2010 Festival Schedule and Films |


Opening Night film! Midwest premiere!

Alexandre Franchi in person!

THE WILD HUNT
– 8:00pm 2009, Alexandre Franchi, Canada, 96 min.

With Ricky Mabe, Kaniehtiio Horn

Winner of best Canadian first feature at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and the Audience award for best feature at this year’s Slamdance, THE WILD HUNT is set in the fantastic world of live action role playing games (LARPS). Eric Magnusson is a desperate young man who follows his estranged girlfriend Evelyn into the middle of a medieval reenactment game. The presence of this non-participant disrupts the game’s alternate reality and angers the dedicated players who refuse to break character in their encounters with him. When one of the players, the mysterious shaman Murtagh, shows a very real interest in Evelyn, the boundaries between reality and fantasy collide, and what begins as geeky fun turns into a tragedy of mythic proportions. To achieve atmosphere on a budget, Franchi and his crew entered the Duché de Bicolline, an actual role-playing venue near Shawinigan, Quebec, turning the game’s players into his extras and creating a mise-en-scene of nerd authenticity. 35mm. (Bryan Wendorf)

Director Alexandre Franchi will be present for audience discussion.

June 25th

WORLD’S LARGEST + GUIDED TOUR – 6:00pm

Midwest premiere! Filmmakers in person!
WORLD’S LARGEST
2010, Amy Elliott and Elizabeth Donius, USA, 77 min.

(preceded by) GUIDED TOUR
2010, Judy Fiskin, USA, 11 min.

Across the United States are countless small towns looking for recognition (and tourist dollars) as the home of the “world’s largest” something. Statues of giant killer bees, strawberries, pheasants, and more are among these peculiar monuments that stand in testimony to the struggles of rural America to be recognized, to have their communities and their very existence validated. Amy Elliot and Elizabeth Donius traveled to over 50 of these towns and focus on the four-year effort by Soap Lake, Washington, to become home to the world’s largest lava lamp. By turns humorous and heartbreaking, WORLD’S LARGEST captures the changing landscape of small-town America. DigiBeta video. (Bryan Wendorf)

Preceded by GUIDED TOUR, Judy Fiskin’s funny and poetic look at the talk around art and the inadequacy of description. Directors Amy Elliott and Elizabeth Donius will be present for audience discussion at the Friday screening.

Midwest premiere! Special guests in person!
VISIONARIES: JONAS MEKAS AND THE (MOSTLY) AMERICAN AVANT-GARDE 8:15pm
2010, Chuck Workman, USA, 90 min.

VISIONARIES simultaneously acts as a comprehensive primer about the birth of the American avant-garde cinema and a loving portrait of its tireless ringmaster, Jonas Mekas. 1960s New York City was the epicenter of an experimental film scene, populated by names now famous and forgotten. Mekas, recipient of CUFF‘s 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award, championed them all. The theater he started, Anthology Film Archives, has become known as the temple of cinema, responsible for the rescue of thousands of films. Workman, known for his stirring commemorative Oscar montages, narrates the story of Mekas’ career through anecdotes told by fans, friends, and the filmmakers themselves. The engaging story captures the excitement of a close-knit and vibrant artistic community that laid the groundwork for experimental cinema as we know it. DigiBeta video. (Christy LeMaster)

Jonas Mekas, director Chuck Workman, and critic Fred Camper will be present for audience discussion at the Friday screening.

SHORTS PROGRAM ONE: SCHOOL OF VELOCITY9:15pm
2009-10, Various directors, Various countries, ca. 76 min.

Two internationally renowned art personalities enter into a group marriage with two obscure Marvel superheroes in Torsten Zenas Burns and Darrin Martin’s WHAT IF? BEYOND A CARNAL LOVE (2010, 17 min.). Jesse McLean’s THE BURNING BLUE (2009, 9 min.) observes the thrill, terror, and boredom found in watching mass spectacles and the unexpected loneliness when you miss them. The moments of the discovery of “pure evil” from various Hollywood narratives are isolated and examined in Roddy Bogawa’s MEMYSELFANDI (2010, 11 min.). Also: new works by James P Finnegan and James Thatcher, Thorsten Fleisch, Wago Kreiger, Jason Livingston, Ivan Lozano, and Alexander Stewart. Various video formats. (Bryan Wendorf)

Frankie Latina in person!
MODUS OPERANDI10:30pm
2009, Frankie Latina, USA, 77 min.

