May 13-17 CUFF: film lovers’ paradise of new artists

Because the 22nd Chicago Underground Film Festival May 13-17 is the largest and longest-running such festival in the USA and takes world cinema outside the mainstream, it’s a Chicago “must see” event.

A program of IFP/Chicago, enhanced by 2015 presenting sponsor Jameson, CUFF boasts a film lovers’ paradise of next generation artists and it’s this dedication to new and underground filmmaking that stands alone from the fashion-focused and box office-obsessed world of most contemporary “film” festivals. 

Selected highlights that I will be attending include:

WEDNESDAY, MAY 13 OPENING NIGHT. “Ruined Heart: Love Story between a Criminal and a Whore.” 73 minutes. Video, 2014, Philippines/Germany; 8 p.m. 

A “punk noir” opera showcasing the brutal music of lovers on the run from a crime boss who rules with an iron fist. I love foreign crime cinema and can’t wait to see it set to music. This is the sort of ‘mash-up’ I can totally get behind.

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 6:30 P.M. “Shorts 2. “Humanity i love you.”

A cavalcade of desire, relationship car crashes, accidents, twisted plans and kidnapping. The depth and breadth of the short film showcases for the CUFF is truly phenomenal with no less than 12 (!) uniquely themed and curated events.

I want to attend all of them and am going to try to see as many as possible – but this selection runs the gamut from love to death so I’m there.

SATURDAY, MAY 16, 9 P.M. Dirty Looks presents “Hardcore Home Movies,” curated by Bradford Nordeen.

Super 8mm sex parties, hardcore punk, queer girl fantasies and down-on-their luck troublemakers contrast with cut-and-paste culture in this smorgasbord of found film footage, assembled porn, children’s instructional film and sports coverage. Not to be missed.

Old school “smokers” and porno loops have a place in my celluloid collection. (Yes, I still have film prints) and this event provides an orgy (sorry) of bad behavior in beautiful black and white.

SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2 P.M. “Shorts 10: proud of his scientific attitude,” curated by Emily Oscarson.

Award-winning cartoonist Paul Hornschemeier’s work comes to life as lightning, meteors, death, and ghosts combine with a “Happy Fun Room”. Animated experimental cinema is a genre I adore – and the more I get to see, the more I want to make it. Look out, CUFF – I will be submitting one myself for next year.

SUNDAY, MAY 17, CLOSING NIGHT, 8:15 p.m. “Burnt in Memory,” 8:15 p.m. 

Showcasing Chicago in an experimental documentary stripping away the conventions of traditional cinema, this impressionistic showcase presents the city beyond The Bean.

It highlights the in-between places and often forgotten places of our Windy City. I adore tone poems like this with improvisational musical soundtracks and enigmatic cityscapes. It’s eye-candy for the cinema poet and one not to be missed.

CUFF also features “Bar Talk,” a series of five 90-minute discussions about filmmaking, hosted by Ray Pride, Newcity film critic and presented by Tribeca Flashpoint College.    

All screenings at the Logan Theatre, 2646 N. Milwaukee. CUFF has a ton of After-Parties listed as well for those wanting to meet the filmmakers and organizers/curators. Check out the full program and buy tickets here.

All access $75 passes cover all screenings and after parties.

Julian Grant is a tenured professor at Columbia College Chicago in the Cinema Art + Science department. Email: