Tonight I’ll be hosting Illinoisemakers, a program of short works by local filmmakers that are screening as part of the Chicago International Film Festival’s Spotlight: Illinois series. Some of the filmmakers will attend, and after the screening they’ll answer questions from me and the audience. The event takes place at 6:20 PM at River East 21, 322 E. Illinois, and tickets are $12. Also screening tonight as part of Spotlight: Illinois are two features, Matthew Stanton’s North Starr (3:45 PM) and Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig’s Nights and Weekends (8:30 PM), the latter hosted by Hank Sartin of Time Out Chicago. A ticket stub from any of these screenings admits you to an afterparty at Pops for Champagne, 601 N. State, where I hope you’ll join me in congratulating the filmmakers.
Illinoisemakers includes a number of strong shorts, but my hands-down favorite is Jacqueline Smessaert Brennan’s Botnik, a ten-minute cartoon created by the River North outfit Calabash Animation. A combination of digital technology and traditional cel animation, it tells the story of a beatnik artist who, suffering from creative block as an exhibition approaches, buys a mail-order robot to help him out with his painting. Their collaboration quickly becomes a frantic competition, rife with surreal slapstick and fine-art in-jokes. With its bold colors, cocktail-culture design, and rigidly two-dimensional imagery, the short recalls the early 60s heyday of the Jay Ward Studios (The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show), whose cleverness and wit made its cartoons popular with adults and children alike. You can check out a 43-second trailer here.