“If you ever wondered what a James Bond film directed by Ed Wood would look like, here is your answer.”
–Benjamin Spacek, Las Vegas Weekly

A no-budget, high-concept homage to ’70s exploitation, Frankie Latina’s entertaining super-8 feature MODUS OPERANDI is an outrageous and raunchy experience you are not likely to forget. When “The Cowboy,” a shadowy agent with his own agenda, double crosses the CIA, two important briefcases go missing. Stanley Cashay (Randy Russell, co-writer of the documentary AMERICAN JOB), a washed-up special agent, is lured out of retirement to track the cases down. As his reward, he’s promised the name of the man who killed his wife. But Cashay will need to stay sober if he’s to beat super agent Dallas Deacon (Mark Borchardt of AMERICAN MOVIE fame) and the delicious but deadly Black Licorice to the contraband cases. Along the way, he encounters a bevy of scantily clad gun-toting beauties and Danny Trejo as the fearsome Director Holiday. When Cashay finally discovers the contents of the cases, he is so shocked that he makes a decision that forever alters world events. HDCAM video. (Bryan Wendorf)

Director Frankie Latina will be present for audience discussion at the Friday screening.

June 26th

SHORTS PROGRAM TWO: F IS FOR FATE – 1:15pm
2009-10, Various directors, USA, ca. 82 min.

A dead girl, a lost cell phone, therapy, and a fake pregnancy all converge in SEVEN SONGS ABOUT THUNDER (2010, 20 min.) by Jennifer Reeder. The THREE RAVENS (2009, 10 min) in Bobby Abate’s video keep a watchful eye on an old woman desperate to reach her daughter. Dani Leventhal collected nine minutes of footage each day and condensed it into the expressionistic diary 54 DAYS THIS WINTER 36 DAYS THIS SPRING (2009, 16 min.). Also: videos by Bryan Boyce, Jacqueline Castel, Eric Fleischauer, Kent Lambert, Chris Royalty, and Ann Steurnagel. Various video formats. (Bryan Wendorf)

AMERICAN JIHADIST + LAY CLAIM TO AN ISLAND – 3:00pm

Midwest premiere! Mark Claywell in person!
AMERICAN JIHADIST
2010, Mark Claywell, USA, 68 min.

LAY CLAIM TO AN ISLAND
2009, Chris Kennedy, Canada, 13 min.

What creates the mindset of a militant Islamist, especially one born and raised in the United States? AMERICAN JIHADIST examines the social, economic, and political circumstances that led Isa Abdullah Ali, aka Clevin Raphael Holt, from the ghettos of Washington, D.C., to convert to Islam as a teenager, fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan and alongside the Shiites in Lebanon, and become labeled a “known terrorist” by the U.S. Defense Department despite never being charged with a crime. AMERICAN JIHADIST looks at the role that violence and a lack of hope for the future play in the development of radicalism, going beyond simple characterizations to uncover the complex psychological factors that led Ali to take up arms in the name of his religion. DigiBeta video. (Bryan Wendorf)

Preceded by Chris Kennedy’s LAY CLAIM TO AN ISLAND. Texts from the 1969 American Indian occupation of Alcatraz propel an exploration of political yearning, emancipatory architecture, and failed utopias. 16mm. (Chris Kennedy)

Director Mark Claywell will be present for audience discussion at the Saturday screening.

LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE: FILMS BY JONAS MEKAS – 4:45pm

Jonas Mekas in person!
LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE:
FILMS BY JONAS MEKAS

1964-2003, Jonas Mekas, USA, ca. 90 min.

