Boston Underground Film Festival

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FounderDavid Kleiler
HeadquartersBoston, United States of America

The Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF) is an annual event held in the Boston area that specializes in alternative film and video. BUFF is the largest underground film festival in New England, spotlighting short films and feature-length films that would not otherwise find an audience. It is the only film festival in the world to give an award for "Most Effectively Offensive".

Despite the festival's title, BUFF has not taken place in Boston proper since 2003. The 2004 festival was held mainly in Arlington, Massachusetts. In 2005, BUFF was held entirely in Somerville, Massachusetts. From 2006 on, BUFF has taken place entirely in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although BUFF, as an organization, has hosted year round programming at various Boston venues (such as Space 242 in the South End, The Savant Project (now defunct) in Mission Hill and the Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain), there seem to be no current plans to hold the festival in the City of Boston.

BUFF is one of the longest continuously-running underground film festivals in the world; second only to Chicago Underground Film Festival.


Started in 1998, by film professor/curator David Kleiler, BUFF was an extension of an all night film marathon produced by Kleiler and Dima Ballin. The First Annual Boston Underground Film Festival took place in February 1999 at the now defunct Revolving Museum in South Boston. Described by programmer Bernard Broginart as "a wonderful hoax of a film festival,"[1] the first BUFF was an extremely informal event. Patrons were encouraged to wander from room to room for a single ticket price in the art gallery converted to a cinema. This format was continued for the 2000 festival.

In the years following, BUFF has adopted a more traditional festival format with set screening start times and using actual cinemas and screening rooms. Between 2001 and 2004, BUFF had expanded and contracted with no central location or venue and no set duration. The festival took place during the month of February from 1999 to 2002. In 2003, it was moved to October; then to May in 2004. During this period, numerous venues housed BUFF screenings, including the Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain, The Allston Cinema Underground (now defunct), The Arlington Regent Theatre, and the Brattle Theatre.

By 2005, BUFF was under new management, with Anna Feder and Kevin Monahan taking over as co-managing directors and bringing on Bryan McKay as graphic designer. David Kleiler retained Executive Director duties this year. One of Feder and Monahan's first actions was to feature the Bacchus bunny front and center by using McKay's striking designs. They also centralized operations during this year, with all screenings taking place at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. In 2006 they made Harvard Square BUFF's new home, using the Brattle Theatre as the primary venue. The Brattle also hosted the festival in 2007 and 2008. Kleiler stepped down as Executive Director after the 2006 festival.

According to BUFF's website, the 2009 festival was held at the Kendall Square Cinema and the Brattle Theatre, both in Cambridge. The 2010 and 2011 festivals were held exclusively at the Kendall Square Cinema.

Anna Feder stepped down as Director after the 2011 festival.

BUFF's core staff is currently: Artistic Director – Kevin Monahan, Director of Programming – Nicole McControversy, Media Director – Bryan McKay.

In 2012, BUFF moved back to the Brattle Theatre where it has remained the festival's primary screening venue.

The Bacchus Award[edit]

Rather than giving cash or trade value prizes for awards, BUFF doles out a trophy, that vibrates when held, in the shape of a demonic black bunny with red eyes. The Bacchus Award was incorporated into BUFF in its second year and has since become the official mascot of the festival, a focal point in poster/logo design, and the rationale behind the festival's red/black color scheme. "And the bunny goes to..." is the much-anticipated phrase at the award ceremony that closes the festival. A new version of Bacchus, clad in white briefs and clutching a liquor bottle was unveiled for the 2008 festival. The 2008 Bacchus was designed by Casey A. Riley.

Notable films featured[edit]

Notable guests[edit]


External links[edit]