CUFF spends the entire year preparing a weeklong celebration

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Film fans celebrate CUFF’s opening night party at Elastic Arts in Logan Square

This week, the Chicago Underground Film Festival is turning the Logan Theater into an audiovisual feast.

The celebration is made possible not only by the passion and labor of artists from around the world, but also by the dedication of screeners who review thousands of submissions to create the annual schedule.

“There’s not much downtime in between festivals,” says CUFF founder Bryan Wendorf. “You’re kind of working on it all year round.”

The call for 2017 submissions began last August, just a few short weeks after the close of 2016’s festival.

Close to 3,000 films were submitted for this year’s event, which represents CUFF’s 24th year. The variety of submissions ranged from shorts running less than a minute to features spanning nearly two hours.

Wendorf personally reviewed “about half” of the material.

“It’s a job,” he says. “I get up in the morning, make coffee, I spend an eight hour day watching films.”

CUFF founder Bryan Wendorf addresses the media before the start of this year's festival

He also works to constantly revise and refine the screening process by assembling a jury from organizations dedicated to Chicago’s film community, like Stage 18, and filmmakers who who have screened work in previous CUFF festivals.

“They make the best screeners,” he explains.

By remaining active with established as well as up-and-coming artists, he makes sure that the festival represents the most accurate reflection of the city’s underground tastes.

“After 24 years of doing the festival, I know the community,” he continues.

“The existence of stuff like Stage 18 and Cinespace has been huge… Things on the other side, like the Nightingale, are also great for community building, and they’re very different. I like the fact that CUFF feels comfortable in both environments.”

There is, however, one area that the festival has yet to tap.

“I don’t think we’ve had a film from Antarctica,” he says.

The Chicago Underground Film Festival, which began on May 31, will screen nearly two-dozen films at Logan Theater this weekend. To see the full schedule, click here.

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