18th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival

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  1. 18th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival

Welcome back to another exciting edition of the Chicago Underground Film Festival!

Can you believe we’ve been doing this thing for nearly 20 years? Way back in 1994, the inaugural Chicago Underground Film Festival ran for just three days and showed weird, creative and, yes, sometimes shocking work produced and presented on the increasingly archaic medium of 16mm film. A lot has changed over the ensuing years, and our goal in 2011 is less about making audiences squirm and more about simply showcasing smart, visionary (but sometimes still pretty weird) works of cinematic genius created by old friends and new from around the world. Digital video technologies have now become commonplace as both a means of production and exhibition, but we still love our dear 16mm film.

Our partnership with IFP/Chicago continues to provide some structure and stability to our rather chaotic working methods, with Christy LeMaster assuming the role of Managing Director while the awesomely awesome Miss Lori Felker has stepped up to the position of Festival Coordinator, making sure that everyone on our staff knows what they need to do and when they need to do it. May I also introduce that lovely tattooed lady behind the table in the lobby? That’s our new Hospitality Director, Miss Amy Boyd. Get to know these fine ladies, they have kicked an incredible amount of ass to make this year’s festival happen and I owe them big time!

Happily, the festival has stayed in the same venue for three continuous years now, something that hasn’t happened since the mid-'90s. Let’s all thank Barbara, Marty, Jean and the rest of the Gene Siskel Film Center staff for that!

But what about the films, you may ask? Well, on opening night we’re super-stoked to present the world premiere of Chicago filmmaker Jerzy Rose’s whimsical debut feature SOME GIRLS NEVER LEARN, while longtime festival favorite Jeff Krulik returns to the theme that made him famous with our closing feature HEAVY METAL PICNIC. Other names that should be familiar to festival regulars include Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley (BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN), Marie Losier (THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE), and Alex Ross Perry (THE COLOR WHEEL), plus the many imaginative short filmmakers who are pushing the envelope in experimental, documentary, and narrative film and video. We have so many exciting things in store for you! We’ve even got a special presentation of influential '90s video art courtesy of HalfLifers and a portrait of the amazing tattoo artist Sailor Jerry.

Well, what are you waiting for? Stop reading this letter and plan out your festival schedule already!

Rock on! \m/
Bryan Wendorf
Programmer and Artistic Director

Premier Print Media Sponsor

SOME GIRLS NEVER LEARN

  • Opening Night Film

Showtimes

Thu, Jun 2nd at 8:00pm
Average: 4.7 (6 votes)

Opening night film!
World premiere!
Jerzy Rose in person!

  1. SOME GIRLS NEVER LEARN
  1. 2011, Jerzy Rose, USA, 80 min.

MONICA PANZARINO SINGS
THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER

2011, Monica Panzarino, USA, 3 min.

The discovery of Amelia Earhart's leg bone at the bottom of the sea is the catalyst for the debut feature-length offering from Chicagoan Jerzy Rose. With his signature brand of dream-state surrealism, Rose goes from outer space to the underworld in a tale of forbidden love, paranormal gender relations, and lots of pink smoke. Meshing the magical with the mundane, Rose, who won the award for best narrative short at CUFF 2009, spins a yarn with a style all his own, and SOME GIRLS NEVER LEARN is a bewitching trip down a pastel-tined wormhole of occult rituals and frilly lace.

But first, what better way to begin an underground festival than with Monica Panzarino's de-tuned, D-cup tribute to our nation? (CUFF)

Director Jerzy Rose will be present for audience discussion.

Opening Night reception and after party hosted by:

Shorts Program: My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains

Showtimes

Fri, Jun 3rd at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Filmmakers in person!

  1. Shorts Program:
  2. My Head Is My Only
  3. House Unless It Rains
  1. 2009-2010, Various directors, Various nations, 89 min.

