People enjoying a CUFF screening in their backyard with a fire
Make your own CUFF adventure at home | Photo: Courtesy of the Calgary Underground Film Festival

Calgary Underground Film Festival

Western Canada’s top genre festival brings the weird and wonderful straight to you

Amy Jo Espetveidt

  • Location From Anywhere in Alberta 
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With 10 days of fresh cutting-edge cinema and inspired special events coming straight to your home, the 18th annual Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) provides the thrills that you have come to expect with the safety we all need!

This year’s festival includes 29 features, three shorts packages, and additional live online events while offering a mix of comedies, horror, dramas, and other unusual fare that Calgarians have come to love.

“With a beautiful mix of strong female voices, mind-melting animation and some of the craziest films that we have ever presented, our 2021 festival emits the perfect CUFF vibes,” says CUFF Lead Programmer Cameron Macgowan in a statement. “We went into this year on the high of earning a spot on prestigious MovieMaker’s list of The World’s 50 Best Genre Festivals 2021 and have kept challenging ourselves with producing a new podcast—CUFFcast—an amazing line-up of fresh cutting-edge cinema, and inspired special events. The festival may still be online due to our current times but I promise you that the festival will still provide the thrills that you have come to expect from our team.”

The festival opens with the Canadian premiere of the SXSW-selected Golden Arm, an offbeat comedy about a small-town baker who, with the help of her best friend, trains for the Ladies Arm Wrestling Championship. The film plays live at 7:00pm MT on Friday, April 23, 2021 with the film’s director Maureen Bharoocha and lead actress Betsy Sodaro joining for a live Q&A following the screening.

“This film was so much fun to watch! We all felt right away while watching it, that it had the perfect blend of quirkiness and comedy and was the most fun film to kick off the festival with,” says CUFF Festival Director and Lead Programmer Brenda Lieberman in a statement. “We also love bringing everyone together for the opening film too, so screening the opening as a live scheduled event, where we can experience as much of the community and collective viewing experience as possible, is really the best. We’ll have doors opening an hour prior to the screening, with a live DJ set from CJSW’s Station Manager Adam Kamis.”

And that’s just the start! Most of the festival’s films will be available to stream on-demand from 9:00pm MT on April 23 until 11:55pm on May 2 with a few time-limited special events thrown in.

So, what is on our must-see list? Here are our picks for this year’s festival:

Puppetry in (Stop)Motion

April 24, 2021, 11:00am
Stream online
Free to watch, registration required

Take a strange ride on the freaky side of puppetry with the filmmakers behind CUFF 2021 selections Frank & Zed and The Old Man Movie in a candid discussion about the literal blood, sweat, and tears put into making these ambitious puppet projects. Don’t miss this free, Canada-wide panel hosted by Xstine Cook.

Found Footage Festival: Tape Trading Classics

April 29, 2021, 7:00pm
Stream online
$13 – $25

The Found Footage Festival is back with a brand-new virtual show, beamed live into your home. Hosts Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher take you back in time to the pre-internet 90s to resurrect the best tape traded videos passed from weirdo to weirdo on VHS. You won’t want to miss this one!

Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal Cartoon Party

May 1, 2020, 9:00am
Stream online
$8 – $10

It’s the at-home edition of the wonderfully epic Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cereal Cartoon Party! Always a great bet, here’s your chance to relive the exciting Saturday morning ritual of non-stop retro cartoons. Jammies are totally recommended and you can curate your own cereal!

Hurt Them

May 1, 2021, 2:00pm
Stream online

Free to watch, registration required

Join a cast of actors for a live script reading of the feature revenge thriller Hurt Them. This is a free event, open to the public and a great opportunity to experience a film in the early stages of development. There will be a Q&A following the reading, and the production team is even open to script feedback following the event.

Need plans pre-festival? Be sure to check out this National Canadian Film Day bonus:

Hobo with a Shotgun

April 21, 2021, 7:00pm
Stream online
Free to watch, registration required

As part of National Canadian Film Day, CUFF is partnering with Reel Canada for a free online presentation of Hobo with a Shotgun to celebrate the film’s 10th anniversary. Now a cult classic, the action exploitation film was based on a faux-trailer of the same title featured in the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse. The stream includes a Q&A with director Jason Eisener and cinematographer Karim Hussain, hosted by Cameron Macgowan.

The Calgary Underground Film Festival runs April 23 to May 2, 2021. Be sure to visit for the full schedule and to find tickets. And be sure to mark your calendars as CUFF returns to the drive-in June 3 to 5, 2021—tickets go on sale this May.