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Flashback: First Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival: Official Lineup

Heading into its 18th year in 2011, the Chicago Underground Film Festival is the longest-running underground film festival in the world. It used to be tied with the New York Underground Film Festival — both were started in 1994 — until NYUFF closed up shop in 2008.

In 1994, the Internet wasn’t the big promotional tool it is today so neither NYUFF nor CUFF that year had a website; or, if they did, those pages have since vanished off the web. So, details about what these fests screened in their first years have been sketchy. Well, until now for CUFF.

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon it, but I recently discovered that the alternative newsweekly the Chicago Reader had posted up the entire, full lineup of the first annual Chicago Underground Film Festival.

So, I copied that info and reformatted it into the style of the Underground Film Journal’s traditional film festival lineups, which I think is much easier to scan through and read. Also, I’ve done extra research and cleaned up some name and film title typos; plus filled in better descriptions and provided helpful links where I could find them. The full lineup is a below, but first, a few notes about what stands out to me:

First, the festival took place at the Bismarck Hotel on July 29-31, which was a Friday-Sunday, in two different screening rooms. (Since the fest, the hotel was remodeled in 1998 and rechristened the Hotel Allegro.)

In 1994, the Cinema of Transgression was quietly fading away, but the women of Transgression were well represented at the first CUFF, particularly Tessa Hughes-Freeland, who had several films screened. One of them, Playboy Voodoo, she co-directed with Ela Troyano with whom she also co-founded and co-ran the New York Film Festival Downtown from 1984-90.

Other Transgression women who had films screened were Jeri Cain Rossi and Holly Adams. Also, while Sarah Jacobson has never been associated with Transgression — that I know of — she can at least probably be considered a close cousin with her first short film I Was a Teenage Serial Killer, which screened.

Another notable, non-Transgression filmmaker in the lineup below is Todd Verow, who may be the one filmmaker who’s had the most films screened at CUFF in the festival’s entire history. It seems like he has a film in there every year just about.

Plus, the fest honored longtime Chicago experimental documentary filmmaker Tom Palazzolo, who had a mini-retrospective. I don’t know exactly which films of Tom’s they screened, but I would assume Sneakin’ and Peekin’ and Jerry’s Deli were in there, both of which are totally awesome. And another familiar Transgression name is that there was also a retrospective of the films of Richard Kern.

One last note: Just something that struck me as funny as I went through pulling descriptions of the films is how many zombie feature films this first CUFF screened: Three, which I think is a pretty high percentage. Back then, zombies were still considered underground, and even transgressive, subject matter and the films range from a serious thriller to an existential experimental film to a musical comedy. Now zombies are totally mainstream and a lazy man’s “go to” movie monster, which might go towards explaining why I’m so sick of them right now. (Although these three films I’d watch.)

Well, it was fun for me to go through this lineup and catch a snapshot of a very different underground era, especially after hearing CUFF Festival Director Bryan Wendorf talk recently about the fest moving away from transgressive style films. Seeing that long evolution over 18 years would be a similarly interesting experience.

(Added: A big shout-out to Jack Sargeant and Shade Rupe for providing some additional data to clear up some entries.)

But, for now, here’s the first Chicago Underground Film Festival lineup, presented as I do their lineups today:

July 29

2:30 p.m.: Fancy Ketchup — Smile If You Want More, dir. Paul Goebel. A documentary about the Chicago comedy group Fancy Ketchup.
Screened with:
Nice Fucking Legacy Dad, dir. Timothy A. Bennet
Duane and Ramon on the Edge of Space, dir. Rick Field

3:30 p.m.: “Film Shorts, Program One”
Queen Mercy, dir. Helen Stickler
La reina, dir. Alfonso Alvarez
American Standard, dir. Lisa Addario
I Was a Teenage Serial Killer, dir. Sarah Jacobson

3:45 p.m.: Wesley Willis as Himself, dir. Jeff Kilpatrick. A documentary about the obese schizophrenic underground musician.
Screened with:
Four music videos
Duane and Ramon on the Edge of Space, dir. Rick Field

4:45 p.m.: “Video Shorts, Program One”
Cybertech, dir. Henry Uyehanna
Monkey Wrench, dir. Banks Tarver
Chicago Graf, dir. Paul Teruel
Bombing L.A., dir. Gary Glaser
Duane and Ramon on the Edge of Space, dir. Rick Field

