DEDfest returns for what may be its final cut after suffering economic challenges
Beneath a daycare, two men are sitting on a red couch with collapsed, slouching cushions. Around them are all manner of knick-knacks and paraphernalia. An old VHS camcorder, a coffin, some strange wooden mask that I’m told was used for some unsavoury rituals by a cult in the ‘70s, and more DVDs than any child born in the last 10 years has ever seen in one place.
DEDfest cofounders, Kevin Martin and Derek Clayton, are watching old B-horror movie trailers in The Lobby, the alternative and cult video store that Martin owns. DEDfest: Edmonton’s International Genre Film Festival is still very much underground.
“That’s it,” says Clayton. “The theatre is our church. It sounds cliched but … ”
“That’s right,” Martin adds. “How ironic is it that the Paramount on Jasper Ave. was turned into a church years ago? Which, to me, is actually blasphemy.”
This year’s festival features 18 different screenings. There’s a mockudrama regarding movie violence, a fairytale about children in Mexican gang wars, and the return of the Hatchet franchise’s Victor Crowley.
Now in its 10th year, having screened all manner of horrific, hilarious, and bizarre flicks, and having featured guests like Michael Biehn, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Henry Rollins—DEDfest is facing the axe. The overhead costs, current state of the economy, and a lack of civic funding have Clayton and Martin seriously considering the end.
“I don’t know, man,” Clayton says. “I know personally, unless there’s room for growth? Unless we’re given a firm, ‘Yes, we want you guys to grow. Here’s how we’re going to make it happen. Here’s where we’re going to help you guys. Here’s where we’re going to give you the tools to did this.’ Unless we see that, it’s hard to say what we’re going to do the next year or the year after. You can’t keep running on fumes.”
DEDfest is given around $5,000 annually in grants, a low number in comparison to other international genred film festivals. In September, Clayton started a GoFundMe with a goal of $3,000 to try and subsidize some of the cost. As of this publication date, it’s made $100. Beer sales during the festival seem to be one of the biggest helps.
In spite of the strife, the pair press on, at least for the time being. Clayton says it isn’t just about the movies.
“We talk about this a lot with Netflix, and streaming,” Clayton says. “The movie-going experience is really getting put down to the individual. Like, you’re sitting at home watching a movie, but people still go to movies. People still want that communal experience of going to a film and talking about it afterwards.”
In 2004, DEDfest was still in its fetal stage when The Lobby’s former owner staged a film festival that was then called Return to Odd. When Martin took control of the store, he kept the name for a year before he and Clayton eventually changed it. After going through a slough of different venues, the festival found its current home at the Garneau in 2011. It’s been a struggle almost every year to break even.
“I used to always joke with Derek, and not a comparison of course, but international film festivals are like a fine dining experience,” says Martin. “It’s just really classy shit, where [as] we’re more a punk rock show. Just having a good time. It’s apples and oranges, really.”
Martin says there’s a certain type of person who goes to DEDfest. He likens them to the Losers’ Club in Stephen King’s ‘It.’ Kids who’d stay home from sports to go see grindhouse movies and had teenage crushes on Amityville Horror’s James Brolin or Escape From New York’s Adrienne Barbeau. Fans and outsiders who always knew the movies to see, and were explorers in the further regions of the celluloid experience.
Tue., Oct. 17 – Sun., Oct. 22
Schedule at dedfest.com