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Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival

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The 15th annual Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival, presented by Chicago Filmmakers, runs Friday through Sunday, September 12 through 14, at Columbia College Ferguson Theater, 600 S. Michigan, and Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark. Tickets are $7; for more information call 773-293-1447.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

Program one

See Critic's Choice. (Columbia College Ferguson Theater, 7:00)

Program two

Christopher Keller's 30-minute video Retrograd is an exploitative compilation of disturbing images culled from the film archive of a Berlin hospital--eyeballs pierced by arrows, a brain-damaged boy hopping on one leg, homosexual rats humping--intercut with irrelevant interviews with hospital staff. In his overlong Be True to Your School, Patrick Grossi plays records and holds a succession of paperbacks up to the camera for 17 minutes. Shelly Silver's 3-minute video 1 is short, sharp provocation featuring split-screen slow-motion close-ups of toothy young NYC cops overlaid with a text warning us of the devouring nature of the world. Mark Boswell's video Agent Orange is a similarly terse and paranoid take on authority figures. Plus work by Denise Kaufmann, Jeanne Liotta, Seoungho Cho, Carolyn Faber, Nicholas Provost, and Michael Robinson. 96 min. (Bill Stamets) (Columbia College Ferguson Theater, 8:45)

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

Program three

This program of recent experimental films by Julie Murray poetically explores various facets of the physical world. In I Began To Wish plants filmed in time-lapse fill the screen, imparting a sense of being lost in a slightly threatening labyrinth. A moving reflection on September 11, Untitled (light) (2002) finds beauty in minutiae, breaking down the skyward searchlights memorializing the fallen towers into a constellation of illuminated dust motes. FL. Oz also subverts the monumental by following images of Niagara Falls with close-ups of water patterns in a swimming pool, playfully suggesting that the smallest ripple is as significant as a grand cataract. Murray will attend. Approximately 85 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 7:00)

Program four

Several of these seven films and videos take filmmaking, or the film or art worlds, as their subject. The longest, Kathryn Ramey's mockumentary Endless Present: Biography of an Unknown Filmmaker, a Film by Cornealius Thistle, distills some recent film theory into a story about a filmmaker "who didn't believe in the objectivity of the image." Janis Crystal Lipzin's Threnody memorializes two deceased filmmakers, victims of September 11, and a pygmy goat whose burial we witness, each eulogy presented in a different and appropriate style. Thad Povey's Metaphysical Education (2002), a nostalgic evocation of boyhood and summer camp, induces creepy psychosexual feelings, as does Mizuki Akihama's Praise! Praise!! Praise!!!, the narration of which intertwines stories of pet cats and sex. 94 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 8:45)

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Program five

The Marvelous Creatures of Wago Kreider's startling video were created through hyperrapid editing of shots of lions, giraffes, apes, and hippos from nature documentaries and scenes of couples from old movies. The flickering superimpositions morph the embracing lovers into ravaging beasts. Edward Rankus's Go Fall Apart is a fever dream featuring an opera listener, a stuntman crashing through a window, doors that liquefy, pages that explode, and Slinky-like tubing that represents both the aural canal and tunnel vision. In Paul Lloyd Sargent's ditzy White Blight Manifesto a white suburbanite cruises Humboldt Park while a computer-generated voice raps about his social privilege. Also on the bill: works by Pablo de Ocampo, Siegfried Fruhauf, Adele Friedman, Sarah Hanssen, Courtney Hoskins, Abraham Ravett, Chris Rice, Bernhard Schreiner, and Ichiro Sueoka. 87 min. (Bill Stamets) (Chicago Filmmakers, 6:00)

Program six

A mixed bag of 11 films and videos. Joanna Griffin's Feathered Water (2002) shows submarines that look like sea monsters. Rephotographed footage of the twin towers in Eva Teppe's untitled memorial (2002) is only mildly affecting. In Calcutta Intersection (2003) Alfred Guzzetti creates a variety of associations by pairing a sound track of news reports with the doings on an ordinary street. Two of the videos are terrific: Luis Recoder's Splinters (2003) deploys dotted lines against a dark background to produce a seductive field full of depth, and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay's I Am a Boyband (2002) is a clever cultural commentary in which Ramsay plays four singers performing an updated arrangement of a song by Elizabethan composer John Dowland--a welcome musical trend if it catches on. 91 min. (FC) (Chicago Filmmakers, 8:00)

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