CUFF Set for 11th Annual Underground Fest in Chicago

by Sandra Ogle

Jake Mahaffy's feature debut "WAR," a film about three individuals separately trying to survive on fast-disappearing Pennsylvania farmland, will screen at the Chicago Underground Film Festival.

The 11th annual Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF) kicks off Wednesday, August 18th with the midwest premiere of the Charles Manson and Co. documentary "The Manson Family" at 8 p.m. at Chicago's 3 Penny Cinema. The festival, which runs through August 24th, has been called "the pinnacle event of the underground scene" by FilmZone Online and once made Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times remark, "What you get for your money is not just admission to the films but admission to a subculture."

Larry Cohen, the acclaimed horror director of films such as "Q: The Winged Serpent" and "It Lives Again," will be the guest of honor at this year's festival. Two of his classic horror films, "It's Alive" and "God Told Me To," will be screened Friday at 9:15 p.m. and Saturday at 8:45 p.m., respectively.

Simon Safranek's documentary "The Myth," about the hard core fans of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, will have its world premiere on Friday at 10:45 p.m. The doc follows the band's fans as they globe-trot, attending gigs with a cultish fervor. Yet another festival highlight will be the world premiere of the documentary "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?", Heather Whinna and Vickie Hunter's look into the Christian rock scene. The film, with interviews from members of Pedro the Lion, the Danielson Family, and the Blamed, among many other Christian rockers and music critics, will be screened Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

Other films that will be screened include: the Chicago premiere of Jake Mahaffy's feature debut "WAR," a film about three individuals separately trying to survive on fast-disappearing Pennsylvania farmland; the North American premiere of Esther Bell's "Exist," about two young activists in Philadelphia; and "In the Shoes of the Dragon," a documentary about a woman's experience in the Miss Iceland beauty pageant.

A special "Alien Encounters" screening on Saturday will feature nine experimental and animated shorts with such varied topics as extra-terrestials, ex-husbands, and the Paleozoic Era. Also, two other special short collections in the festival -- "Weird and Wonderful" and "Abstract Expressions" -- together feature 23 shorts with subjects ranging from the underwater world of the Red Sea to a creature's tumultuous reaction to a toothpick-less house.

All CUFF screenings will take place at 3 Penny Cinema on North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. Bryan Wendorf, who co-founded the festival in 1993 with Jay Bliznick, continues on as festival director this year. Nightly parties and concerts will be held at various Chicago venues; panels and forums will be held throughout the week as well.

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