5:00 p.m.: Live With This: Adrift in America, dir. Brad Vanderburg. A documentary about the band Popdefect. (Read Jonathan Rosenbaum’s brief review.)
Screened with:
Plastic Products, dir. Marjie Thieman

5:45 p.m.: Changing Face, dir. Robert Tate and Robert Roznowski. A film about a gay relationship.
Screened with:
Sisters, dir. Laurie Little
Duane and Ramon on the Edge of Space, dir. Rick Field

6:30 p.m.:Tom Palazzolo Program”
Retrospective of films of the Chicago experimental documentary filmmaker.

7:30 p.m.: A History of Pain, dir. Michelle Handelman. “An experimental narrative about the Spanish inquisition and how it still permeates our current psychosexual cultural milieu.” (From Film-makers’ Coop)
Screened with:
Angel: Portrait of a Body Piercer, dir. Gary Glaser
Duane and Ramon on the Edge of Space, dir. Rick Field

8:00 p.m.: Second Cousin, Once Removed, dir. John Shorney. A Chicago advertising man travels to the bowels of Hollywood to search for his lost cousin and gets messed up with mobsters.
Screened with:
Crosley Fiver, dir. Guy Benoit

8:30 p.m.: Shatter Dead, dir. Scooter McCrae. A woman wandering through a zombie resurrection encounters several people who try to convince her that being dead is better than being alive.
Screened with:
Fantasy as Phalt, dir. Ben Boyd
Duane and Ramon on the Edge of Space, dir. Rick Field

9:30 p.m.: Cutthroats, dir. Michael Legge. Abused workers at the offices of “Cankers Away” plot a rebellion against their dictatorial boss.
Screened with:
A Boy and His Log, dir. Rob Arber

10:00 p.m.: Ozone, dir. J.R. Bookwalter. A police detective searches for his partner who has been transformed into a zombie by a dangerous new drug. (Available on Amazon and Netflix)
Screened with:
Duane and Ramon on the Edge of Space, dir. Rick Field

11:30 p.m.: Vampires and Other Stereotypes, dir. Kevin J. Lindermuth. Strangers trapped in an abandoned warehouse unwittingly find themselves standing before a portal to Hell.
Screened with:
Duane and Ramon on the Edge of Space, dir. Rick Field

July 30

11:15 a.m.: Rollins Talking From the Box, dir. Modi Frank. A recorded one-man stage performance by Henry Rollins. (Watch on Hulu)
Screened with:
Stroking Luc, dir. Peter Hill and Chris Heenan
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

12:00 p.m.: “Film Shorts, Program Two”
Dr. Alzheimer’s Medicine Show, dir. Richard Schatzman
Glenda and Camille Do Downtown, dir. Glenn Belvirio (starring Glenda Orgasm and Camille Paglia)

12:45 p.m.: Catfight: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to be a Feminist, dir. Christine Martin. A documentary about living as a pro-porn feminist.
Screened with:
Fucking Reality, dir. Nate Hershberger
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

1:30 p.m.: “Film Shorts, Program Three”
Dirty, dir. Tessa Hughes-Freeland
I Am the Night, dir. Janice Findley
Happy Endings, dir. Gene Dimaggio
The Actress, dir. Ilya Chaiken
The Walter Ego, dir. John Putch
Trees, dir. Laura Carney
Three Super-8 shorts from Minneapolis

1:45 p.m.: “Video Shorts, Program Two”
2000 2000, dir. Kelly Kuvo
You Only Live Twice, dir. Walter H. von Egidy
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

3:00 p.m.: The Stranger, dir. Christopher Frieri. A slacker completely loses his mind while working as a janitor at a bar run by a dwarf.
Screened with:
Playboy Voodoo, dir. Tessa Hughes-Freeland and Ela Troyano
Wildgirls Go Go Ramma, dir. Addison Cook

4:30 p.m.: Injustice for All, dir. Joseph Oxman. A documentary. (Subject unknown)
Screened with:
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

