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More than a Dozen Films by CalArtians Screen at 30th Chicago Underground Film Festival

Poster for Chicago Underground Film Festival | Courtesy of CUFF

Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF), the world’s longest-running annual underground film festival, returns with its 30th edition at The Harper Theater and the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Running from Wednesday, Sept. 13 through Sunday, Sept. 17, this year’s lineup of boundary-pushing films features shorts from 14 CalArts faculty, alums, and students.

School of Film/Video faculty Charlotte Pryce will be screening her work “and so it came about (A Tale of Consequential Dormancy).” The 13-minute allegorical film chronicles the phase of animal dormancy in response to adversity. Inspired by and made during the pandemic’s “global dormancy,” the mythological tale draws from and retells such natural processes.

Current Film/Video student Leonardo Pirondi (Film/Video BFA 22, MFA 25) screens his four-minute short film “Welcome Home (Seja Bem-Vindo ao Lar).” Exploring a house haunted by its creators, the room welcomes you to ‘The New Frontier’ and plays with the idea of the uncanny and unhomely. 

A film from Sri Lanka and China, Rajee Samarasinghe’s (Film/Video MFA 16) short “Lotus-Eyed Girl” inspects the impacts of colonialism on human desire. The eerie ambiance is paired with a collaging of pomegranates, rural and urban landscapes, family history, mandalas, death, longing, and Indian writer Bilhana’s 11th century love poem “Caurapañcāśikā.” 

De-composition” is a three-minute short film by Laura Kraning (Film/Video MFA 10), described as a textural macro collage of a Rust Belt landscape. Set to the sound of the New York Central rail line, the film collages photos of Buffalo, New York, to chronicle material decay and metallic decomposition. 

Cherlyn Hsing-Hsin Liu’s (Film/Video MFA 15) short film “In Littleness” is an eight-minute study of the medium of miniature. Zooming in on daily life, Liu explores childhood and the every day through an eight-millimeter size scale.

Train Song” is a three-minute black and white film by Yanbin Zhao (Film/Video MFA 23) that uses reflective material to distort images of a railroad and bring forth the unseen spirits of the rail landscape. The film is set near a monument honoring Chinese migrant workers near a railroad in Canyon County, California.

Described as an explosion of color and a tortured object, Joshua Gen Solondz’s (Film/Video MFA 16) film “NE CORRIDOR” turns three years of documentation into a seven-minute film. The footage collages gurgling paint, jagged splices, errant sprocket holes, and puzzling images to evoke and honor the work of late filmmaker Luther Price. 

A collaboration between director Charlotte Hong (Film/Video MFA) and producer Giuliana Foulkes (Film/Video MFA 18), “SMRT Piece” is a video-experimental animation triptych set between Singapore and Los Angeles. The four-minute film explores public transit, queer bodies, risk, missing home, seeing vs. being seen, movie magic, drawing as an abstract intellectual exercise, Agnes V., and snuggling with a lover.

Elizabeth M. Webb’s (Film/Video MFA 16) short film “Proximity Study (Sight Lines)” captures the docks of the Brooklyn waterfront as an ode to her longshoreman grandfather. Trying to measure closeness despite temporal distance, the six-minute 16mm film documents the docks and Webb rowing in the channel between the camera and the subject. 

Exploring systems, possibilities, and grief in the mountains, “Motor Motor Blue” by Greg Jenkins (Film/Video MFA 23) is described as “austere and ethereal.” In 15 minutes, the film frames the sounds and rhythms of a community in grief through family histories, phantom landscapes, and racecars.

Melissa Ferrari’s (Film/Video MFA 19) 40-minute film “Relict: A Phantasmagoria (2020/2023)” is an experimental documentary utilizing antique magic lanterns and hand-drawn animation. The film adapts lore, CGI, audio interviews, documentary excerpts, thermal imaging, animation, and more to explore the zeitgeist of pseudoscience, fake news, religion, belief, perception, and documentary ethics in contemporary cryptozoology. 

Fictions” is a 22-minute film by manuela de laborde (Film/Video MFA 16), a product of a residency with the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen’s Conditional Cinema Program. Inspired by the spell “ficciones,” the film captures the gardening and growth of plant life in ceramic sculptures through four super-8 cameras. This imagery imagining sculptures as possible containers of heart is accompanied by the sounds of Camila de Laborde. 

Lastly, Alix Blevins (Film/Video MFA 23) screens a one-minute film titled “object permanence,” documenting the disappearance of objects. 

The film schedule for CUFF details the timing and location for each of the aforementioned films.

— Ishika Muchhal

Cover stills from all 13 films by CalArtians at CUFF | Courtesy of CUFF’s film schedule

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More than a Dozen Films by CalArtians Screen at 30th Chicago Underground Film Festival