“In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets.”–Jonas Mekas

Jonas Mekas’ work as a filmmaker, curator, and critic has justifiably earned him the title “godfather of American avant-garde cinema.” The Chicago Underground Film Festival is proud to honor him with our Lifetime Achievement Award at this screening spanning his incredible 40-plus years creating and supporting visionary film. This tribute includes the films AWARD PRESENTATION TO ANDY WARHOL (1964, 12 min.), STREET SONGS (1983, 10 min.), A LETTER TO PENNY ARCADE (2001, 15 min.), and WILLIAMBURG, BROOKLYN (1950–2003, 15 min.), as well as other titles to be announced. Various film and video formats. (Bryan Wendorf)

Director Jonas Mekas will be present for audience discussion.

WASTELAND UTOPIAS – 6:00pm

Chicago premiere! David Sherman in person! WASTELAND UTOPIAS

2010, David Sherman, USA, 90 min.

This cinematic essay traces the intersection of visionary developer Del Webb (Sun City) and legendary radical psychiatrist/naturalist Wilhelm Reich (Orgone Energy). What on earth could these two possibly have in common? The sunny Sonoran Desert, for one thing; a shadowy CIA operative, for another. Desert landscapes, desert soulscapes, sex, sustainability, Emotional Plague, cloudbusting, cosmic intervention–these and other relevancies link the 1950s with our present moment in surprising and seemingly prophetic ways. HDCAM video. (Ann Arbor Film Festival)

Director David Sherman will be present for audience discussion.

SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS + ANONAMINAL – 7:00pm

Matt McCormick in person!
SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS
2010, Matt McCormick, USA, 93 min.

ANONAMINAL
2010, Lisa Barcy, USA, 5 min.

Portland’s special blend of ennui shines through the contemplative latest feature by Matt McCormick, director of the previous CUFF film, THE SUBCONSCIOUS ART OF GRAFFITI REMOVAL. The film explores ideas of abundance, emptiness, human connection, and abandonment while observing an interweaving web of awkward characters who maintain hope by inventing their own forms of communication and self-fulfillment. Featuring longtime McCormick collaborators Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney and James Mercer from The Shins, this movie is a sad valentine to the forgotten discards of a throwaway society and a story about knowing when to hold on and when to let go. DigiBeta video.

Also screening is ANONANIMAL. In this animated music video for Andrew Bird, a plethora of abstracted, squirming, amorphous beings create their own choreography in a mysterious underworld. HDCAM video. (CUFF)

Director Matt McCormick will be present for audience discussion.

AMERICATOWN + TENNESSEE WALTZ – 9:15pm

World premiere! Filmmakers in person!
AMERICATOWN
2010, Kenneth Price, USA, 77 min.

TENNESSEE WALTZ
2010, Clayton Brown, USA, 17 min.

Welcome to Americatown! Land of the free-radicools. Home of the bad-to-the-bone. The perfect all-American small town with exactly 1,000 citizens and recognizable landmarks like Head Mountain right across from the letter sign on the hill, just around the corner from the giant gap in the earth. The town’s tour guides, Roosevelt Microsoft and Plymouth Rayban, are working steadfastly to keep it safe until the fateful day when a new visitor to town and a spilled cup of coffee set off a cycle of events that threatens to forever alter the fabric of this idyllic community. Shot over a 9,000-mile road trip, the filmmaker and his stars (comedy duo the superkiids!) explored the mythology and culture of the United States in all its glory to create the microcosm of Americatown. DigiBeta video. (Bryan Wendorf)

Preceded by TENNESSEE WALTZ: A man and a woman float through space in a cramped ship filled with old photos, antique cameras, and toy robots. HDCAM video. (Clayton Brown)

Directors Kenneth Price and Clayton Brown will be present for audience discussion at the Saturday screening.

SHORTS PROGRAM THREE: TELEVISION PERSONALITIES – 9:30pm

2009-10, Various directors, Various countries, ca. 80 min.

An educational television hostess walks you through what it takes to control your surroundings in an uncertain natural world in Lori Felker’s THIS IS MY SHOW (2009, 15 min.). Paul Tarrago and his animal friends discuss Henry David Thoreau, sexuality, and moral dilemmas in PAUL AND THE BADGER EPISODE 6. George Kuchar’s weather diary VAULT OF VAPORS (2009, 10 min.) is a wistful and pungent look at the Oklahoma landscape. A young heifer makes a very poor choice in Bill Plympton’s THE COW WHO WANTED TO BE A HAMBURGER (2010, 5 min.). Also: Work by Rodney Ascher, Gregory Gutenko, Pippa Possible and Christian Rosenkranz, Steve Reinke, Kelly Sears and Craig Webster. Various video formats. (Bryan Wendorf)

June 27th

ERIE + HOME MOVIE – 1:00pm

Chicago Premiere!
ERIE
2009, Kevin Jerome Everson, USA, 81 min.

