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Chicagoist Weekend Theater: 'Post Office: Everyday People'

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 17, 2013 7:00PM

Be it rain, snow sleet or hail, nothing can stop the U.S. Mail. Or so that's how the Postal Service's motto used to say, until budget cuts forced them to cut Saturday service starting August 1.

Here is a rough cut of an unfinished film called Post Office: Everyday People" by JoAnn Elam, a filmmaker and postal carrier who worked in Logan Square. In this 22-minute clip we meet some of Elam's co-workers as they go about their routines delivering the mail. The repetition of the job—from loading the trucks with mail to pushing the carrying carts down sidewalks and the interactions with residents, creates what Chicago Film Archives calls "something poetic yet startlingly familiar."

Elam filmed her co-workers from 1979 through 1990 and CFA writes the film was going to deal with "the political struggles they faced with the administration and the union, and larger issues related to the history of labor struggle and activism in the United States."

A heady subject for a postal carrier, one would think. Then one reads Elam's biography and discovers she was attracted to filmmaking in college and eventually became a prominent member of Chicago's experimental film community. She never received a formal education in film, but she attended so many lectures and hung with other figures in the local scene that she was able to begin her own career in film, focusing on 8mm. Her films largely dealt with themes of feminism, social justice and progressive politics.

Elam's father, James O. Elam, was a professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Chicago and credited with creating the "rescue breathing" technique, a major advancement in clinical anesthesiology and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.