The AngelCiti Chicago 2001 Film Festival, a touring festival of independent film and video, continues Friday through Wednesday, June 22 through 27, at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $10; for more information call 323-466-9870.


The Making of Stavros

John Senften profiles a struggling musician in this 57-minute documentary. On the same program, shorts by Asimina Tzathas, Grigori Poulimas, and Jon M. Chu. (6:00)

Jingle Hell

A sharp-tongued Irish-American clan reunite for the Christmas holidays in this 1999 drama by Will Tully. The script, by Carter Ann McGowan and Kelly R. Bryan, deploys all the stereotypes of the dysfunctional modern family: the emotionally distant father, the long-suffering mother, the responsibility-burdened eldest son, the brittle workaholic daughter. Tully manages to transcend the cliches, aided by an ensemble of unknown but capable actors who animate even the most timeworn scenes (the bitter argument spoiling Christmas dinner, etc). Unfortunately, Randy Leger’s unremarkable photography reduces all their efforts to the dimensions of a hastily filmed soap opera. 88 min. (Jack Helbig) On the same program, shorts by Duane Edwards and Habib Fadel. (8:00)


The impulsive Jode (Todd Eckert), incapable of measuring up to his successful brother (Todd Babcock), goes to absurd lengths to find him a new liver in this 2000 black comedy by writer-director Jim Menza. But the plot is only an excuse for a restless display of noir cliches and Rick McCarthy’s acrobatic digicam work, as Jode encounters an array of colorful sickos that includes an Italian mobster and a narcoleptic clown. Eckert communicates a fair amount of seediness and desperation behind his movie-idol facade, and while the ending may be a cop-out, it fails to compromise the film’s delectably warped sensibility. 94 min. (TS) On the same program, See That Guy (26 min.), a comic short by Brett Bisogno and Brian Scolaro. (10:00)


The Lost Brainchildren:

Are You Ready?

A sextet of comic vignettes by Chainsauce Pykasso. 51 min. (1:00)

The Pirates of Central Park

Rob Farber directed this 34-minute drama about three New York kids who decide to take up crime. On the same program, shorts by Mark Schimmel and Caroline Manalo. (2:00)

The After School Special

Glib, raunchy, and gleefully un-PC, this 2000 teen comedy is like a beer blast that refuses to end, as two high school dudes (Adam Boor and Jeffrey Wolinski) cruise their cookie-cutter Chicago suburb and wind up at a block party offering an ample supply of booze, sex, and sophomoric humor. Wolinski wrote the screenplay with his brother Michael, who directs as if he’s auditioning for the next American Pie knockoff. But the comic timing is wildly uneven, and the film’s taboo busting (including an assortment of ethnic jokes and a white kid in blackface) might be considered crude even by American Pie’s standards. The film ends with a string of outtakes, which, given what we’ve already seen, seems a little redundant. 90 min. (TS) On the same program, Campion Murphy’s Citation of Merit (35 min.), about two marines trying to survive the Korean War. (3:00)


See Critic’s Choice. (5:30)

Road Signs

A straight-arrow graduate student (David Fleming) and a snotty punk (Christopher Alan Weixler Jr.), brought together by a mutual girlfriend, spend a road trip debating drugs, music, and morality, their running argument interrupted periodically by bizarre roadside characters who come and go like so many stage props. Kristofer Rommel directed this 2000 digital feature–sort of a Jim Jarmusch remake of The Odd Couple–whose sly, observant script (by Merit Alexander and Wug Yablonski) unfortunately culminates in a head scratcher of an ending. 85 min. (TS) On the same program, shorts by Andre Hyland, Julie Scott Edwards, and Bob Place III. (8:00)

Baby Luv

Dalene Young adapted this 1999 feature from her play about a young painter (Christian Leffler) and his emotionally unstable roommate (Mariam Parris), whose promiscuity has led to yet another unwanted pregnancy. When he’s not fending off her amorous advances, the painter helps the woman locate a couple who will buy her unborn child, but the arrangement leads to complications for everyone involved. With its uneasy mix of comic elements and dark undertones, the film never fully realizes its dramatic potential, though it does offer a good deal of emotional depth, thanks to a good cast (including Young and Christopher Darga) and a remarkable performance by Parris. Robert Martin Carroll directed. 104 min. (Reece Pendleton) On the same program, Pierre Larouche’s 16-minute short City at Night. (10:00)


Short films for children

Shorts by Kelli Bixler, Shaun Wardell, Hyun Supul, and Phillip Gullett and David Pryor. 60 min. (noon)

Return to Innocence

A child psychologist faces graphic accusations of pederasty from a 13-year-old former prostitute in this sober courtroom drama, adapted by Gary M. Frazier from his own novel. As played by Richard Meese, the defendant is the picture of compassion and quiet dignity, yet he’s promised never to reveal the secret that would clear him of the charges. Director Rocky Costanzo counters the tabloid sensationalism of the material with an austere look, heavy on the close-ups, that recalls the old Perry Mason TV series. 98 min. (TS) On the same program, short films by Mark Schimmel, E. Gabriel Edvy, and Bradley J. Greer. (1:15)


Michael Picarella directed this 83-minute comedy about a teenager juggling three girlfriends. On the same program, shorts by Thomas Kingsley Troupe, Bradley J. Greer, and E. Gabriel Edvy. (3:15)

