils in human form, or were they a group of young pranksters? Not so fast. The Process Church had a complex and often contradictory set of beliefs that made pejorative labels given to them, nicknames like “The Devil’s Disciples,” unfair and mostly unwarranted. What is the Process? That’s a good question and one Sympathy for the Devil sets out to answer through interviews with former members, observers like cult director John Waters and George Clinton of Parliment Funkadelic, and spiritual allies like Genesis Breyer P-Ordige of Psychic TV. On its own this documentary is important viewing, as it portrays an even-handed account of one of the most reviled “cults” of the last half century, but couple that with the fact that former Process member “Father Malachi” Malachi McCormick will be in attendance to answer questions in an open forum about the group and this screening becomes something you absolutely CAN NOT MISS. How else are you going to find out the answer to the question, what is the Process?