Ullrich’s first feature wins CIFF’s Chicago Award

Filmmaker Marie Ullrich

AMONG THE 30 TOP AWARDS that were presented Friday night at the conclusion of the 50th Chicago International Film Festival, was the coveted Chicago Award won by director Marie Ullrich for her first feature, “The Alley Cat.”

The story is about a female bike messenger competing in a midnight race on a single night that takes a dogleg into uncharted territory and becomes a spiritual journey. 

“Bold, gritty and full of energy, a prime example of first-rate, low-budget filmmaking,” the Chicago Award jurors called it. “An exceptionally innovative and refreshing first feature representing the auspicious and exciting start of a promising filmmaking career.”

Ullrich wrote/produced and directed; producer, Kathryn Henderson, DP Dylan Verrechia, AD Dave Schmudde, editor Eric Houtz and gaffer/AC Adrien LaTapie.

The ensemble cast includes Jenny Strubin, Omero Arreola and Nick Cardiff.

Ullrich, who earned an MFA in Film Writing & Directing (now Cinema Art + Science) from Columbia College, is an assistant professor of Film & Video at Grand Valley State University.

SETI GERSHBERG, former proprietor of Notox Art Gallery in Pilsen, has been on the road for much of recent years, filming the two-part documentary The Path of the Sun.  

The first part was Q’ero Mystics of Peru.  Part two, Ayahuasca: Nature’s Greatest Gift, makes its Chicago debut Wednesday Oct. 29 at the Portage Theatre, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., at 7 p.m.

It’s about the psychoactive vine (also known as yagé) used in the ceremonies of South American shamans, and its controversial application in the treatment of PTSD and addiction. 

The screening is presented with the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council, which holds a panel discussion afterward.

CREATIVE DIRECTOR MARC SLOBODA, commercial and corporate production company Family Squid, is writer/director of Not Welcome, about a couple who discovers a failed cartoonist squatting in the vacant recesses of their McMansion.

Randy Ryan, Rebeca Spence, Kelly O’Sullivan, Richard Short, and Rich Cotovsky star.  Brian Crush is producing, with production support from Periscope, Cutters, and Raglite.  They’re filming in Crystal Lake, River Forest, and Chicago.

NOAH GRAFFS documentary Saving Ferris is an homage to his favorite movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Graff visits locations from the film, exploring how they’ve changed in 25 years, and strives, he says, “to recapture the experience of Ferris’s perfect day. 

“I attend a Cubs game, drive down Lake Shore Drive in a Ferrari, and run through the same North Brook backyards run by Ferris at the end of the film.”

THE COMEDY WEB SERIES, Back for More, starts filming in November, according to its writer, producer and star Derick Lengwenus.  He plays a “high functioning zombie” in this “dark comedy designed to satirize the factors contributing to the growing divide between the rich and the poor.”  David Pospiech is directing.  Lengwenus and Pospiech are producing with Leah Al-Uqdah.

ERIC ALBERT BRANSTROM of Clever Girl Films (Alan’s Song) is making a short, psychological thriller about a pair of siblings, drawing on such inspirations as David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and John Carpenter.

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