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Chicago Underground Film Festival: 14 Years of Being Different

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 13, 2007 7:40PM

2007_8cuff_mascot.jpg Would Hollywood make a movie about a swingin' 70's housewife, complete with musical numbers? Or a documentary about New York City's Union Square in the days immediately following 9/11? Would Hollywood make a movie about Thax?

These are rhetorical questions; we're not saying that Hollywood is all bad, we're just saying that there are all kinds of movies out there. And dozens of the kind that you'd never see coming from Tinseltown will be on display at this year's Chicago Underground Film Festival, which runs Wednesday through Sunday at the Chopin Theatre and Elegant Mr. Gallery in Wicker Park.

This year's lineup is the strongest ever, a solid slate of challenging and provocative films that makes the Chicago International Film Festival's typical roster seem positively fusty. It kicks off on Wednesday with the Orchard Vale, the debut feature from music wunderkind Tim Kinsella (Cap'n Jazz, Sky Corvair). It's a vague but compelling drama set in the future after an undisclosed apocalypse and concentrates on a handful of characters trapped in a small house. Kinsella favors visual and sonic texture over narrative (not surprising, given his background). Most successfully the film dwells on the minimum sustenance necessary for life; everyone in the film is obsessed with food, and there's a particular scene with a girl eating an orange that's so tactile it's almost pornographic.

2007_8thax.jpg Another offering worth checking out is Friday evening's shorts program "Cutting In," which includes Chicago filmmaker Lori Felker's delightful animated short Zwischen. In only two minutes it takes you places most longer films never even manage to get to.

There are way too many offerings to capsulize here, so check out the full schedule and choose a few. Tickets are $7 (unless you order 'em online, in which case there's a service charge).

Thax, a documentary by Alex MacKenzie, screens Friday.