Space and comfort are stretched, stirred, and spun in this collection. John Price’s HOME MOVIE (2010, 27 min.) is chemically manipulated 35mm, a chromatic tribute to the changes in seasons and children that mark the passage of time. Jem Cohen’s portrait of the artist, ANNE TRUITT, WORKING (2009, 13 min.) is an invitation to an intimate, insightful realm. ZEITRISS (2009, 11 min.) by Quimu Casalprim i Suárez is a visual explosion of a domestic situation. Chris Kennedy’s TAMALPAIS (2009, 14 min.) poses a memory game of pieces and recombination. Also: works by Leighton Pierce, Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Mike Gibisser, and Kendra Ryan. (CUFF)

Selected filmmakers will be present for audience discussion.

THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE

Showtimes

Fri, Jun 3rd at 8:00pm
Thu, Jun 9th at 8:00pm
Average: 5 (3 votes)

Chicago premiere!

  1. THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE
  1. 2010, Marie Losier, USA, 75 min.

IRMA
2010, Charlie Fairbanks, USA, 12 min.

LÁZSLO LASSÚ
2010, Ben Popp, USA, 3 min.

A central figure in underground music for over thirty years, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge gave birth to industrial music with Throbbing Gristle and helped popularize acid house through his group Psychic TV. However, his most startling creative work has been his collaborative transformation with partner Lady Jaye that challenged not just society’s norms but also the very fundamentals of biology. Through elaborate cosmetic surgeries, the two blurred their genders to become “Pandrogynes” that increasingly resembled each other. Longtime CUFF alum Marie Losier was granted intimate access to their lives providing an affecting study of the daring transformation the two underwent for love and art. Shown with short works by Charlie Fairbanks and Ben Popp. (Bryan Wendorf)

See video

PROFANE

Showtimes

Fri, Jun 3rd at 10:00pm
Wed, Jun 8th at 8:00pm
Average: 4.9 (15 votes)

Midwest premiere!
Filmmakers in person!

  1. PROFANE
  1. 2011, Usama Alshaibi, USA, 78 min.

TEARS CANNOT RESTORE HER:
THEREFORE, I WEEP

2011, Jennifer Reeder, USA 10 min.

Muna is a young Muslim sex worker in the midst of a spiritual crisis. She is searching for her “jinn"--a demon, both good and evil, that resides in us all according to the Quran. Through this she hopes to reconcile her traditional Islamic upbringing, represented by her uneasy friendship with cab driver Ali, with her current, decadent Western lifestyle embodied by her fellow domme Mary. In this psychosexual horror story, Alshaibi combines his backgrounds in political documentary and transgressive cinema to tell an intensely personal story about the clash between Western and Middle Eastern cultures. Preceded by a new film by Jennifer Reeder. (Bryan Wendorf)

Directors Usama Alhaibi and Jennifer Reeder will be present for audience discussion at the Friday screening. Alshaibi will also appear at the Wednesday screening.

See video

AND AGAIN

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 4th at 1:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Midwest premiere!
Adele Horne in person!

  1. AND AGAIN
  1. 2010, Adele Horne, USA, 56 min.

DEVIL’S GATE
2011, Laura Kraning, USA, 20 min.

VOICE OF GOD
2010, Bernd Lützeler, India/Germany, 10 min.

Playas, New Mexico, the subject of AND AGAIN, contains more than 200 homes, a bowling alley, and two churches--but almost no residents. This abandoned mining town has found a new life as a training site used by Homeland Security to simulate domestic terrorist attacks. Former residents now play the roles of terrorists and victims, carrying out attacks on what was once home. Collaborating with several of these role players, the filmmaker stages scenes that trace the rise and fall of Playas. Preceded by Laura Kraning’s DEVIL’S GATE merging observational landscape portraiture with an otherworldly textual narrative and Bernd Lützeler’s VOICE OF GOD speculating on an alternate career for God. (Bryan Wendorf)

Director Adele Horne will be present for audience discussion.

Shorts Program: The Smithsonian Institute Blues (Or the Big Dig)

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 4th at 2:00pm
Average: 5 (4 votes)

Filmmakers in person!

  1. Shorts Program:
  2. The Smithsonian Institute Blues
  3. (Or the Big Dig)
  1. 2009-2011, Various directors, USA, 90 min.

