Before celluloid captured images and light projected them on screens as motion pictures, vaudeville, circuses and carnival sideshows provided escapist entertainment to hard-working masses. Even after cinema took over, the traveling aesthetic remained intact in drive-ins and grindhouses, where independent films played for a short time before moving to the next regional district and a whole new audience. Filmmaker/entrepreneur Jeffrey Wengrofsky continues the tradition of traveling entertainment and regional cinema with a short short-film festival inspired by the DIY nature of early ‘80s hardcore punk.
Secrets of the Deep: DREAMS on FILM compiles eleven five- to fifteen-minute short films into a single night of subconscious examination. Depending on the length and number of breaks, the show can run for ninety minutes to two hours. Each night provides a unique experience with Wengrofsky improvising the program according to the audience vibe.
“…a unique experience with Wengrofsky improvising the program…”
This is the fourth Secrets entry in as many years. The series began in 2014 with Secrets of the Heart, then continued with Secrets of the Insect World and In Vino Veritas: Secrets of the Intoxicated Life before landing on the subject of dreams for this year. The idea is to compile short films that deal with complex themes. Over time, the festival has grown from a collection of friends’ films to a carefully curated program from over four hundred submissions. The selections for Secrets of the Deep are as follows:
Cecilia Directed by Liz Tabish. A stunningly beautiful tale of a young woman accused of witchcraft during the Middle Ages. Without a doubt, the best entry as it alone is worth the price of admission.
A Paralisia do Sono (Sleep Paralysis) Directed by Vinicius J. Santos. Excellent Brazilian short that blends grainy ‘70s horror with Japanese ghosts.
Too Close Directed by Emily O’Brien. Disturbingly funny look at a 1950s couple whose relationship is uncomfortably close. The directorial debut of the Young and the Restless star.
Pas Catholique Directed by Joe Whitney. Expressionist look at religion somewhere between Ingmar Bergman and Jean-Luc Godard.
The Trickster Directed by She Rocola. More Bergman worship filtered through English psychedelia.
Anywhere Out of This World Directed by Douglas Hart. An homage to Stanley Kubrick from the original bassist of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
“…a carefully curated program from over four hundred submissions.”
Back Page Ripper Directed by Stephen Rutterford. Gritty New York horror comedy about a killer who stalks and murders books.
Doubleplay Directed by Gil De Ray and Kirsty Allison. Psychedelic urban visuals meet trippy swamp folk rock and poetry courtesy the editors of Cold Lips magazine.
I Sleep on the Radio Directed by Gordon Raphael. ‘80s-style music video for Raphael’s spacey blend of krautrock and new wave. He produced The Strokes.
A Mushroom Trip Directed by Olga Guse. Phenomenal nightmarish stop-motion from a Russian-born artist who works out of Germany.
Marti Domination in the Life of Dreams Directed by Jeffrey Wengrofsky. Last but not least, the festival’s curator delivers this Warhol-like bit of surrealism that touches on the other definition of dreams, i.e., aspiration, hope, and longing.
So far, Secrets of the Deep has played around New York City and in Baltimore, with related shows coming to both Northern and Southern California in the fall. It’s a fun night out and a chance to see some truly underground cinema that normally goes unnoticed. Wengrofsky’s personality only adds to the enjoyment as he enthusiastically introduces each film from the center of the audience.
The festival series will continue next year with Secrets of Outer Space (submissions open now on FilmFreeway), but for now, catch Secrets of the Deep when it plays in your city for a very different kind of festival.