Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Oh, to be in Chicago.

Chicago in August is not my idea of a fun place to be, but for some ungodly reason it's when they decide to hold the Chicago Underground Film Festival. I've never attended CUFF, but have always wanted to, not only because they show cool films and have cool guests, but because the name of the festival sounds like FUCK backwards.

To give you an inkling of the kind of stuff they show, here are a few descriptions, from their press release, of the films they're screening this year.

The festival kicks of on Wednesday August 15th with the World Premiere of Orchard Vale, the first feature from Chicago musician Tim Kinsella. The film is an apocalyptic family drama that tells the story about five people in the near future living together in the ruins of the contemporary American suburban landscape. Says Kinsella of the film, "Orchard Vale raises more questions than it can possibly answer. Much of the story is told in between the moments other movies would have probably shown to tell the same story. This is done to invite the viewer to become an active participant, hopefully prompting the audience to expand upon the questions it raises. In a way, it might be like Planet of the Apes without the apes and in a different way like a zombie movie without the zombies."

Other feature films in this year's festival:

LIKK YOUR IDOLS Angelique Bosio's documentary LIKK YOUR IDOLS documents the Cinema of Transgression and '80s downtown NYC scene. Featuring Richard Kern, Lydia Lunch, Jarboe, Richard Hell, Joe Coleman, Nick Zedd, Thurston Moore, Jack Sargeant, and many others, plus clips of BANNED and OUTRAGEOUS underground movies

GO GO MOTEL Feeling like a mix of vintage Waters' trash, Lynch surrealism and Selby sleaze; Baltimore filmmaker Dan Bell delves into the dark and foreboding world of strippers, hookers, bums, boozers and skid row criminals.

THE DESCRIPTION OF BANKRUPTCY Kang-hyun LEE directs this documentary on the all-consuming nature of credit card debt in South Korea, and the lengths to which people go trying to get rid of it.

BACCHANALE A 'lost' adult arthouse film from 1970, released towards the end of the grindhouse era and at the dawn of XXX. Enlightened pornography is overwhelmed by a script chock full of low-budget surrealistic pretensions. New audio curated by Sam Zimmerman, Nick Hallett and Montgomery Knott of Brooklyn's Monkeytown

BEGGING NAKED A documentary directed by Karen Gehres. In 1976 Elise Hill left home at the age of 15. In Union Square she met her first pimp. After leaving prostitution, Elise supported herself for 15 yrs creating art, but ,is slowly forced back into sex work and drugs to survive.

BLOOD CAR In this horror-comedy directed by Alex Orr, gas prices are at an astronomical high. One man is determined to find an alternate fuel source. That alternate fuel source turns out to be blood...HUMAN BLOOD.

EAST 3 British filmmaker Mr. Young explores the Arctic town of Inuvik. This disturbing and surreal film investigates life in the sub-zero temperatures of the Canadian wilderness focusing on the hunting/trapping lifestyle, the community greenhouse, dog cruelty, traditional games and music.

EACH TIME I KILL The 29th and final film by the late queen of sexpoitation cinema Doris Wishman, completed just months before her death in 2002. "Each Time I Kill" is a horror film about an unpopular high school girl who finds a magic locket that will allow her to exchange one physical feature with anyone she kills.

THE GOOD TIMES SKID The second feature from Azazel Jacobs (son of avant garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs) is the story of two men with the same name who cross paths one day and the girl between them who gets the chance to escape her daily routine. A story about stolen love and stolen identities, shot on stolen film.

HOOKS TO THE LEFT Frequent CUFF Alum Todd Verow's tale of a male hustler shot entirely on a cell phone camera.

THE SKY SONG Chicago's notorious avant-gardist James Fotopoulos says this long form video has "something to do with revenge (particularly in action films), American Indian tribes, goblin sharks and fragments of memories of the day the Chicago Cubs lost the playoffs in 1984."

URBAN EXPLORERS: IINTO THE DARKNESS Filmmaker Melody Gilbert (Whole, A Life Without Pain) plunges into the world of urban exploration, a growing international subculture of adventure-seekers who explore places where most people would never dream of going.

VIVA Anna Biller's ode to vintage sexploitation and swinging playboy-era sexuality. A suburban housewife in 1972 goes out to find herself in the middle of the sexual revolution.

In addition to these features CUFF will, as always, present a wide array of short films and videos from around the world including new work from Miranda July, Marie Losier and Guy Madden, Kent Lambert, Robert Todd, Deborah Stratman, Deco Dawson and many more.

Pretty good stuff, eh? I won't be going again this year, but now that I have a nephew living in Chicago, I no longer have an excuse not to go. So, expect to see me at CUFF next year!


  1. Don't make Clint Berquist remind you again that Seattle has an underground festival which runs opposite SIFF: STIFF at which also has regular screenings throughout the year, usually at the Central Cinema. There was another organization a few years ago that sponsored an annual event that I think ran two years. Forget the name, forget the group, but I won't forget when they brought Bruce Baillie to town, with his private print of Quick Billy.
    This CUFF lineup does seem pretty good-" hope STIFF cannibalizes some of their lineup next year.

  2. You know, I remember flipping through the STIFF program, while waiting for a haircut at Rudy's, and not being overly impressed. At least, nothing leapt out at me the way those synopses did in the CUFF press release. Maybe I need to read the STIFF guide more carefully next year or maybe somebody needs to describe the films in a catchier, more succint way that grabs my attention.

  3. I'd actually like to have *seen* a STIFF program. I never did find one--only flipped through their cumbersome website. I remember finding several intriguing sounding documentaries listed, and I'm sure there were some good short films, but my memory of their programming is that the features tended to be like Blood Cab from this CUFF schedule (which sounds like it was inspired by a Czech horror comedy called The Vampire of Ferat)--a lot of gore and camp, but nothing really as the Verow or Fotopoulos features.
    Local filmmaker Jon Behrens also had an underground film festival that ran for several years in Seattle, and had many *great* programs. He would also find archival stuff--he had several short films by Peter Watkins, I remember. And evenings devoted to the short films of a single filmmaker. Jon usually has a summer patio series at Linda's Tavern, too, but it isn't happening this year, when everyone and their dog is sponsoring outdoor screenings in Seattle.