Festival of Controversial and Cult Films:

Films always have the ability to anger us, divide us, shock us, disgust us, and more. Usually, films that inspire controversy, outright boycotting, picketing, banning, censorship, or protest have graphic sex, violence, homosexuality, religious, political or race-related themes and content. They usually push the envelope regarding what can be filmed and displayed on the screen, and are considered taboo, "immoral" or "obscene" due to language, drug use, violence and sensuality/nudity or other incendiary elements. Inevitably, controversy helps to publicize these films and fuel the box-office receipts.  Controversy-invoking films may be from almost any genre - documentaries, westerns, erotic-thrillers, dramas, horror, comedy, or animated, and more. Standards for what may be considered shocking, offensive or controversial have changed drastically over many decades.  Many such films have aquired cult status, that is a film that attracts a devoted group of followers or obsessive fans, despite having failed on their initial releases. The term also describes films that have remained popular over a long period of time amongst a small group of followers. In many cases, cult films may have failed to achieve mainstream success on original release although this is definitely not always the case. Cult films usually offer something different or innovative in comparison to more mainstream films but cult films can also be popular across a wide audience.


The content of certain films (such as dark subjects, alienation, transgressive content, or other controversial subject matter) can also decide whether or not a film is a "cult film", regardless of the film's budget or studio affiliations.  Some cult films garner overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and perform well at the box office, but nevertheless are still considered 'cult'.  One example of this is Stanley Kubrick's vision of a grim and disturbing, ultra-violent future in A Clockwork Orange (1971), which won several major film awards and was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture. The film was hotly debated when it was released - both highly praised and objectionable for its bleak outlook, and for itís pairing of comedy with violence.


A Clockwork Orange features disturbing, violent imagery to facilitate social commentary on psychiatry, youth gangs, fascist social conditioning and other topics in a futuristic dystopian society. The film features a soundtrack comprising mostly classical music selections and Moog synthesizer compositions by Wendy Carlos.  The film was heavily criticized and opposed by religious groups for its sexual and violent content. Feminists were outraged with some of the misogynistic imagery.  Alex (Malcolm McDowell), is subjected to corrective treatment -- experimental aversion therapy imposed by the state in which he was behaviorally conditioned (with his eyes clamped wide-open in order to view scenes of violence in films while drugged to induce nausea and forced to listen to his beloved Beethoven) to suppress his violent and sexual drives - and in the process gave up his own individual and personal rights.


Because of the copy-cat violence that the film was blamed for by the media and courts, Kubrick withdrew it from circulation in Britain about a year after its release. Some believed it was because it was rumored that Kubrick and his family had received death threats. It wasn't officially available there again - in theaters or on video - until 2000, a year after his death.


Often cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside of a small fanbase; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame amongst mainstream audiences, including Easy Rider (1969), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Taxi Driver (1976, Pulp Fiction (1994), and the transgender spoof film The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), possibly the best-known and longest-running cult film in the U.S.  The movie satirizes conventions of science fiction and horror films of its time, and includes elements of transvestitism, incest and homosexuality ó all within the context of a musical film. The film received little critical attention or mainstream cinema exhibition when first released in 1975, but built up a base of fans who repeatedly showed up at midnight screenings at inexpensive neighborhood cinemas, dressed in costume and "participating" in the film. In this case, the film intentionally ridiculed its own subject matter, thereby entering into the spirit of sarcastic fun often surrounding the attainment of cult.


Usually, cult films have limited but special, noted appeal, are often perceived as eccentric, donít follow traditional standards of mainstream cinema and usually explore unconventional topics. They are often considered controversial simply because they step outside of known standard narrative and technical conventions.





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