“That’s the last penis you’ll see tonight,” chimes host Joe Pickett within the first five minutes of the evening’s festivities. For the last 10 years, Pickett, along with Nick Prueher, have made a living out of traveling across North America rummaging through dusty bins at garage sales and dirty shelves at thrift stores, collecting the most obscure and borderline disturbing VHS videos they can find and amassing them into a single video entity fittingly dubbed The Found Footage Festival.
It’s grown to become an underground sensation and tours all across the continent drawing raucous crowds. This year’s program included an instructional video on whelping, a young and sarcastic Mike Rowe on QVC, the mundane yet hilariously entertaining off-air antics of a Portland news station, and my personal favourite, a far too casual “how to” video on cyber sex straight from the mid ’90s. In between videos, Prueher and Pickett provide some background information on the clips compiled and even offer some updates on the clip’s subjects.
Prueher and Pickett are perhaps the true charm of the show: they love what they do and it shows in their witty running commentary during the evening. Prueher even makes an appearance in the grand finale video of this year’s collection, posing as a fake celebrity chef on morning news shows in small towns and making up meals comprised entirely of Thanksgiving leftovers.
If the concept of watching old and bizarre VHS tapes in a theatre feels strange, you probably have some company. Truthfully, this was my first excursion in FFF territory and, even after years of friends and colleagues filling my ears with their recommendations, I still didn’t know what to expect.
A jam-packed theatre full of a laughing audience and the Mystery Science Theatre-esque banter of Prueher and Pickett eased any sort of apprehension I may have had.
FFF dives headfirst into the pop culture labyrinth of oddities and forgotten trends that existed before the spread of the Internte. There’s a method to the madness, however, that’s being presented on the screen: in a sense, the way in which they gather and arrange the videos for the audience is almost poetic, reminiscent of the Pixies’ quiet/loud/quiet compositions.
There are DVDs of this year’s collection as well as some from the past available on the FFF website, but if you have the opportunity to ever see it in a theatre with an audience and Prueher and Pickett hosting, take it.
It’s a unique and earnest concept that fits right at home with the rest of CUFF’s programming.
By Alonso Melgar