‘City & State’ a CIFF tribute to local indie cinema

Chicago native Harry Lennix in Mr. Sophistication

Harry Lennix shows up as a controversial comic a la Richard Pryor at his wife’s (Tatum O’Neill) Chicago night club, in Mr. Sophistication, one of nine features and six shorts in the “City & State” section of the 48th Chicago International Film Festival’s spotlight on our vibrant indie cinema scene.

“City & State” films, by local filmmakers and shot in Chicago and the state, screen throughout the Oct. 11-25 festival at AMC River East theatres.

DIRECTOR JULIAN GRANT’S dark feature F*uckload of Scotchtape is a neo-noir musical crime drama about a man who is being framed for a kidnapping.

He described Scotchtape as “kind of a vicious valentine.” “I hope people come to realize that life is precious and shouldn’t be wasted,” he said.

“Chicago is a great community with phenomenal locations, people and actors. It’s the best and biggest backlot I’ve ever worked on,” he adds.

CIFF says, “This gritty film is not to be missed.”  Screens Oct. 18, 20 and 23, with Grant scheduled to attend for Q&A.

CHRIS SULLIVAN, A FILM INSTRUCTOR at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, spent 15 years completing his animated feature, “Consuming Spirits.” 

Scene from 'Consuming Spirits'“I stayed with it because I believed in it, but also, to be honest, a project like this sometimes feels like a tragic Trojan horse, or an experimental cure for an incurable illness. You stay with it in the hope it will thrive, and be something important,” Sullivan said.

His progress on the film, a story highlighting social misfits, was prolonged partly by his ambitious combination of techniques, including cut-outs, pencil drawings and stop motion animation.

He hopes Spirits surprises audiences. “I hope this awkward, strange pageant reaches them just when they thought they were safe; or feeds them just when they are starving. I hope the audience cannot shake it too easily,” he said.

Screens Oct. 16, when Sullivan will attend; Oct. 19, 22.

CO-DIRECTORS CLAYTON BROWN and Monica Long Ross’ documentary The Believers explores the false-start discovery of cold fusion in 1989 and the trust issues that were caused by the scientists who claimed to discover the new technology.

“When people think of science, they don’t usually think about greed, politics, the media or delusions, yet all of these elements are in this story,” Brown said.

“This is a tale with a lot of twists and turns. I think every viewer will come away with a different idea about what’s real. Trying to determine the truth is a real roller coaster ride.”  Screens Oct. 16 and 20.

BRAD LICHTENSTEIN’S DOC, As Goes Janesville, in which the shutdown of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin during the George Bush era suddenly leaves thousands of workers jobless. Screens Oct. 13.

COODIE & CHIKE’S DOC BENJI is about the young life of a promising athlete at Chicago’s Simeon High who was shot and killed on his way to school. Screens Oct. 14, 17 and 18.

IN KRIS SWANBERG’S “Empire Builder,” a new mother inherits a cabin in Montana and sees it as an opportunity to leave her stay-at-home life in Chicago. Screens Oct. 13, 16 and 23.

DANNY GREEN’S MR. SOPHISTICATION screens Oct. 20, 21. Executive producer Lennix, director Green and other producers will attend both days.

Six provocative shorts in one 80-minute program

“SHORTS 1: CITY & STATE,” CIFF’S annual showcase of the best new shorts is an 80-minute program that screens Oct. 16, 19 and 21.

After Christmas, directed by Benjamin Kegan, is a humorous look at a young man’s relationship with his parents when he returns to the family home.

Jonah D. Ansell’s animated Cadaver, a bittersweet love story, features the voices of Kathy Bates, Christopher Lloyd and Tavi Geninson.

Fawzia Mirza and Mouzam Makkar in 'The Queen of My Dreams'The Queen of My Dreams, co-directed by Fawzia Mirza and Ryan Logan, is about a gay Chicago woman who remembers the Bollywood of her childhood.  Shot in 5D, modern stills are blended with scenes from a 1969 Bollywood classic.

Nadav Kurtz’ Paradise is about three Mexican immigrants who risk their lives washing highrise windows, as they reveal their thoughts about working, mortality and the people they see inside.

The Runner by Ana Lazarevic is set in a Serbian countryside where a first time human trafficker becomes stranded with the Roma boy he is supposed to deliver.

In Brad Bischoff’s Where the Buffalo Roam, two brothers sip liquid courage to allay the fear of change and leaving their suburban life behind.  

Click here for a complete festival schedule.