CURRENT (REPRISE) furthers a previous Brian Doyle film, continuing to track a storm of debris as it floats, swirls, and drifts through a New York City erased by a blanket of information. Ryan Garrett’s HISTORY MINOR follows a reenactment of the Vietnam War staged in Jackson, MS, in 2008 to question the desire to root one’s historical understanding in the subjective and bodily present. Nellie Kluz’s YOUNG BIRD SEASON observes the rhythms and logistics of pigeon racing, the guys who fly, and the birds themselves. Completing the program are films by Dominic Angerame, Sarah Christman, JB Mabe, and Robert Todd. (CUFF)

Selected filmmakers will be present for audience discussion.

Shorts Program: Pompadour Swamp

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 4th at 4:00pm
Average: 5 (3 votes)

Filmmakers in person!

  1. Shorts Program:
  2. Pompadour Swamp
  1. 2009-2011, Various directors, Various nations, 90 min.

Unexpected left turns and off-kilter antics abound in this selection of shorts. In James Wilkins's DARE DOUBLE (2010, 29 min.), a drunken challenge results in a surreal, pantless encounter. Spencer Parsons tells a tale of growing up to the tune of whale songs in CHAINSAW FOUND JESUS (2010, 21 min.). UNICORNHOLE (2011, 5 min.), by Lucas Dimick and Dax Norman, is an animated exquisite corpse of queasy, fantastic absurdity. Also featured: new work from Jessie Motts & Steve Reinke, Michael Wawzenek, Kelly Oliver & Keary Rosen, Jodie Mack, Crispin Rosenkrantz & Kari Corbett, and Justin Reardon. (CUFF)

Selected filmmakers will be present for audience discussion.

Shorts Program: I'm Gonna Booglarise You Baby

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 4th at 5:15pm
Tue, Jun 7th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (4 votes)

Filmmakers in person!

  1. Shorts Program:
  2. I'm Gonna Booglarise You Baby
  1. 2009-2011, Various directors, Various nations, 87 min.

SPACEBOY travels through the cosmos and encounters the mysterious and sexy Velana in Mike Olenick’s whimsical short. Michael Robinson’s THESE HAMMERS DON’T HURT US depicts Elizabeth Taylor as the Egyptian goddess Isis among a neon wake of shattered tombs and sparkling sarcophagi. Nicolas Provost’s LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH digitally manipulates footage from horror films until victim and killer morph into one. Films and videos by Alberto Cabrera Bernal, Brent Coughner, Kerry Lataila, Daniel Martinico, and Evan Meaney complete this program that explores new worlds through the appropriation of images and recontextualization of technology. (CUFF)

Selected filmmakers will be present for audience discussion at the Saturday screening.

THE COLOR WHEEL

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 4th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

Chicago premiere!
Alex Ross Perry in person!

  1. THE COLOR WHEEL
  1. 2010, Alex Ross Perry, USA, 83 min.

Following a recent break-up with her professor, JR forces her younger brother Colin to accompany her on a road trip to retrieve her belongings. The intensity of their disagreements with each other is often out-matched by people they reacquaint with along the way. Eventually, they arrive at the strangest and most unsettling of resolutions. Resting uncomfortably between the confrontational self-loathing of Philip Roth and the B&W motels, diners and loners of Robert Frank’s America, THE COLOR WHEEL is a familial comedy of disappointment and forgiveness. (CUFF)

Director Alex Ross Perry will be present for audience discussion.

See video

BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN (CUFF)

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 4th at 8:00pm
Wed, Jun 8th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (5 votes)

Midwest premiere!
Filmmakers in person!

  1. BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN
  1. 2011, Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, USA, 93 min.

Trying to save his new Brooklyn condo from condemnation and demolition, Daniel Goldstein went from concerned resident to strident activist in the fight against a development project that threatened to level an entire neighborhood. BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN follows Goldstein’s seven-year struggle as his life is turned upside down, raising questions of city planning, urban bureaucracy, the slippery statistics of job creation, and the effectiveness of grassroots activism against seemingly insurmountable odds. Galinsky and Hawley examine these issues from a number of sides, but Goldstein is indisputably the documentary’s star, one man amidst a maelstrom that holds an entire city in its thrall. (CUFF)

Directors Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley will be present for audience discussion at the Saturday screening.

See video

SNOW ON THA BLUFF

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 4th at 10:00pm
Tue, Jun 7th at 8:00pm
Average: 5 (3 votes)

Midwest premiere!
Filmmakers in person!