HOME MOVIE
2009, Braden King, USA 14 min.

ERIE is the fourth feature length work by Ohio-born, Virginia-based artist Kevin Everson following SPICEBUSH (2005), CINNAMON (2006) and THE GOLDEN AGE OF FISH (2008) as well as more than 70 short films and videos. Set in and around urban communities near Lake Erie, where the General Motors factory is about to close, the film is composed of single-take black-and-white shots all lasting the length of a camera roll: two sword-fighting men, a man with a screwdriver and a coat hanger trying to break into a car, young girls on a boat trip, and three workers anticipating their final days at the plant. These scenes build upon one another to create a portrait of African American workers in a post-industrial America. HDCAM video. (Bryan Wendorf)

Preceded by Braden King’s HOME MOVIE, an intimate and somber portrait of a woman at home with her two small children as they cope with the unexplained absence of their father. Beta SP video. (Braden King)

SHORTS PROGRAM FOUR: EAST MEETS WEST – 1:15pm
2009-10, Various directors, Various countries, ca. 80 min.

American William Walker’s use of coercion and military force to become dictator of Nicaragua in the mid-1800s is described in Kathryn Ramey’s 16mm documentary YANQUI WALKER AND THE OPTICAL REVOLUTION (2009, 33 min.). Simon Tarr’s GIRI CHIT (2009, 14 min.) looks at Cosplay girls, urban farming, and a Zamboni to examine class structure in contemporary Japan. Shelly Silver explores the shifting patterns and transformations of a neighborhood in 5 LESSONS AND 9 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHINATOWN (2009, 10 min.). Jim Finn’s GREAT MAN AND CINEMA (2009, 4 min.) summarizes Kim Jong II’s philosophy and practice toward filmmaking in communist North Korea. Also: films and videos by Marianna Milhorat, Peter Miller and Alexander Stewart, Deborah Stratman, and Richard Wiebe. Various film and video formats. (Bryan Wendorf)

SHORTS PROGRAM FIVE: NIGHT WATCHING – 3:00pm
2009-2010, Various Directors, various countries, ca. 77 min.

A fractured, makeshift family seeks out a meditative existence in Melika Bass’s enigmatic gothic melodrama SONGS FROM THE SHED (2009, 23 min.). Factory laborers are observed working and living by night in a town in southern China in LIGHTHOUSE (2009, 16 min.) by Chi Jang Yin. Laura Kraning’s VINELAND (2009, 10 min.) studies the nocturnal landscape of the last drive-in movie theater in Los Angeles. Also: films and videos by Tony Balko, Bill Brown, Melissa Friedling, Kathleen Rugh, and Angie Waller. Various film and video formats. (Bryan Wendorf)

World premiere! Filmmakers in person!
SCRAPPERS – 4:45pm
2009, Ben Kolak, Brian Ashby, and Courtney Prokopas, USA, 90 min.

Set in Chicago’s labyrinth of alleys, SCRAPPERS is a revealing portrait of Oscar and Otis, two metal scavengers searching for a living with brains, brawn, and battered pickup trucks. Shot in vérité style, the film focuses on work: finding metals, raising children, understanding the city. A close examination of the men’s daily lives raises questions about popular notions of poverty, race-relations, personal self-sufficiency, and urban sustainability. SCRAPPERS tackles the geography of a still-segregated city, the hidden lives of undocumented people, and the far-reaching effects of the 2008 financial collapse. The story is propelled by Chicago musician Frank Rosaly’s percussive score. HDCAM video. (www.scrappersmovie.com)

Directors Ben Kolak, Brian Ashby, and Courtney Prokopas will be present for audience discussion at the Sunday screening.

