Connecticut’s firmly entrenched in cinematic underground

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This Saturday, Connecticut’s dipping into the celluloid underground on again this year when The New England Underground Film Festival returns for its fourth annual presentation.
The festival is programmed by Phil Hall, contributing editor for the online resource Film Threat (www.filmthreat.com) and author of the books “The History of Independent Cinema” and “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time/”
The festival will feature three films Connecticut-based filmmakers Daniel Kuriakose of Woodbridge, Michael Finnegan of New Haven, and Samuel B. Russell of Fairfield.
The Observer caught up with all three filmmakers via email to talk about the festival and the festival.
The New England Underground Film Festival is at The University of Hartford’s Gray Conference Center, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford on Saturday, Oct. 11 from 12 to 6 p.m. General admission is $10 and students with school ID can pay $5.
For more information on the other films at the festival, go http://newenglanduff.webs.com
by Mike Chaiken

 

Michael Finnegan presents, ‘To Touch a Nerve’

Michael Finnegan, a filmmaker based in New Haven, will be screening “To Touch a Nerve.” Press materials about the film explain it is “A documentary portrait of Mike Jenkins, a poet and AIDS awareness activist based in New Britain, Conn.”

Observer: What do you like about the concept of an underground film festival in Connecticut?
Michael Finnegan: I have never been to this fest before and actually I have just started visiting film festivals recently. I had the opportunity to check out the Tribeca fest last year. I went and saw all the short films that screened. [I checked]  out the New Haven film fest and a few days ago went to see the Manhattan short films fest. So this will be the fourth festival I attended. I like this one because its local and it attracts local filmmakers. So it can be a more of a networking event for local filmmakers. Also, it keeps the art of filmmaking alive.

O:  What drew you to film as your chosen creative medium?
M: Well I have always had a creative side to me. I couldn’t draw or paint I loved to tell stories and hear the stories of people so I figured why not give filmmaking a shot. So far I really enjoy it and hope to keep on telling stories for years to come.

O: Why do you think your particular film fits the definition of an underground film?
M: My film is call “To Touch A Nerve.” It’s based on a recovering heroin addict from New Britain, Conn. So it’s a story of a person who struggled in a struggling urban area in New England so the demographics are there and this project wasn’t sponsored by anyone and the budget was from whatever I could afford so I think that qualifies it as underground.

O: Talk to me about the genesis of your piece.
M: The film is a story of an individual who draws you into his story. Against all odds he was able to stay positive and climb out of the pits of society. It’s about a man that hits the  lowest of the lows but is able to get up and really change his life and now helps others change their life as well.

O: What do you want your audience to feel about what they’ve seen when the final credits roll?
M: Well, I want people to know that no matter how low and down you are you can still get up. Life never stops so don’t let it keep going to be better. If not for yourself but for others.
by Mike Chaiken

Samuel B. Russell presents, ‘We’re Goners Relax It’s Fine’

Samuel B. Russell of Fairfield will screen “We’re Goners Relax It’s Fine.” Press materials explain the plot as follows: “A young girl must pass through a magical forest filled with bizarre creatures to confront the singing volcano who threatens to destroy her home.”

Observer: What do you like about the concept of an underground film festival in Connecticut?
Samuel B. Russell: I’ve lived in Connecticut all my life. I like that there’s a space close to home for art outside the mainstream.

O: What drew you to film as your chosen creative medium?
S: The obvious answer is that I grew up watching movies. I like that it’s an experience that entertains more than one sense, and that viewing a film is a group experience. Though I guess that can be said for other mediums as well. I really love the production of a film, and how elaborate it can get, and the problem solving it calls for. I always like the idea that cinema production is a sort of magic trick you’re putting on for the audience.

O: Why do you think your particular film fits the definition of an underground film?
S:  “We’re Goners It’s Fine Relax” was made on an ultra-low budget and the sets were made mostly of cardboard and paper mache. I think it’s self-funded, home-made nature sets it apart from more mainstream work.
Also the movie was made underground, literally. The studio we used was in a basement.

O: Talk to me about the genesis of your piece.
S: A few years ago I read a book about stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy. I really loved a lot of the stoic ideas, and I thought they had especially cool ideas about how to deal with death. I wanted to use these ideas in a film, but wasn’t sure what so I just kind of put them in my back pocket.
About a year later I was taking a screenwriting course and my professor was talking about the basic types of conflict: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society, and Man vs. Self. He was talking about the differences between each type and made some comment about how if it were Man vs. Nature you wouldn’t “have your character try to talk a volcano out of erupting.” I thought it might be kind of funny if that did happen. And that happened to fit with the idea of a character dealing with death and mortality and all that good stuff.

O: What do you want your audience to feel about what they’ve seen when the final credits roll?
S:  I think that is the audience’s business to decide. But I hope they like it.
by Mike Chaiken

Daniel Kuriakose presents, ‘Bottles’

Daniel Kuriakose, a teen from Woodbridge, will be presenting, “Bottles.” Press materials say of the film, “A telepathic doctor who uses donated memories to heal his patients realizes he lacks the emotional stability to perform his work.”
Observer: What do you like about the concept of an underground film festival in Connecticut?
Paul Kuriakose: It gives an opportunity for less known filmmakers to share their work and to experience live reactions from an audience.

O: What drew you to film as your chosen creative medium?
D: Film can portray silences better than any other medium.

O: Why do you think your particular film fits the definition of an underground film?
D: It was made under a time constraint of 48 hours with little to no budget and about seven people total (crew included)

O: Talk to me about the genesis of your piece.
D: I was drawn to the concept of a physical collection of memories and went from there.

O: What do you want your audience to feel about what they’ve seen when the final credits roll?
D: I don’t think it’s right for me to tell you how to feel about my movie.
by Mike Chaiken

A still from Paul Kuriakose’s film ‘Bottles.’

A still from Daniel Kuriakose’s film ‘Bottles.’

Samuel B. Russell’s ‘We’re Goners Relax It’s Fine’ will be presented as part of the New England Underground Film Festival Saturday.

Samuel B. Russell’s ‘We’re Goners Relax It’s Fine’ will be presented as part of the New England Underground Film Festival Saturday.

A still from Michael Finnegan’s ‘To Touch a Nerve.’

A still from Michael Finnegan’s ‘To Touch a Nerve.’