  1. SNOW ON THA BLUFF
  1. 2010, Damon Russell, USA, 79min.

WE’RE LEAVING
2010, Zachary Treitz, USA, 12min.

Hailing from Atlanta's infamous Bluff district, crack dealer Curtis Snow robs a group of touristy college kids, yielding a video camera and half a stack (that’s $500). Curt hands the camera off to one of his boys, asking him to follow him everywhere. What ensues is the “realest shit you've ever seen.” The "Is this for real?" question in your mind is certain to cull memories of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) and GANG TAPES (2001). Regardless of its authenticity, SNOW ON THA BLUFF's first-person vérité approach is certain to have you saying, "NO! I don't give a fuck about tha police!"

Preceded by WE’RE LEAVING, in which a man seeks a new place to live with his wife and teenage American alligator. (CUFF)

Director Damon Russell will be present for audience discussion at the Saturday screening.

See video

Shorts Program: A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond

Showtimes

Sun, Jun 5th at 1:00pm
Thu, Jun 9th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Filmmakers in person!

  1. Shorts Program:
  2. A Carrot Is as Close as
  3. a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond
  1. 2008-2011, Various directors, Various nations, 87 min.

Image and representation are at the core of this program, looking at how we see our world, ourselves, and those around us. Jesse McLean’s MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS (2010, 20 min.) is a meditation on what it means to be a fan and what we desire from those we revere. In ACCEPTING THE IMAGE (2010, 19 min.), Karel de Cock examines women’s fantasies of extravagance, and, in Jenna Feldman’s BATHING IN MILK (2010, 18 min.), a young woman goes to unexpected extremes to look her best. Work by Jennet Thomas, Luis Arnias, Olivia Ciummo, Frédéric Moffet, and D. Rickman completes the program. (CUFF)

Selected filmmakers will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

TOTAL BADASS

Showtimes

Sun, Jun 5th at 1:45pm
Average: 5 (3 votes)

Midwest premiere!
Filmmakers in person!

  1. TOTAL BADASS
  1. 2010, Bob Ray, USA, 91 min.

THE FOREST
2010, Steven Summers, USA, 16 min.

With his latest documentary, Bob Ray takes you on an outrageous and hilariously seedy adventure into the Austin underground music-and-arts scene via wild man-about-town, social deviant, musical/stunt-performer, notorious sex fiend, Guinea-pig enthusiast, writer-publisher, father, weed-dealing felon, hip-hop impresario, trashcan-jumper, and local maniac Chad Holt. Strap in for the riotous ride and follow this Austin counterculture icon as he blazes through his final year of felony probation, living his own brand of civil disobedience while manning the helm of a life-altering family crisis and going out smokin’!

Preceded by THE FOREST, a mystical exploration on the tension within the male psyche involving lust, fear, temptation, and shame. (CUFF)

Directors Bob Ray and Steven Summers will be present for audience discussion.

See video

THE OBSERVERS

Showtimes

Sun, Jun 5th at 4:00pm
Average: 5 (2 votes)

World premiere!
Jacqueline Goss in person!

  1. THE OBSERVERS
  1. 2010, Jacqueline Goss, USA, 69 min.

TRYPPS # 7 (BADLANDS)
2010, Ben Russell, USA, 10 min.

IMUM COELI (BOTTOM OF THE SKY)
2011, Mirka Morales, USA, 6 min.

EVERYTHING IS EVERYDAY
2011, Patrick Tarrant, UK, 10 min.

The land and sky of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, form a frame in THE OBSERVERS for two climatologists as they go about the solitary and steadfast work of measuring and recording the weather. Based in part on the Nathaniel Hawthorne story “The Great Carbuncle,” this film features the extreme and varying beauty of the windiest mountain in the world. Shown with short films by Mirka Morales, Ben Russell, and Patrick Tarrant. (Jacqueline Goss/CUFF)

Director Jacqueline Goss will be present for audience discussion.

Shorts Program: Flash Gordon’s Ape

Showtimes

Sun, Jun 5th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Filmmakers in person!

