The jurors of the 2018 Chicago Underground Film Festival– Melika Bass, Jeff Economy, Ericka Frederick, and Mike White — faced a challenge when narrowing the incredible entries into the prizes for the 25th Annual event. We hoped to choose award winners that fit the spirit of the festival’s past while looking at the future. To that end, we gave THE SPIRIT OF CUFF award to Samira Elagoz’s CRAIGSLIST ALLSTARS which constantly delighted, infuriated, and surprised us.
Annelise Ogaard’s GIRL POWDER, a wry and burn-it-down feminist satire, at once embraced and subverted the distinct visual style and filmic language of the documentary portrait of a startup entrepreneur. For that reason, we awarded it the Making-The-Tastiest-Meal-Out-of-the-Hand-That-Feeds-You BEST COMEDY SHORT award.
For employing a mesmerizing visual style to introduce us to another world via one of its most captivating residents, we rewarded Malia Bruker’s V/IRL with the BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT award. A playful mash-up artist portrait about fantasy and power on the internet centering around Universal Hacktress, AKA rapper Fellatia Geisha, AKA artist Lena NW, and her confrontation with apathy and nihilism on the web and IRL.
The film that most got under our skin the and made us question the nature and form of storytelling itself through its urgent and at-times nauseating blend of pitch-black comedy and ethnographic provocation, Vít Klusák’s THE WHITE WORLD ACCORDING TO DALIBOREK, garnered THE MOST “PROBLEMATIC” award.
We were left gutted and deeply transformed by Adam Sekuler’s TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS, which earned the RADICAL EMPATHY award. This tough, profound, and intimate film on a controversial issue opens a rare door of cinema and gently invites you in.
In a festival that passionately celebrates experimental and genre-bending films, we awarded Sky Hopinka’s ANTI-OBJECTS, OR SPACE WITHOUT PATH OR BOUNDARY the BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM award, for its indelible, slippery poetics — a unique, coded weaving of language, culture and history into a shifting cinematic collage.
The MADE IN CHICAGO AWARD goes to the film that embodied a part of Chicago itself that made the jurors want to strap on our skates and go ON THE RINK with director Benjamin V Buxton.
The festival AUDIENCE AWARD, garnering the most CUFF audience votes, went to Julia Nash’s chronicle of the nexus of Chicago’s influential punk and new wave scenes, INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT: THE STORY OF WAX TRAX! RECORDS.
Though it was impossible to focus a spotlight on every standout piece that didn’t receive a CUFF statuette, the jurors felt compelled to bestow an additional HONORABLE MENTION on four additional works: Joshua Tuthill’s BLACK DOG (Honorable Mention for Animation), James N. Kienitz Wilkins’s COMMON CARRIER (Honorable Mention for Experimental Narrative), Jon Rafman’s DREAM JOURNAL (Honorable Mention for Surrealist Daymare), and Nellie Kluz’s SERPENTS AND DOVES (Honorable Mention for Short Documentary).
It’s been an amazing 25 years so far and we look forward to attending and participating in the next 25.
Melika Bass makes slow-burning, abstracted narrative films and atmospheric, experiential installations. Her newest film, Creature Companion, will have its World Premiere at 2018 Oberhausen Film Festival, Germany. Bass’s previous films have screened at BFI London Film Festival; Kino der Kunst, Munich; Torino Film Festival, Italy; CPH Dox Film Festival, Copenhagen; Ann Arbor Film Festival; Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York; Anthology Film Archives, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; New Museum, New York, and Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Bass is a recipient of an Artadia Award (NYC), an Experimental Film Prize from the Athens International Film Festival, a Kodak/Filmcraft Award from Ann Arbor Film Festival, and two Media Arts Fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council. Bass was one of a dozen international filmmakers commissioned by Icelandic band Sigur Ros to create an original film for their Valtari Mystery Film Experiment. Melika’s early films are distributed online on Fandor. www.tenderarchive.com
A seven-year CUFF staff veteran (1997-2003), Jeff Economy is a filmmaker, writer, and TV producer & cinematographer whose credits include “…An Incredible Simulation” (co-director, CUFF 2000), Plaster Caster (producer/DP/producer, CUFF 2001) and “cakewalk” (director, CUFF 2002); music videos for Mudhoney, Red Red Meat, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, Nina Violet, and others; numerous TV shows for ABC, A&E, TLC, TNT, FYI etc.; multimedia production for Perishable Records and Revenant Records (including the two-time Grammy Award-winning “The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volumes 1&2”); and writing published in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader and Newcity Chicago. Jeff is currently writing a screenplay for a serialized TV drama, as well as acting as Director of Photography and Archival Producer on a documentary about famed record producer Tom Wilson, directed by Marshall Crenshaw and slated for completion later this year.
Ericka Frederick started making films as a modern dance major at the University of Michigan to accompany her choreography and live performances. At age 20, she formed her first production company, Sluggo Films, where she produced music videos, commercials, and athletic training videos in her native Detroit. A seasoned, Chicago-based film industry veteran, she had a long, successful tenure as a sales and marketing executive at the The Eastman Kodak Co. and has produced several independent features and short films, including By Courier, which was directed by actor Peter Riegert and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film in 2001. Ericka received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts, where she created and taught an advanced production class for high-potential students. Dynamic and hard-working, Ericka has moderated panels at Sundance, Toronto International Film Festival, and Telluride, and has had five films in Cannes’ short film corner. She is currently producing two features which are in pre-production, as well as the documentary Tigerman. She continues to give back to her community by producing many PSAs, including “Anyone Watching?”, which was featured on the AICP 2016 Shortlist.
