David Pike is founder and director of the Arizona Underground Film Festival, which kicks off its fourth year on Friday, Sept. 16, and gives Tucson cinema-lovers nine days of films in every genre, from drama to documentaries, from Japanese to exploitation. Pike says this year's festival is full of world premieres—and a slate of Tucson films, too, all at the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. The full schedule is up at www.azundergroundfilmfest.com. Festival passes are $60, and individual tickets are $7.
Why did you start the Underground Film Festival?
Before the festival, a while ago, I was showing films at the Surly Wench Pub. ... People kept coming up to me and asking me to play "this movie." I started to do a submission thing. It was great. I realized there's kind of a need for this, and I thought, "Why don't I just start an underground film fest?" The first year was rough; first years are always a little rough. We played three days, and I spent a lot of time picking films. The second year was better, and we showed our first Japanese film. We did pretty well, and last year, we exploded.
Is the Screening Room a good venue?
I like the Screening Room. It is downtown. People have complained in the past that there's no parking, but now there's parking everywhere. I consider the Screening Room to be downtown Tucson's art theater. It is perfect for the films we play.
Anything different this year?
This year, we asked certain artists ... to re-create their favorite cult-movie poster or scene. These are all different types of artists, so each piece will be unique. We'll unveil the work the first night of the festival in the Screening Room lobby. This year, we've gotten more attention, too. (In the) first year, (we received) little to no press, and I was trying to figure out how to do a festival. We got a lot of submissions, but now we have a fan base, and I feel we're one of the most-underrated festivals in the country. Last year, we had a lot of press all over the country—except Tucson. That's changing.
You're going to do something in October, too, right?
Yes, I started Tucson's first horror-film festival in October for three days. ... Last year, I got so many great horror films, but I couldn't play them all. I thought we'd take a weekend and play all these horror films we got. During the Zombie Walk ... we're going to play zombie movies.
You've always been a movie person?
Well, I started more as a writer ... and I directed Red Door, which (exhibited) at the Arizona International Film Festival. It's a 30-minute short. I still direct an occasional music video. I just did a Mission Creeps video.
Have Tucsonans been good about supporting the festival?
For the most part, but it depends on us getting the word out. Last year, some people complained they didn't hear about it, even though we got some press—but you just can't hit everybody. Also, the first year, we started in October, the second year in November, and last year in September, so we never had a definite month until last year.
What do you look for in the different genres that you always have?
It's always important to have a good drama with a good narrative, which we have. Marianne is a good example. Some may think it is horror, but it's not; it's a thriller, but it also has drama elements. It's a slow burn and a great, great film. People are talking about it. We have some great documentaries as well.
You also have an exploitation film every year.
Yes. We're the only (local) festival that does exploitation films. Last year was Nude Nuns With Big Guns, which had its world premiere and played lots of festivals last year. There was also some controversy with studios fighting over it. This year, it's Dear God No!, which is from a smaller company, but it still has that exploitation element. It's a biker one, and part of our late-night extreme-cinema night.
Anything else you're particularly excited about this year?
There's tons of great stuff. We also have three films made by local people. There's /AFK, which stands for "backslash away from the keyboard." It's a documentary about World of Warcraft and what it does to people's lives. It's really good. They filmed in Tucson and in Phoenix. It shows the progression of people over five years. This guy loses his wife, house and kids. I was blown away.