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Chuffed for CUFF

Six films to look out for at the 30th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival

By Arts & Culture, Entertainment, Featured

The longest underground film festival in the world is turning its projectors back on! If you’re looking for new, odd, or experimental films, this is the Chicagoland festival to check out.

The 30th Annual Chicago Underground Film Festival will run this week from Wednesday, Sept. 13 to Sunday, Sept. 17. The festival will feature screenings, karaoke, and experimental art shows. Opening night is at SAIC’s very own Gene Siskel Film Center, and the following days’ screenings will be at the Harper Theater. Tickets for an individual film are $12 a pop, or you can go all in on an all-access pass for $150.

A mixture of short films and features will be screened. Here are some of the ones we’re most excited for:

Film still from “Hello Dankness” (2022).

“Hello Dankness”
The Gene Siskel Film Center, Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Ever had a deep desire to watch a political stoner musical? Well, you’re in luck. “Hello Dankness” (2022), which will kick off the festival Wednesday night at the Siskel, is just that! This film runs 70 minutes long and is a jigsaw puzzle of hundreds of film samples, the final product being the brainchild of Australian creative team Soda Jerk. The Guardian comments that Soda Jerk filmmakers, “treat other movies as public property in a collage film pondering the end of reality.” “Hello Dankness” is a collage of pop culture and political media, mashed together to create reimaginings of musicals such as “Cats” and “Les Miserable.” What art student won’t be fascinated by the conceit of this film?

Film still from “What You Could Not Yet Visualise” (2022).

Harper Theater, Thursday, Sept. 14 at 9:00 p.m. or Saturday, Sept. 16 at 5:00 p.m.

Have you ever heard of the band Rema Rema? Likely not, but director Marco Porsia wants to change that. Rema Ream is the post-punk band that got left behind in the 80s, with no live footage of them to be found. Though short-lived, they were impactful. In 94 minutes, Porsia’s film, “What you Could Not Visualise” (2023) seeks to uncover the history, mythology, and sound of Rema Rema, with the end goal of putting, “REMA-REMA back in their rightful place in the history of post-punk music.”

Geared magic lantern slide used in “Relic: tA Phantasmagoria (2020/2023).” Image courtesy of

“Relict: A Phantasmagoria (2020/2023)”
Harper Theater, Friday, Sept. 15 at 5:00 p.m. shown along with “[Six Years]” (2023). 

“Relict”  is a film for animation nerds and cryptozoologist enthusiasts alike. With a 40-minute-long runtime, “Relict” uses antique magic lantern slides and hand-drawn animation to create a unique documentary on the lore and skepticism of cryptids. Melissa Ferrari’s gorgeous but delicate handmade art is a reason alone to add this film to your “must-watch” list.

Film still from “Sweetheart Deal” (2022).

“Sweetheart Deal”
Harper Theater, Friday, Sept. 15 at 9:00 p.m. or Sunday, Sept. 16 at 3:00 p.m.

If you’re looking for a film with more teeth, “Sweetheart Deal” (2022) might be for you. Directed by Elisa Levine and the late Gabriel Miller, “Sweetheart Deal” follows the real lives of four Seattle sex workers over several years. The 99-minute run time covers their struggles with addiction, sex, and the concept of “salvation.”

Film still from “Chokehole: DragWrestlers do Deutschland” (2023).

“Chokehole: DragWrestlers do Deutschland”
Harper Theater, Thursday, Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. or Saturday, Sept. 16 at 9:00 p.m. as part of the “Shorts 3: Hyperbolic Dreams” screenings. 

What’s better than a drag show? A drag wrestling night! “Chokehole: Drag Wrestlers do Deutschland” (2023) is a documentary that follows a New Orleanian drag wrestling collective on their journey taking their show to Germany. With only a 23-minute long run time, these girls and the director Yony Leyser manage to pack a lot of punches in tackling issues of gender conformity, racism, their own queer identities, and, of course, tackling each other.

Film still from “The Lucky” (2023).

“The Lucky”
Harper Theater, Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8:00 p.m. as part of the “Shorts 7:Insightful Misreadings” screening. 

The Lucky” (2023) is a short film featured in CUFF’s 7th batch of short films — the “Insight Meanderings” selection. The short film’s script was written not by a human writer, but by OpenAI’s GPT 3 text generator. Directed by Gregg Perkins and shot by 11 camera operators each taking their own approach to a single scene, “The Lucky” is an 8-minute story about two characters debating to return to a party they may never have been at in the first place.

Between shorts and features, there are over a hundred different films to see this year at CUFF. Climb on down into the underground. There’s something for everyone.

Sidne K. Gard (BFAW 2025) hopes to one day understand how to make their own monsters. They are the entertainment editor at F Newsmagazine. See more of their work at
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