The tenth annual Chicago Underground Film Festival runs Wednesday, August 27, through Tuesday, September 2, at Landmark’s Century Centre. Tickets are $9, a $30 pass admits you to five films, and a full festival pass, good for all screenings, is $100. For more information call 866-468-3401. Following is the schedule for August 27 and 28; a complete festival schedule is available online at Films marked with an * are highly recommended.


Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator

Opening commercially in September and thus unavailable for preview, this documentary by Helen Stickler looks at the rise of skateboarding as an alternative culture, focusing on the life of skateboard legend–and convicted murderer–Mark “Gator” Rogowski. (7:30)


Apoplectic Trauma

The longest of these nine films, I’m Bobby (32 min.), is a wildly postmodern parody of Raj Kapoor’s 1973 Bobby, about two lovers whose parents try to keep them apart. Xav Leplae, a Milwaukee filmmaker, casts very young children as adults and teenagers, interweaving cutout animation of the characters and dubbing in the vocals for the musical numbers; the film was shot in 35-millimeter, but its fakery purposely illuminates the theatricality of Bollywood cinema. Also noteworthy are several experimental 16-millimeter films: the waterfall in Robert Todd’s Trauma Victim (2002) has the power of thunder; the abstracted images of a falling cat in Devon Demonte’s Catcycle avoid the customary cuteness of cat imagery; and the stylish celebration of farting and pooping in Yuri A’s U (2002) recalls the nonjudgmental playfulness of children as young as its star. 74 min. (FC) (5:00)

Making the Team

Short works by Brent Green, Paul Tarrago, Jennet Thomas, Carl Wiedemann, Steve Bognar, and Dean Rank. 88 min. (5:15)

* (Un)natural Order

Disruptions of order are nothing new in the avant-garde, but several of these eight films are true originals, and the most ordinary looking, Ben Russell’s The Quarry (2002), proves to be the weirdest. Aside from one intertitle, it consists of nearly identical static shots of an Easter Island landscape; in the foreground, flowers sway in the breeze, but with each passing minute the hill in the background seems more ominous. In Ablution (2002), Eric Patrick uses time-lapse photography to create an affecting meditation on loss of identity in the face of an accelerating world: as shadows race by, a man sitting on a porch seems to vanish into a blotch painted on the film. In Outline, Sandra Gibson makes effective use of 35-millimeter ‘Scope, her semiabstract images offering enticing labyrinths, and in River, Jean-Claude Bustros rephotographs Marlon Brando’s 1961 feature One-Eyed Jacks with video breakup that undercuts the stability of the close-ups. 78 min. (FC) (6:45)

* Hitler’s Hat Jeff Krulik has attracted a healthy cult following with pop-anthropology exercises like Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986) and Neil Diamond Parking Lot (1998). I’ve never been very taken with his winking celebrations of American kitsch, but this 50-minute video documentary is another story. Shot at a reunion of the 42nd Rainbow Infantry Division, it focuses on Richard Marowitz, a Jewish-American soldier who helped to liberate Dachau and came home with a singular war trophy: a silk top hat abandoned in a Munich closet by the Fuhrer himself. Krulik offsets the veterans’ sobering reminiscences with all manner of goofy anti-Nazi propaganda (featuring, among others, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, and the Three Stooges); the delicate blend of epic tragedy and inane pop culture borders on the elegiac. Also on the program: Rosie and Rebecca’s Jeff Krulik Picks the Weasel (2002, 10 min.), a cable-access segment in which Krulik talks about his work while taking a shower, and Jim Trainor’s The Skulls, and the Skulls and the Bones, and the Bones (12 min.), about a devoted collector of skeletal remains. (JJ) (7:00)

Music Hall of Mirrors

From Austria, Virgil Wildrich’s astounding animation Fast Film offers a dense, encyclopedic survey of American cinema, acknowledging both the primacy of the director and the outsize personalities of the studio-era stars; its dazzling optical effects, suggesting both collapse and regeneration, remind us that Europeans have always responded to the speed, dexterity, and visceral power of American movies. Scott Calonico’s The King and Dick, about the notorious meeting between Elvis Presley and President Nixon, beautifully offsets the president’s opportunism with Presley’s galling hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement. And Peter Sillen’s Branson: Musicland USA, shot in textured black and white, explores the Missouri town remade into a relentlessly middlebrow live-music center where Roy Clark and Tony Orlando perform in self-named concert venues–as well as the extreme poverty at the town’s margins. Shorts by Tom Putnam, Edie Faig, Kitao Sakurai, and Todd Downing complete the program. 81 min. (Patrick Z. McGavin) (8:30)

Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary

In this routine documentary about the lesbian punk band Tribe 8, director Tracy Flannigan interviews the players about their lives, their sexuality, and their reasons for choosing hardcore punk as a means of expression. Interspersed throughout are clips of the band’s raucous stage show, which actually prove far less interesting than the women’s genial commentary. It’s telling that the only real drama dates to 1994, when Tribe 8 was confronted by a handful of angry feminists at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Apparently the protesters were outraged by the players’ onstage shenanigans: performing topless, wearing dildos, flirting with bondage equipment, closing their set with a mock castration. It’s a shame they couldn’t come up with a few gimmicks to liven things up. 80 min. (Reece Pendleton) (8:45)

Hot and Bothered

In the likable High School Reunion, San Francisco video maker Sarah Jacobson returns to Edina, Minnesota, to settle scores with her old classmates a decade after they graduated. Hot and Bothered: Feminist Pornography is an industry-sponsored plug for woman-friendly sex aids (including such videos as The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women and Bend Over Boyfriend 2, for guys who don’t realize their prostate is really their G-spot); director Becky Goldberg offers talking heads of articulate entrepreneurs but provides little insight into their business. Also showing: minor satiric exercises by T. Arthur Cottam, Eileen Maxson, and Sterling Ruby. 79 min. (Bill Stamets) (10:15)

Quality of Life

A middling program of aggressively self-indulgent videos that focus on the sleazy side of life. In Nick Zedd and Saint Reverend Jen’s I Was a Quality of Life Violation an old lady combs the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in search of her pooch, encountering a menagerie of local denizens with attitude in a series of skits that go nowhere. Gym Jones’s Why Would Anyone Do Anything? is a puzzling send-up of Rosemary’s Baby with a cameo by NewCity movie critic Ray Pride. In Great Balls of Fire (2002), Leon Grodski inelegantly weaves together footage of the burning World Trade Center with shots of a raging panhandler, and Matthew Silver’s video Overmodulated Marriage, a grotesque portrayal of a battling couple, suggests a cable-access show with its excess of sincerity and lack of expertise. Shorts by Eric Dyer and Andrew Gurland complete the program. 82 min. (TS) (10:30)