2023 Calgary Underground Film Festival: Nightsiren (2022)

Two decades after a tragedy with her sister, Šarlota — pronounced Charlotta — comes back to her remote mountain hometown in Slovakia to claim an inheritance left by her dead mother. Yet when she gets there, her mother’s house has burned to the ground. Staying in her former neighbor’s abandoned cabin — rumored to have been a witch’s house — Šarlota remembers the misogyny, patriarchy and superstition that she had left. And as she gets closer to a herbalist named Mira, the locals believe that Šarlota must also be a witch.

A deserved winner of the Best Picture in the Cineasti del Presente Competition at the Locarno Film Festival, director Tereza Nvotová has made a movie that looks absolutely gorgeous and from another world. The witch sabbath scene in this is incredibly evocative and just blew me away.

We live in a world that fears what it does not understand and seeks to hold back things of beauty and passion. These issues exist from big cities to small towns and everywhere in between; things seem to be sliding back into a world where women no longer even have autonomy over their own bodies. Nightsiren presents a place where the power within women is challenged by old beliefs and an even older guard.

I saw this as part of the Calgary Underground Film Festival, which for twenty years has been dedicated to elevating Calgary’s cultural landscape with the best in international independent cinema. Recently, CUFF was named one of the Best Horror Festivals in the World, 2022 by Dread Central, and one of the World’s 50 Best Genre Festivals and one of 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2021 by MovieMaker Magazine. CUFF continues to attract audiences with its programming of films that engage audiences and defy convention.

It’s running from now until April 30 and you can see the entire schedule here.

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