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Make Some Cinematic Discoveries At CUFF 2015

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on May 11, 2015 3:55PM

“Ruined Heart: Another Lovestory Between a Criminal and a Whore” (Photo © rapideyemovies/kamiasoverground 2014)

Always a vital part of the city's movie culture, the Chicago Underground Film Festival continues to carry on its mission of showcasing features, shorts, documentaries and experimental video works that other festivals ignore.

The definition of "underground" remains vague, as once-transgressive content continues to move into mainstream culture. But it's still a better label for the festival than "independent," which has been co-opted by distributors of any movie with a budget under $50 million.

It's also a good label because CUFF does seem to remain free of obligation to outside sources as it approaches its 22nd edition (May 13-17 at the Logan Theatre), even while taking on the sponsorships any sizable festival needs to survive. Programmer and Artistic Director Bryan Wendorf has been part of the festival since its very beginning and his leadership has kept the festival in discovery mode.

Maybe the festival has matured a bit; fewer entries seem aimed to titillate or outrage (which is getting harder to do anyway). But its schedule has always made room for both grungy amusements and daring, personal and aesthetically challenging efforts.

If the films have anything in common, it's that the average attendee—including avid movie buffs—will have never heard of most of the films or filmmakers. And that's how it should be when "underground" is your mantra. So the best preview for this year's CUFF will be your own perusing of the festival schedule to find the capsule descriptions or images that catch your eye. But here are a few that immediately caught mine:

Ruined Heart: Another Lovestory Between a Criminal and a Whore (Wednesday, May 13)
I won't pretend to know much about Filipino filmmaker and artist Khavn (Khavn de la Cruz), but this film's cinematography credit certainly jumped out at me. Christopher Doyle is best known for his work with director Wong Kar-Wai (Chunking Express, In the Mood for Love), but his striking, expressive camerawork can also be seen in everything from refined British period pieces (The White Countess) to offbeat Hong Kong horror (Dumplings). Whatever else this "punk noir opera" (as Khavn describes it) has to offer, you can bet on it looking really, really cool.

Hacked Circuit / Shorts 1 Program (Thursday, May 14)
Shorts programs are always among the best reasons to go to a film festival. Even in this age of viral videos and online showcases, their exposure is extremely limited. Several of the shorts in this program are enticing, but especially Hacked Circuit. For one thing, the movie concerns Foley artists, and from a memorable scene in Albert Brooks' Modern Romance to darker portrayals in Berberian Sound Studio, there's something fascinating about watching these post-production sound creators at work. Secondly, it incorporates scenes from Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, one of the greatest uses ever of sound to drive a narrative.

IMMUNE! (Saturday, May 16)
With the current bombardment of massive superhero spectacles and marketing hype, the timing may be perfect for a film that plucks away at genre expectations to dig a little deeper into personal terrain. This mix of animation and live action promises to do exactly that, with the director portraying himself as his onscreen incarnation comes to believe he has amazing healing powers.

In addition to the films, CUFF is also hosting several ancillary events. You can get your post-movie groove on with several after parties featuring varied DJs and bands. And if you're eager to chat about the films you'e seen, Newcity film critic Ray Pride will host several free "Bar Talks" in the Logan's comfy lounge, with guests including filmmakers with works showing at the fest as well as notable local filmmakers and critics.

CUFF's website has the complete schedule and links for buying festival passes and individual tickets.