“‘C-U Confidential’ is about ‘the locals’ past and present, whose businesses and weekend activities revolve around the cinema. For various reasons – income, family, education, simple preference – these folks live or lived in and around Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, located 130 miles due south of Chicago, 130 miles due west of Indianapolis. It is a comfortable little island in the middle of the Midwest [where] film-related flourishes do pop up from out of nowhere, and you will get to read all about them in this novel collection of stories.”
~ MICRO-FILM 1, October 1999, p.24
The motion picture has become universal and pervasive in our daily lives, flickering endlessly from the television and computer at home to the cell phone and player in one’s pocket to the monitors in lobbies, restaurants, offices, and public squares. Those who actively follow or produce this media see a vast landscape that is invigorating with its possibilities, especially given the increasing avenues through which material can be delivered to an audience, yet it is the Hollywood hit machine and quickie viral sensation that inexplicably rule.
This forum is not about such movies, nor much of what lies in between. It is also not about “what’s hot” in Los Angeles, New York City, or on the film festival circuit. It does not fawn academically over great international filmmakers or gush fan-boy accolades over obscure genre directors. It does not dwell upon the latest hearty gossip about your favorite actor or blush-inducing paparazzi images of your favorite actress. In effect, this is a popular culture Web site that does not aim to be popular.
C-U Blogfidential will instead be used to achieve a specialized goal – the archiving of a particular and peculiar body of film history involving a limited geographic radius around the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois. In spirit, the effort began nearly a decade ago when CUBlog predecessor MICRO-FILM was originally planned as a one-shot publication that would highlight film and video activity in this region. The concept survived as a downsized segment in MICRO-FILM but now warrants its autonomous wings.
Within CUBlog and its offshoots you will read about people that you might know, places you might have visited, and projects you might have seen. You will also discover subjects that never entered into your experiences in downstate Illinois until now, whether as a life-long citizen or a temporary resident in the midst of your studies. All of them inform stories with common themes – the struggles to create interesting and pertinent cinema, the passion to introduce non-blockbuster movies to the public, and the efforts to unearth instances past that had been forgotten.
It is certainly my own investigation to understand the place of the motion picture in a middle America that’s far removed from “the biz,” yet there is a slightly bigger picture to this modest experiment in movie anthropology – the itemizing, contextualizing, and preservation of related articles, graphics, interviews, and ephemera. I learned a long while ago that the indigenous cinema of Champaign County and the surrounding countryside has been given little love in general and even less benefit of the doubt since the Seventies. This simply will not do.
Some may see our effort as a trifle. Others might view the knowledge herein as bearing minor significance in the grand scheme of cinema history. I believe that an extremely tiny population of curious minds, open eyes, and generous hearts will value C-U Blogfidential for what it ultimately represents – a unique portrait of the people, places, and things that provide identity to Champaign, Urbana, and the cities beyond through the lens of a camera. They hopefully will be followed by many more when this archive becomes too accomplished to ignore.
Read on, MacDuff, and enjoy.
~ Jason Pankoke
© 2007–2012 Jason Pankoke
Updated October 5, 2011