Scrappers Trailer from scrap movie on Vimeo.

SHORTS PROGRAM SIX: THE UNCONSCIOUS UNCORKED – 6:00pm

Chicago premiere!
SHORTS PROGRAM SIX:
THE UNCONSCIOUS UNCORKED

2009-10, Various directors, various countries, ca. 80 min.

An immigrant harnesses the power of the northern lights to broadcast images from Canada’s subconscious in Guy Maddin’s NIGHT MAYOR (2009, 14 min). Robert Todd’s GOLDEN HOUR (2010, 17 min.) offers up a window and a reflection of shimmering light. In Michael Robinson’s IF THERE BE THORNS (2009, 12 min.), a dark wave of exile, incest, and magic burns across the tropics as three star-crossed siblings are engulfed by purple prose and easy-listening music. Films and videos by Steve Cossman, Jack Cronin, Patrick Jolley, Matt Marsden, Michael Mills, and Jose Vonk complete the program. Various film and video formats. (Bryan Wendorf)

Trailer fro Guy Maddin’s NIGHT MAYOR:

PUTTY HILL – CLOSING NIGHT FILM! – 7:00pm

Midwest Premiere!
PUTTY HILL
2010, Matt Porterfield, USA, 87 min.

The second feature by director Matt Porterfield combines documentary and experimental narrative to unveil a bleak study of one America’s most beleaguered cities. A young man overdoses on heroin in an abandoned house in Baltimore, leaving his family and friends to mourn the sudden loss. The funeral brings a distant cousin home from the West Coast to confront a dysfunctional family and a crumbling neighborhood. Using non-actors and improvised scripting, PUTTY HILL plants the story in everyday environments, eschewing glamorized representations of post-industrial American life. DigiBeta video. (Christy LeMaster)

June 28th

THE EARTH IS YOUNG + INTO THE ZONE – 6:00pm

THE EARTH IS YOUNG
2009, Michael Gitlin, USA, 58 min.

INTO THE ZONE
2009, Raphael Bondy, Switzerland, 30 min.

An essay film that borders on science-fiction, THE EARTH IS YOUNG looks at the work of Young Earth Creationists, fringe scientists who see in the fossil record evidence of a literal six-day creation and six-thousand-year-old Earth. Gitlin contrasts these meetings with the methodical work of traditional scientists, as well the strange microscopic worlds found in a droplet of water, both of which suggest the planet’s origins are much older and perhaps even more complex and incredible. Gitlin raises questions about the objectivity of the documentary process itself, appreciating the dedication and conviction of his subjects while vehemently disagreeing with their conclusions. Beta SP video.

Preceded by INTO THE ZONE. Five tourists travel to the ghost town Pripyat, site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, to view the aftermath of the catastrophic events of 1986. Beta SP video. (Bryan Wendorf)

STAY THE SAME NEVER CHANGE – 8:00pm

Midwest premiere! Laurel Nakadate in person! STAY THE SAME NEVER CHANGE

2008, Laurel Nakadate, USA, 93 min.

Laurel Nakadate delves deep into the awkward, raw, and funny psyche of American girlhood in STAY THE SAME NEVER CHANGE. Shot in Kansas City using non-actors in their own homes, the film follows a loosely connected series of vignettes, each with a different young woman sharply in focus. Part voyeurism, part teen fantasy, STSNC captures the desperate need for love, the surreal world of budding sexuality, and the terrifying insecurity that riddle the young girl archetype. The performances are at once alien and heartbreakingly familiar. The score, composed by Chicago musician Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, punctuates all the girly non-action. HDCAM. (Christy LeMaster)

Director Laurel Nakadate will be present for audience discussion.

June 29th

AMERICAN JIHADIST + LAY CLAIM TO AN ISLAND – 6:00pm

WORLD’S LARGEST + GUIDED TOUR – 8:00pm

June 30th

AMERICATOWN + TENNESSEE WALTZ – 6:00pm

MODUS OPERANDI – 8:00pm

July 1st

VISIONARIES: JONAS MEKAS AND TEH (MOSTLY) AMERICAN AVANT-GARDE – 6:00pm

SCRAPPERS – 8:00pm