Architecture Film Fest fittingly in Chicago, 4/12-16

Scene from “Unfinished Spaces,” screening April 12 at ADFF

If there is one thing Chicago is known for, aside from the blues, our corrupt politicians and the world’s best hot dogs, it’s our architecture.   So it’s fitting we have become the home of the Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF), for its third year.

The festival, running April 12-16 at the Music Box theatre, will showcase films from 13 countries, including 12 Chicago premieres, plus discussions with filmmakers, architects, designers and industry leaders.

“These films tell the stories of the struggles of the people behind the buildings and design,” says architect and festival director, Kyle Bergman, whose festival offers films that professionals and design novices alike will be moved by.

“The ADFF is the nation’s largest film festival celebrating the creative spirit of architecture and design. We screen films with talk-backs and panel discussions on some of the world’s most remarkable architecture and design,” he says.

Why a film fest about architecture? New York architect Bergman, toyed with the idea of becoming a filmmaker himself. 

Kyle Bergman, architect, ADFF founder “There are a lot of similarities between what an architect does and what a director does. Both roles require generalists, who surround themselves with experts. Both directing and designing call for a balance of art and science. When done successfully, they’re both labors of love,” he says.

Bergman hopes to create a Sundance-style vibe with free parties and daily panels, and directors on hand to participate in Q & As.

This year’s ADFF boasts a crowd-pleasing line-up of more than 30 films in a series of curated short programs. Each program repeats twice. Ranging in length from two to 90 minutes, audiences will get tastes of history and hot design topics, like a short film about the successful New York urban park “High Line Phase 2.”

Here are some films not to be missed:

The festival opens with “Unfinished Spaces,” which just nabbed the Independent Spirit award for the story of Castro’s abandoned National Art School, which was rediscovered as an architectural masterpiece.

The filmmakers spent 10 years creating this doc and when it was shown in Havana “it brought down the house,” Bergman notes. 

The filmmakers will be on hand for a Q and A, with a party following the screening.

“Eames: The Architect and Painter” reveals the relationship behind the iconic husband-and-wife architect and design team of Charles and Ray Eames, whose work dominated 1950s design the way Steve Jobs dominated our times.

Exploring the ugly side of 1950s design is “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” which tells the story of the transformation of the American city post WWII. The Pruitt-Igoe buildings were famously blown-up because they were considered a failure of public architecture.

“Biophilic Design” explores the new design trend of using architecture to stay connected to nature.

“Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions” traces the love story and travels of Jewish German superstar architect Erich Mendelsohn fleeing the Nazis.

“There’s nothing like this fest in the states,” so some of the films will travel with Bergman to festivals in Bulgaria, Rotterdam and Mexico. 

Bergman selects from hundreds of submissions and is already accepting films for the October 2012 program in New York.  Bergman admits that now he’s finally ready to make his own movie.

Festival tickets are $11 general admission, $8 students; $90 Backers Dozen (13 tickets) and Fistful (five tickets). Purchase tickets at or in person at the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport.

Carey Lundin is the director of the documentary,“Jens Jensen Harmonious World,”