Sponsored by the Chicago Film Office and the Bay Area Video Coalition, the 72 Hour Feature Project is an international competition allowing contestants 72 hours to complete production and postproduction of a feature film or video. Screenings will be held Friday through Thursday, June 20 through 26, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, with award screenings the following week. Tickets are $8, $4 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2600. Films marked with an * are highly recommended. Following is the schedule through June 26; a complete schedule is available on-line at www.chicagoreader.com.


A Day on the Force: Women’s Pro Tackle Football

Ronit Bezalel (Voices of Cabrini: Remaking Chicago’s Public Housing), Laurie Little, and Sree Nallamothu directed this informal video documentary following the Chicago Force, part of the Independent Women’s Football League, as it does battle at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s De La Salle Field. Yet the team’s 55-zip rout of the San Diego Seacatz, caught by a nine-camera crew, is less important than the hearty portraits of the Chicago players. The team spirit is contagious, and the squad’s improvisatory style is matched by the video’s rough edges. 70 min. (Bill Stamets) (6:00)

* On Guard

A black security guard hired to check IDs at a company entrance endures increasing scrutiny from bosses and coworkers in this wry, complex look at race relations and corporate rigidity. Instead of following the action close-up, director Kevin Lee uses stationary ten-minute takes to suggest a surveillance camera, capturing the guard’s alternately bored and frazzled demeanor. The drama escalates after his superiors discover obscene graffiti on the company logo, and Kevin Jackson gives a humane, dignified performance as the beleaguered guard, who comes to realize the absurdity of the power game. 100 min. (TS) (8:15)


Hither and Thither

Beth Berolzheimer shot this video diary of her teenage daughter and two friends, all recent graduates of the Chicago Academy of the Arts, as they eat breakfast at a diner, shop at thrift stores, and banter precociously. “I’m constantly trying to manipulate the aesthetics of things around me,” observes one girl as she orders Sprite mixed with orange soda. Another observes, “Because anger is irrational, it defines itself. It kind of, like, makes its own path.” She might well be describing the trajectory of this intriguing, emotionally layered video. 70 min. (Bill Stamets) (6:00)

* Piece of Mind

A single father, annoyed with his young son at breakfast, gives him a beating and then leaves for work; the boy takes his backpack and runs away from home. Shot on digital video (and letterboxed), this engrossing family drama by Canadian director Dino Koutras tracks father and son on their parallel paths of self-loathing: the father, a stressed-out salesman, shouts at customers over the phone and gets himself fired, while the son stops to listen to a homeless man chanting, tosses a photo of himself into the river, and finally returns home, where he stares at the family dog. The plot is fairly schematic, yet the video generates a sad irony with its measured tone and Jessie Taylor’s cool, elegant videography. 70 min. (TS) (8:15)


A Day in the Life

“An American tour guide in Rome begins to incorporate fantasy and personal experience into her tours.” Miguel Barreda Delgado directed this entry from Berlin. 82 min. (3:00)



Directors Elizabeth Spear and James Teems take the verite approach for this video about a black teen who’s removed from the custody of his drug-addicted mother and placed in a youth shelter. He befriends other kids, listens to advice from a counselor, and shoots baskets, all the while trying desperately to get in touch with his mom in rehab. The directors often mistake hysterical outbursts for drama and unrelenting street lingo for the way kids really talk; the only authentic moments come from Stephan Adamson as the morose teen. 73 min. (TS) (6:00)

Why Should I Live?

A depressed artist and a couple of friends roam around Golden Gate Park and Haight Street asking people to explain the purpose of life in this DV documentary by San Francisco video maker Melinda Adams. Most of those interviewed are young, unfocused, and tediously self-absorbed (one drones on about why she likes to travel; another wants to get into real estate so he can make a quick $10 million). The video wallows in underground sensibility, with its gloomy pretext, guerrilla style, and tawdry ballads, and gets tiresome quickly. 71 min. (TS) (8:15)


Money Shot

The mockumentary is a great form for lazy screenwriters: the talking-head segments can be used to unload all manner of exposition, and viewers can be cajoled into accepting dramatic scenes far more intimate than anything a real film crew might conceivably capture. This video by Daniel Kopec and Labid Aziz compounds these weaknesses by picking one of the broadest satirical targets imaginable–a low-budget porno shoot, which goes awry when middle-aged legend Dick Swollen (that’s about as funny as this gets) dies during an on-screen blow job and leaves the director without his coveted “money shot.” Much tomfoolery ensues, involving the star’s corpse and the menacing Jewish gangster who’s bankrolled the movie, and no one seems to be worried about incriminating himself on camera if it will keep the story limping toward the end credits. (JJ) (6:00)


During the 2003 Boston Cyberarts Festival, video artist Ravi Jain documented a 72-hour art event in the Green Street Gallery, and though the time frame arbitrarily matched the constraints of the 72 Hour Feature Project, the event hardly seems worthy of such scrutiny. Jain’s camera technique is unwatchably casual as he meanders around his Jamaica Plain neighborhood, accosting commuters and visiting the local hip bakery, and his equally sloppy editing provides no sense of the community. He informally interviews some of the artists in the festival whose craft, insights, and attention span parallel his own, but none of the artwork–mostly video projections with techno scores–appears on-screen long enough to make an impression. 71 min. (Bill Stamets) (8:15)


Car Seat Polyvinyl

Hovey Grosvenor of Portland, Oregon, directed this “blend of mockumentary and B-movie hallucination on the addictive dangers of polyvinyl plastic.” (6:00)

A Day on the Force: Women’s Pro Tackle Football

See listing for Friday, June 20. (8:15)


Down Into Happiness

Chicago siblings Benjamin, Geoffrey, and Astrid Fingerhut each directed a segment in this comic trio about plucky and obsessive characters. In Benjamin’s “Heath” a sad-sack driving instructor finds glory as a champion ketchup drinker, and in Astrid’s “Amy” a celebrity-obsessed dog walker seeks her big break by preening with her pooches at the corner of Roscoe and Clark, figuring a famous director will notice her at this oft-used film location. Overindulging in interior monologue, Geoffrey’s “Gerry” is about a free-associating copywriter who’s obsessed with his parents’ mortality. Although Benjamin Fingerhut conceived the three story lines, separate crews handled the screenwriting, cinematography, and editing; the tales come together with a likable mix of sentiment and absurdity. 82 min. (Bill Stamets) (8:15)