Tromadance Detroit takes a walk on the B side

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

With free admission, free entry for filmmakers and a wild blend of low-budget genre filmmaking, Terence Cover says the TromaDance Film Festival is the “anti-Sundance.”

Cover cofounded TromaDance Detroit in 2013. It’s one of several international satellite events to the main TromaDance festival, which originated in 1999 in Park City, Utah, home of Sundance, and has since moved to New Jersey. The event’s title is a portmanteau of Sundance and Troma, the legendary B-movie production company that sponsored the original TromaDance and now lends its name to the satellite festivals.

TromaDance Detroit will return to the Tangent Gallery Saturday with a daylong program including over 25 shorts and three feature films. Although many selections are by Detroit-area filmmakers, the festival accepts entrants from anywhere in the world. This year, local organizers accepted online submissions for the first time, resulting in a pool of 2,600 entries — the Detroit festival’s largest yet.

Kimberly Howard is a Detroit filmmaker and actress who has screened two films at TromaDance Detroit and is now part of its organizing team. She says the festival skews toward comedy, horror and “over-the-top” material.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be gory or anything like that, but if you can put it under the alternative umbrella, we usually take a look at it,” Howard says. “We don’t usually have very many of the artsy-type movies that a lot of other film festivals do. We try to take films that usually wouldn’t be picked up by other festivals.”

Among the highlights of this year’s lineup is the Detroit-made feature “Son of Hercules Vs. the Psychedelic Dracula,” in which the son of Hercules is summoned to Detroit. Proudly wearing a tunic that reveals a pronounced farmer’s tan, the demigod’s progeny is called upon to defeat a drug-addled resurrected Dracula and his vampire cult.

“It’s a no-budget film that’s purely made with heart,” Cover says. “It reminds me a lot of early films I made and my friends made.”

In addition to the diverse offering of film screenings, TromaDance Detroit will present a variety of entertainment throughout the day. Farmington Hills burlesque performer Sadie Sparkles will do an act and Ferndale industrial synth musician Hearse For Hire will perform throughout the day. A variety of offbeat art will be displayed for purchase and vendors will sell films. Special guest Brad Jones, known for his comical YouTube reviews of B-movies under the name “The Cinema Snob,” will host the proceedings.

“We will also have a fellow named Nathan Wakefield, who does what he described to me as ‘torture juggling,’” Cover says. “I don’t know what that entails, but it sounds pretty awesome.”

Cover says it’s particularly important to have an event like TromaDance in Detroit, where what he describes as “the other side” of filmmaking often gets overlooked.

“The Hollywood movies are the ones that get all the attention, obviously, and the big debate in the state about if we should fund them or if we should have tax breaks,” Cover says. “But even when that wasn’t there and even when that’s gone, we will always have the independent film community. There should be something to celebrate that.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

TromaDance Detroit

1 - 11 p.m. Saturday

Tangent Gallery

715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit


(313) 873-2955