It's been a hell of a year for Shane Carruth. Twelve months ago this week, the polarizing writer-director-actor was packing up for Sundance, where he'd premiere a mind-bender called Upstream Color. The film stars Carruth, his wife, Amy Seimetz, and a herd of poisoned pigs that host a small worm that erases people's memories. Critics loved it, and they still do — two dozen of them gave it a Best Picture vote on our own 2013 Film Poll.

Carruth appreciates the end-of-the-year boost. Forgoing studio help, he also produced and distributed Upstream Color himself in April with a marketing budget somewhere around, well, nothing. He laughs, “If we weren't being talked about by critics, than really there's not much else going on.” Hey, when you're also your film's editor, composer and cinematographer, why not be your own Weinstein?

Besides, he's used to being tight-fisted. His first flick, Primer, a wildly inventive time-travel drama, cost just $7,000 — and it went on to win Sundance's Grand Jury Prize.

If anything, Carruth is his own advertising. Theater owners who were reluctant to show his latest experimental head-scratcher said yes when he agreed to throw in Primer as a double feature. “It feel like this kid who I thought I sent to college is now coming back to help the other kid to get out the door,” Carruth says.

You can catch the award season's most ambitious underdog when both films play the Aero Theatre on Jan. 16. Carruth will be on hand to answer questions during the break. “Some people have a much, much different interpretation than anything I intended,” he admits. That makes for a great Q&A — and an even better post-film drink.

UPSTREAM COLOR & PRIMER | Aero Theatre | Thursday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m. |

Note: We mistakenly identified Amy Seimetz as Shane Carruth's wife; they are a long-term couple but not married. We regret the error.

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