Time’s Up

A Manhattan psychologist who’s lost her office space (Leonor Benedetto) sets up shop in a mobile home and begins making house calls; the new arrangement is a hit with her clients, but their personal woes begin to evoke unsettling memories of her past as a political prisoner in Argentina. As that synopsis might suggest, writer-director Cecilia Barriga never settles on a dramatic tone for this 2000 Spanish feature, and the therapist’s trauma is repeatedly undercut by comic relief from a plethora of two-dimensional supporting characters. 90 min. (Reece Pendleton) On the same program, Inal Sherip’s documentary Moscow Chechnya Bubblegum (26 min.). (5:15)


A boy from a troubled family tries to convince his parents and teachers that he carries on conversations with the moon in this poorly executed and highly predictable digital feature (2000). Writer-director Don Haderlein, a former Chicagoan, is obviously sincere in his belief that the nuclear family can triumph over illness and adultery, but this treacly story is little more than a heartfelt home movie, with clunky dialogue, stiff performances (the child actors have two expressions among them), and visuals better suited to a corporate-training video. With Bridget O’Reilly, Art Gilmore, Castulo Guerra, Mary Joan Negro, and Norman Snow. 78 min. (TS) On the same program, shorts by Daniel Gianneschi and Alexander Adraktas. (7:15)

Das Zimmer

Sophie and Christoph, strangers to one another, are hired as caretakers of a mysterious home but instructed never to enter the locked room at the end of the hallway. After introducing this irresistible setup, German director Roland Reber inexplicably tables it in favor of a blossoming attraction between the lead characters, both of whom are attractive, unattached, and neurotic. He burns up a lot of screen time with mysterious Blair Witch-type occurrences–objects moved, photographs of Sophie and Christoph that suddenly appear–but they’re just window dressing for his onanistic meditation on life and art. This 2000 video does contain some interesting psychedelic effects, courtesy of Mira Gittner, but for the most part it’s shot in the bland, overlit style of a low-budget porn flick. 70 min. (Jack Helbig) Shorts by Reber and Gittner round out the program. (9:30)


The Battle to Serve

Garry Wills argues that the “making of the president” books popularized by Theodore White have become largely superfluous in the satellite age, when cable news networks handicap the electoral horse race in microscopic detail. Supporting his point is this 59-minute video by Christopher McKool, which documents the quixotic efforts of multimillionaire Democrat Roger Kahn to unseat archconservative Republican Bob Barr in Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District. The contest was closely watched on the national level–Barr had made a name for himself leading the impeachment procedings against President Clinton–and Kahn, a gentlemanly liquor wholesaler, spent $2 million of his own money on the race and eventually embraced his opponent’s attack-dog strategies. You’d never guess any of this from McKool’s dull succession of boilerplate speeches and backslapping fund-raisers; his video is so devoid of substance and insight you could easily mistake it for a campaign commercial, which makes its tendentious score, full of martial taps and ominous strings, all the more nauseating. (J.R. Jones) (5:00)

Giant Steps: The Randy

Bertish Story

Stuart K. Robinson directed this 58-minute documentary about Randy Bertish, a young TV actor who was left in a coma following a car crash but miraculously recovered. On the same program, documentary shorts by Sean Cohane and Wayne Calvin Byrd II. (6:00)

Documentary films

Films by Maddy Lederman, Peter Roloff, and Richard May. 118 min. (8:00)

Sweat Equity

Daniel P. Tripoli’s 69-minute documentary examines the movement to create inner-city gardens. On the same program, Ian Christopher’s 51-minute documentary about the crop circle phenomenon in England, Something Wonderful Has Happened . . . but It Was Not in the News. (10:00)


Lost Heroes

Miguel Rocha directed this 80-minute documentary about a young Portuguese man whose activist father disappeared in 1974. On the same program, shorts by John Cassini and J.B. Kalani. (6:00)

Everything He Touched

Like the films of Ed Wood, this 2000 melodrama about grown children reflecting on their late father’s verbal, physical, and sexual abuse fails so miserably at manipulating our emotions that it inadvertently becomes hilarious. The characters are flat and cliched, the dialogue awkward and unbelievable. Especially laughable is the father (Michael Hughes); early in the film he berates his young daughter so viciously that she wets herself, yet director Nancy Kucki still expects us to be surprised by every new layer of depravity in his soul. By the end of the first reel, I wanted the children to rise up against their oppressive father; by the end of the second, I wanted them to rise up against Kucki. 72 min. (Jack Helbig) On the same program, shorts by David Becerra, Brian Jun, and Eric Moscicki. (8:00)


Please Don’t Burn My Beaver

Jim Hankins directed this 79-minute comedy about a mayoral race in a small town. On the same program, David Foote’s Make-up (28 min.), a satiric short about a woman who suffers from anorexia, bulimia, and agoraphobia. (6:00)

What Do You Do All Day?

A compulsive gambler tries to win back his wife in this 94-minute comedy by Matthew Weiner. On the same program, Anthony Magro’s comic short Bedheads (20 min.). (8:00)

Return to the Killing Fields

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge tell their stories in this 52-minute documentary by Bill Kurtis. On the same program, shorts by Bill Griffith, Marco G. Ferrari, and Laurie Agard. (10:00)