  1. Shorts Program:
  2. Flash Gordon’s Ape
  1. 2010-2011, Various directors, Various nations, 97 min.

Ben Rivers’s SLOW ACTION is a post-apocalyptic science fiction film that applies the idea of island biogeography to a conception of the Earth in a few hundred years. Deborah Stratman’s ...THESE BLAZEING STARRS! looks at comets and their historic ties to divination. ALTER HUMAN by Lars Stiltberg is a suggestive trip using the arctic landscape, glaciers and ice caves to speculate on human body time. Films by Andrew Rosinkski and Zachary Epcar complete the program. (CUFF)

Selected filmmakers will be present for audience discussion.

Shorts Program: Cardboard Cutout Sundown

Showtimes

Sun, Jun 5th at 8:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Filmmakers in person!

  1. Shorts Program:
  2. Cardboard Cutout Sundown
  1. 2010, Various Directors, USA, 89 min.

This shorts program navigates the texture of terrain and the topography of affliction. SHOALS (2010, 52 min.) by Melika Bass is a mysterious tale of eerie rusticism in which three young women lead a confined existence in a vast prairie landscape. In THE GARDEN (2010, 10 min.), Ann Steuernagel uses found footage to depict our planet’s fragile condition. Julia Fuller’s ILLNESS MAGNIFIED (2010, 17 min.) examines through the lens of the patient, doctor, and microscope. New works from Ross Nugent and Kate McCabe complete the program. (CUFF)

Selected filmmakers will be present for audience discussion.

HEAVY METAL PICNIC

Showtimes

Sun, Jun 5th at 8:00pm
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Midwest premiere!
Jeff Krulik in person!

  1. HEAVY METAL PICNIC
  1. 2010, Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, USA, 66 min.

HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT
1986, Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, USA, 17 min.

MOBY DICK
2010, Tony Balko, USA, 8 min.

The team that brought us the cult classic HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT is back with this celebration of mid-'80s Maryland rock & roll as told by those who survived it. The Full Moon Jamboree was an annual metal party so out of control that it was covered by local TV news, and much of it was recorded using a home video camera and a stolen CBS news microphone. Today Krulik and Heyn track down the people behind the party, the bands that performed, and their unamused neighbors. Shown with a 25th anniversary screening of the original HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT and Tony Balko’s MOBY DICK, which remixes a classic John Bonham drum solo. DigiBeta video. (Bryan Wendorf)

Filmmakers Jeff Krulik and Tony Balko will be present for audience discussion.

See video

HalfLifers and Friends: Reactions In Reaction

Showtimes

Mon, Jun 6th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)
  1. HalfLifers and Friends: Reactions In Reaction
  1. 1991-2007, Various directors, Various nations, 75 min.
  2. Curated by HalfLifers

Please join us for a video launch party for the compilation DVD, HalfLifers: The Complete History (1992-2010), the definitive pixel packet of tulpoidal activation artists Torsten Zenas Burns and Anthony Discenza. For one show only, the HalfLifers will re-imagine the Gene Siskel Film Center’s theater into a saturated fictional exploration curation vehicle, navigating a journey into the interior reaches of HalfLifers’s “videonic” backlog of afterlife relationships, psychic sandwich surgery, and rescue rituals. This manifested spatio-temporal Chicago hub will sync up and collaborate with other pictographic projection artists including Anne McGuire, Jennifer Reeder, Joe Gibbons, Bjorn Melhus, Virocode, and Animal Charm. (Torsten Zenas Burns)

HORI SMOKU SAILOR JERRY: THE LIFE OF NORMAN K. COLLINS

Showtimes

Mon, Jun 6th at 8:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)
  1. HORI SMOKU SAILOR JERRY:
  2. THE LIFE OF NORMAN K. COLLINS
  1. 2008, Erich Weiss, USA, 77 min.

Norman Keith Collins, aka "Sailor Jerry," was arguably the best known and most influential tattoo artist in history. Combining Asian and Western styles and techniques, he transformed tattooing into a modern art form. Filmmaker Erich Weiss interviews the top tattoo artists in the U.S. and unearths rare archival footage of Collins at work before his death in 1973. Sailor Jerry’s uncompromising lifestyle and larger-than-life persona made him an American legend and left an indelible mark, literally and figuratively, on the industry. (CUFF)

See video