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TromaDance Film Fest screams into Williamsburg

The Brooklyn Paper
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Cannes it ain’t.

The filmmakers behind the cult “Toxic Avenger” movie franchise are bringing their popular free film festival TromaDance to Brooklyn this year. And the organizers say there may be no better place for its unique brand of gory, comedic, horror, infused with political commentary.

“There’s so many movies that mainstream companies are afraid of,” said Lloyd Kaufman, co-founder of Troma Entertainment, which has been running the festival since 1999. “We want to remind people that there are independent artists who are visionary.”

Troma films are often genre–bending and campy — combining mild eroticism, exaggerated gore, and straight slapstick humor. The TromaDance Film Festival carries on that tradition, but with films produced by independent filmmakers. It will run from June 27–28 at the Paper Box in Williamsburg, and will include 38 short films, four features, and an after-party with live music.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the original “The Toxic Avenger,” a movie about an emaciated janitor that gets transformed into a mutant do-gooder who tries to save his town from its corrupt mayor and crush crime.

“He has a chemical reaction against evil,” Kaufman said. “He has to stop it, even against his physical will.”

The underlying theme of “The Toxic Avenger,” and of all the Troma films, is a criticism of powerful forces that have an undue influence over everyday people, Kaufman said.

“The little people are perfectly capable of running their own lives, but they’re victimized by the conspiracy of the elite,” he said.

The motives behind TromaDance are similar.

Kaufman said the idea came about after he and “South Park” creator Trey Parker made a trip to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah to screen “Cannibal! The Musical,” a film Parker had directed. They were put off by the pomp and expense of the mainstream cinema fest, and how inaccessible it was for filmmakers who were out on their own.

“We were appalled at how unpleasant the atmosphere out there was independent films,” Kaufman said. “It inspired us to create an all free festival.”

Troma started TromaDance in Utah to give indie film makers a platform to present their work and gain exposure. After 10 years in Park City, it moved around a bit before finally coming home to New York for the first time this year.

There are no entry fees for filmmakers, and the screenings are free and open to the public. Kaufman said the festival only makes money through donations and drink sales.

“Hopefully people will drink up,” he said. “It’s not a great business model.”

Kaufman also said a fourth sequel to “The Toxic Avenger” is in the works, and that he hopes to set it in Chernobyl. But if the political unrest in Ukraine makes that impossible, he has a backup plan.

“Maybe if that falls through, we’ll move it Gowanus,” he said.

The TromaDance Film Festival at the Paper Box [17 Meadow St. between Waterbury and Bogart streets in Williamsburg, (718) 383–3815, www.tromadance.com]. June 27 from 6–10 pm, June 28 at noon–10 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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