Raw, shocking and beautiful: the Chicago Underground Film Festival holds nothing back

Now in its 20th year, CUFF continues to bend the boundaries of independent filmmaking with radical artistry and style.

March 6, 2013

The term "independent filmmaking" means something completely different today than it did 20 years ago. 
 
When most people say, "I love indie movies!" nowadays, they're usually referring to those quirky, slightly lower-budget films distributed by subsidiaries of studio giants like Fox, Universal and Paramount Pictures (Fox Searchlight's 500 Days of Summer, Focus Features' Moonrise Kingdom,  Paramount Vantage's No Country for Old Men, etc.), not old classics like Primer or "no-budget" films like Tarnation that were made on iMovie for $218. 
 
Meanwhile, genuinely independent features and shorts that unions qualify as "ultra-low budget" (made for less than $200,000) are hardly ever released in theatres, and far too often vanish into obscurity. Some indie projects strike festival gold and get picked up by major distributors, like Oscar darling Beast of the Southern Wild at Sundance 2012 or Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture at SXSW 2010. But unfortunately, most independently released films—especially those that push boundaries and challenge audiences with a more avant-garde storytelling style—rarely see the light of day.
 
Luckily for the die-hard indie film buffs of Chicago, we have a festival that celebrates true independent cinema and visual invention outside the Hollywood mold. In 1993, the Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF) was founded by Jay Bliznick, a Columbia College film student fed up with the exclusivity of the festival circuit. 20 years later, the festival has grown into a cutting-edge film event with national press coverage and participants from around the globe. 

 
This year's fest,which runs March 6 through March 10 at Logan Theatre, will exhibit an eclectic mix of independent features, shorts, documentaries and experimental films augmented by nightly parties and concerts. Instead of the slick "indie" films shown at high-brow festivals like Sundance, CUFF showcases works of unconventional artistry that eschew the status quos of market safety and monetary gain. 
 
 
When John Waters received the Director's Tribute Award at the 1997 Deauville Film Festival, he said, "I like the word 'underground,' as in the Chicago Underground Film Festival. The word 'independent' carries a stigma of whininess. 'Underground' means a good time. "

CUFF 2013 kicks off tonight with the Chicago premiere of Untitled, a double 16mm projector performance with live audio from experimental filmmakers Sandra Gibson, Luis Recoder and Olivia Block. The show will be preceded by an 18-minute video short called Wreading from director Jesse Malmed, then followed by a free afterparty at The Owl with a vinyl set from Stacks O Wax DJ Dan Maloney!

For the full program schedule, which includes festival guides, trailers and event listings, visit cuff.org and get your tickets now.

Also, check out the film that I'm most looking forward to seeing at this year's fest--Taken by Storm: The Art of Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis, directed by Roddy Bogawa: 

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