Being a local, it's easy to take for granted some of the good things that have happened since Charleston became a destination city. As curmudgeonly behavior sets in with the passage of time, I find myself, like all other previous generations, bemoaning how Charleston is no longer the Charleston I grew up with. For every misgiving I have with so many changes, there are also new, positive changes I have to keep in mind — lest I sound like a crotchety whiner yelling at the kids with their backwards baseball hats and their rap music.
One positive would be that I can remember a time when Charleston didn't have even one annual film festival. Off the top of my head, there are now three that automatically come to mind: The Charleston International Film Festival, The Charleston Film Festival at The Terrace, and The Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest. Each passing year, the festivals seem to grow in popularity, and last year saw the arrival of The South Carolina Underground Film Festival (SCUFF).
Celebrating its second year, SCUFF returns to the Olde Village Community Building in Park Circle this weekend to showcase offerings from around the world, with over half of the program devoted to local filmmakers.
The brainchild of Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest creator Tommy Faircloth, the festival, unlike his other creation, has a focus on a wide range of genres, with films from beginners to well-established filmmakers. The outrageous revenge tale Holy Hell, the romantic dramedy The Last Beautiful Girl, and the redneck noir God Bless New Dixie (based on the Greenville web series, Girl From Carolina), make up the three features on the roster. Blocks will feature a variety of flicks including a documentary, Circus City USA; a comedy, Captain Stupendous 4: Rise of Havoc; a faith-based film, Abrah, the sci-fi drama 32 Light Years; and also movies you simply can't categorize like I Run Away Even If I Am Not Guilty.
With hopes of bringing together filmmakers from all over the state and around the globe in celebration of independent filmmaking and networking, Faircloth, a movie director himself, is passionate about getting the works of others in front of as many eyes as possible. "Our filmmakers work so hard on their projects. Blood, sweat, and tears literally go into each film and at the end of the day, if you do not have an audience to view your film, then what was all the work for?" he says.
What originally started out as a fundraiser for the Park Circle Film Society became an event all its own. The response to last year's festival was so positive from filmmakers, especially those in South Carolina, that a new festival was planned and an additional day added.
While Faircloth, a Columbia resident, and festival partner, Robert Zobel, have many friends and family in Charleston, they chose Charleston as the film festival's location for another reason. "We find Charleston to be more supportive and welcoming when it comes to arts and films. North Charleston Cultural Arts Department has been there for us from the very beginning. Richard Campbell, who just recently passed away, was a very large part of us setting up our film festivals in Charleston. I know the filmmakers appreciate it and we do too," says Faircloth.
Having the North Charleston Cultural Arts Department as a sponsor allows SCUFF to host a free festival and fill as many seats as possible. "We want the biggest audience we can get for the films, and the filmmakers appreciate that. Hosting Q&A sessions after the film blocks with the filmmakers is another reason so many like to come to the festival. They love being able to connect with the audience and the audience appreciates hearing the stories about how these films were made," says Faircloth.
Faircloth mentions the closing awards ceremony and the witty honor the winners receive: a miner's helmet with a light on it. He jokes, "Get it? Cause we are underground? The miner is the South Carolina Underground Film Festival's mascot, always digging for new films."
Even a crusty curmudgeon can't deny the fun in that pun.