Often mistaken for the ginger screenwriter/actor of the same name, Mike White began publishing the film fanzine Cashiers du Cinemart in 1994 and has been a contributor to publications such as CinemaScope, Paracinema, Detroit’s Metro Times, and Detour-Mag.com. He’s served on juries at the Slamdance, Cinekink, MicroCineFest, Blue Water, and Kansas City film festivals. Additionally, he’s been featured in the documentaries David Goodis: To a Pulp and The People Vs. George Lucas. In 2010, BearManor Media published Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection. Mike has been the host of The Projection Booth podcast since 2011.
AUDIENCE AWARD: “Manlife: The Last of the Lawsonians” Directed by Ryan Sarnowski
MADE–IN–CHICAGO AWARD: “How to Have Your/Own Television Show/(You Already Do)” Directed by Jesse Malmed
JURY AWARD: “INNAATE/SE” Directed by Adam Khalil and Zack Khahil
JURY AWARD: “As Without So Within” Directed by Manuela de Laborde
JURY AWARD: “The Pink Egg” Directed by Jim Trainor
JURY AWARD: “Indefinite Pitch” Directed by James N. Kienitz Wilkins
JURY AWARD: “Steven Go Get Me a Switch” Directed by Jared Buckhiester
JURY AWARD: “See a Dog, Hear a Dog” Directed by Jesse McLean
HONORABLE MENTION: “Ark” Directed by Lynne Siefert
HONORABLE MENTION: “Sea With No Name” by Emi Linnakoski
HONORABLE MENTION: “Luna E Santur” Directed by Joshua Gen Solondz
His work has played at various festivals including ImagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival, Images Festival, Courtisane Festival, Wavelengths, Ann Arbor Film Festival, American Indian Film Festival, Sundance, Antimatter, Chicago Underground Film Festival, FLEXfest, Projections, and the LA Film Festival. His work was a part of the 2016 Wisconsin Triennial and the 2017 Whitney Biennial. He was awarded jury prizes at the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, the More with Less Award at the 2016 Images Festival, the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the 54th Ann Arbor Film Festival, and 3rd Prize at the 2015 Media City Film Festival.
The festival jury presented six awards to films and videos selected as best or most interesting in whatever categories they see fit. Additionally “Made in Chicago” and Audience Choice awards will also be presented.
For BEST FEATURE, a film of exploitation and transformation, based on the work of Paul Bowles, who wrote, “I’ve always wanted to get as far as possible from the place where I was born. Far both geography and spiritually.” THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS by Ben Rivers
In a category of BEST SELF-HELP FILM we recognize a film so totally singular with its weave of leftist history lessons, new wave and new age, like psycho-spiritual guerrilla warfare, the writing, the music, the models all come together to blow away the hybrid category that it creates for itself. CHUMS FROM ACROSS THE VOID by Jim Finn
In the category of BEST ESSAY FILM, we were struck by how the simplest of materials and gestures made its theoretical groundings come to life, the philosophical arguments made experiential. So much more than the sum of its minimal parts. 6500 by Lisa Truttmann.
In the category of BEST PHOTOGRAPHY we reward a film that creates a riveting, kinetic experience from a hard, immobile truth of the medium. As Susan Sontag wrote, “Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality… One can’t possess reality; one can possess images. One can’t possess the present, but one can possess the past.”VINTAGE PRINT by Siegfried Fruhauf
In the category of BEST COMEDY We were struck by how weird and dry this film was, the acting, dialogue and plot turns all equally depending on each other to create a unique but believable, funny but achy world. SAVASANA by Brandon Daley
In a category of BEST EDUCATIONAL FILM, we selected a film that plays like the Land Without Bread of animal documentaries, examining the line between fantasy and reality. To quote Luis Bunuel, “Fantasy and reality are equally personal, and equally felt, so their confusion is a matter of only relative importance.” THE MASKED MONKEYS by Anja Dornieden & Juan David Gonzalez Monroy
The MADE IN CHICAGO AWARD goes to an amazing premise that shouldn’t be startling, told with straightforwardness and charm. We have endless respect for her political commitment as much as her sensibilities in her long career as both an artist and a thoughtful mentor to many, CRYSTAL LAKE by Jennifer Reeder.
The festival AUDIENCE AWARD went to Booger Red, directed by Berndt Mader. The film is a narrative/documentary hybrid starring Onur Tukel as a reporter investigating an alleged child sex ring in Texas.
Jeffrey Bowers is Senior Manager of Curation at Vimeo and also curates VICE media’s VICE Shorts and writes their column, “I’m Short, Not Stupid.” In the past he has programmed for Tribeca Film Festival, Hamptons Film Festival and Rooftop Films.
Rebecca Hall is Executive Director of the Northwest Chicago Film Society and Operations and Digital Communications Manager at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Tim Kinsella is the author of two novels, Let Go and Go On and On (2014, Curbside Splendor) and The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self-Defense (2011, Featherproof Books) and one book of non-fiction All Over and Over (2015, Joyful Noise / Featherproof Books).
In 2014 he became the publisher and editor at Featherproof Books. Since 1996 his band Joan of Arc and its related projects have released dozens of albums and they continue to tour internationally on a regular basis. In 2015 he was both the Artist-in-Residence at Joyful Noise Records and the Visiting Writer at Roosevelt University, as well as serving on the programming committee at Chicago Filmmakers. Recent projects include multiple commissions for the MCA Chicago and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, as well as his ongoing collaborations with the experimental theater company Every house has a door.
Spencer Parsons has been screening his short films at CUFF for over a decade, including 2015’s Bite Radius (named one of the top 5 short films of the year in New City). He has also directed the features I’ll Come Running(2008) and Saturday Morning Massacre (2012), and also served as Senior Programmer, and then as a curator for the Cinematexas International Short Film and Video Festival in Austin, TX, from 2000-2007. He is an Associate Professor in media production at Northwestern University.