4:30 p.m.: “Film Shorts, Program Four”
Coagulation, dir. Michael Hartigan
Fireeaters, dir. Julie Meitz
Built for Endurance, dir. Todd Verow
Black Hearts Bleed Red, dir. Jeri Cain Rossi
Nymphomania, dir. Tessa Hughes-Freeland and Holly Adams
The “Of” Trilogy, dir. Laura Carney
Belva’s Wish, dir. Larissa Sims

5:30 p.m.: Walls in the City, dir. Jim Sikora. Three tales about degenerates who hang around bars. Starring David Yow. (Available on Amazon and Netflix)
Screened with:
Pipsqueak Pfollies, dir. Danny Plotnick
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

6:00 p.m.: “Film Shorts, Program Five”
Carnival de Carnitas, dir. Bridgette Wilson
Invocation, dir. Dejunius Hughes
Spirit and Flesh, dir. Eric Nordhauser
Self-Immomulsion, dir. Shade Rupe
P & Not-P, dir. Gary Kibbens
Left Alone With Night, dir. Erik Deutschman
Forbidden Fruit, dir. Ben Boyd

7:00 p.m.: Mono Playhouse, dir. Zig Gron. Rope fetish flick. (no other info)
Screened with:
Four short videos featuring Rosa Mi Amor, dir. Modi Frank
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

7:30 p.m.: “New Films From the Death Trip”
A program of new work by Richard Kern
Screened with:
The Holy Bible, dir. Erik Blankinship
The Pope of Utah, dir. Steven Saylor and Chiam Bianco

8:00 p.m.: Some Guys, dir. Chris Tenzis. The first film by Tenzis. (no other info)
Screened with:
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

9:30 p.m.: Mad Science, dir. John Schnepp and Dave Murray. (No info available)
Screened with:
Light Fuse Get Away, dir. Ivan Lerner
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

11:00 p.m.: Gorotica, dir. Hugh Gallagher. A thief must care for his dead friend after he swallows a valuable diamond they just stole. And, lucky for them, they meet up with a hot necrophiliac.
Screened with:
My Adventures in the Time Spiral, dir. Richard Clower

11:00 p.m.: Death Licked My Face, dir. Alex MacInnis. An investigative reporter checks out a mysterious cult and zombies in this musical. (Watch a clip.)
Screened with:
Shorts by Kevin Catham and the team of David Ashmore and Charlie Smith.

July 31

11:45 a.m.: God’s Film, dir. Joe Cole. (no info available)
Screened with:
Videos by People Who Beep, Mike Trippiedi, and John L’Ecuyer

12:00 p.m.: The Pope of Utah, dir. Steven Saylor and Chiam Bianco. In the year 2001, a televangelist watches his once mighty career fail around him.
Screened with:
Crosley Fiver, dir. Guy Benoit

1:15 p.m.: “Video Shorts, Program Three”
Psychedelic Glue Sniffin’ Hillbillies, dir. Craig Smith (Watch a clip from this underground movie)
Surprise!, dir. Adam Brown
It’s Now or Never, dir. Jack Cargeman

2:00 p.m.: “Film Shorts, Program Six”
Shorts in Super-8 and 16-millimeter by Larissa Sims, Jack Beck, the team of Patrick Couillard and Coleen York, Marq Morrison, Peter Kuehl, Charissa Sheptak, Bret Lama, and Aaron Vanek.

2:45 p.m.: Cirsium Delectus, dir. Richard Baylor. A woman becomes insanely jealous when she discovers the punk she picked up hitchhiking has a girlfriend.
Screened with:
Mono Playhouse, dir. Zig Gron

3:30 p.m.: The Stranger, dir. Christopher Frieri. A slacker completely loses his mind while working as a janitor at a bar run by a dwarf.
Screened with:
Shorts by Sheldon Gleisser and Glenn Belvirio

4:15 p.m.: The Blind Lead, dir. John Harriman. A group of Chicago men go on a drug-fueled trip to NYC.
Screened with:
A short by Eric Norhauser

5:00 p.m.: Second Cousin, Once Removed, dir. John Shorney. A Chicago advertising man travels to the bowels of Hollywood to search for his lost cousin and gets messed up with mobsters.
Screened with:
A short by Rob Arber

6:00 p.m.: “Video Shorts, Program Four”
Roadthang, dir. Raoul Vehill
It Crawls Inside Me, dir. Raoul Vehill


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