Straight-to-Video film festival


Produced and directed by the members of Engine No. 100, Chicago Fire Department

Distributed by the African-American Firefighters League

A riveting docudrama takes us inside a Chicago firehouse where drunken firefighters perform a mock fire run, compare genitals, and use racial epithets. This low-budget piece was filmed in 1990 but sat on a shelf for years before the fire department’s Internal Affairs Division viewed it in 1997. IAD decided it didn’t merit release, but the African-American Firefighters League took over distribution this year during contract negotiations with the city.#


Produced by Chicago Access Network

Starring Roland Burris

In this political brainteaser the protagonist, an African-American gubernatorial candidate played convincingly by real-life politician Roland Burris, delivers a rousing speech to a black community group, but during a climactic moment, the sound track is mysteriously silenced. Burris’s character, the only candidate in the race who has previously held statewide elective office, reportedly said of his opponents, “I got 20 years’ experience in Illinois government, and some of those nonqualified white boys ought to get out.” The source of the gap is never discovered, leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions.#

Night of the Phlebotomists

Produced and directed by staff at Cook County Hospital

Distributed by the Committee to Elect Aurelia Pucinski

This cutting-edge film, shot on grainy stock with a handheld camera, takes viewers inside a hedonistic culture where on-duty phlebotomists at Cook County Hospital drink and dance, blissfully ignoring the most basic medical ethics. Another late release, Night of the Phlebotomists was filmed in 1995 and shelved by Cook County Hospital officials but was resurrected this year by campaign workers for Aurelia Pucinski, who was running for Cook County Board president.#

The Confession

Produced by the Chicago Police Department

Directed by the Cook County State’s Attorney

A gruesome thriller whose intrigue rests more on what we can’t know than on what we can. A little girl is brutally raped and murdered on Chicago’s south side. When police identify the killers, the entire country is shocked and horrified: two young boys, ages seven and eight. Police charge the boys based on their confessions, which were obtained without the presence of the boys’ attorneys or parents. The police find themselves in a media hurricane as the community insists that the boys are too young to have committed the crime. The truth may lie in the boys’ confessions, but the Chicago Police Department, nearly alone among major metropolitan cities, does not videotape detainees’ statements. Without this key element, the audience is forced to guess–just like the state’s attorney.#

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Roland Burris photo/ Rich Hein-Chicago Sun-Times.