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Ashland’s Other Film Festival

No, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has not moved from live stage to film - but this festival is sponsored by another local institution dedicated to the arts on a year-round basis: the Bad Film Society.

The festival?  The Bad Film Society Presents ... The Annual Ashland Co-Dependent Film Festival.

While the OSF is well known throughout the state, country, even the world, the Bad Film Society is known to a relative few.  Sequestered away in the basement of the Ashland Elks Lodge, the group meets roughly once a month, on a Sunday night, to watch some of the most misguided creations ever put to celluloid.  The result is akin to an interactive MST3K, plus a potluck supper.

In April, BFS founder Ed Polish (think ethnicity, not buffing) takes the opportunity presented by the concurrent Ashland Independent Film Festival to create a good-natured anti-AIFF.  While AIFF aspires to bring a sample of the best current cinema to their audience, Polish and the BFS dredge the bottom of film’s archives for the worst they can find.

The 2010 version of the ACDFF showcased a typical array of genres for a BFS evening: a couple of trailers (Wild Women of Wongo, Tigra), an episode of a serial (Tiger Woman) and a full-length feature (1941’s The Shanghai Gesture).

The feature was based on a play set around a brothel where the young female lead, Poppy, gets drawn into a world of opium addiction (Poppy… opium… who could have seen that coming?), nymphomania and prostitution. Because of the Hays Code (MPPC), the brothel turned into a casino and young Poppy (Gene Tierney) instead deals with alcoholism and gambling debt.  Further protestations by the Hays Office and others watered down the script so much that… well… it’s being shown by the BFS.

The festival introduction to this feature included comments such as: the observant “Even though this film was made by a famous director [twice Oscar-nominated Josef von Sternberg], it has never been restored… for good reason”; a reflection upon seeing the film on TV decades ago as a child summed up by “Even at ten years of age, I knew something was wrong”; and the ultimate “This movie goes to show that you can have good (Victor Mature) to great (Walter Huston) actors and still end up with a piece of sh[*]t…” [my edit].

All in all, the BFS is a fun and welcoming group and the ACDFF could serve as a palate cleanser if you’re tired of watching all those good films at the AIFF and decide to skip out on the AIFF awards dinner.

For more information, visit the BFS website at: http://www.badfilmsociety.org

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