In its fifteen iteration, the Chicago Underground Film Festival partners for the first time with Independent Feature Project/Chicago, which led to a better time of year for the festival and a merger with IFP’s annual Midwest Film Summit, with panels and seminars on contemporary filmmaking. At earlier festivals, I’ve seen a number of films I can recommend, including Chicagoan Owen Lowery’s “Alternatives to Slitting Your Wrist,” a documentary of fifty-two goals explored over the course of a year. Vancouver filmmaker Gwen Haworth’s “She’s a Boy I Knew” is an engaging film about the choice to change to female gender identity and her family’s reaction. Haworth, a charming observer and narrator, was a filmmaker before the events, but didn’t begin “SABIK” until afterwards, which is part of its strength, and in the case of some hardly resolved family issues, its power. Opening night’s “Anywhere USA,” by Chusy Haney-Jardine, continues CUFF’s embrace of the word “amateur” in the best possible sense, and a film that’s both hysterical and filled with hysterics. Jim Finn continues along his eccentric path with “The Juche Idea,” a quirksome exploration of propaganda that begins with North Korean artifacts and gets giddier from there. Closing night’s “Song Sung Blue,” by Greg Kohs, is the eye-opening chronicle of the love story of Lightning & Thunder, a Milwaukee husband-and-wife who toured in tribute to Neil Diamond (with Chicago appearances). A life… and some kind of life story.
Disclosure: I’m conducting “ECU: Extreme Chicago Underground,” a daily meet-and-greet at 5pm each day of the festival; I also co-produced the festival’s 2005 trailers. (Ray Pride)
CUFF 2008 plays through Sunday at the Viaduct Theater. The festival site, cuff.org, offers video previews with almost all listings.