In Champaign, Urbana, and the cities beyond, people love to go to the movies. A cross-section of this populace will also support special film events if enough pomp, circumstance, and novelty provide them reason to attend. Yet, while some premieres of locally made media have drawn exceptional crowds, such as the more than 1,000 bodies that filled auditoriums to see Robin Christian’s CRAB ORCHARD in early 2006 and Mark Roberts’ WELCOME TO TOLONO in summer 2007, others could not attract 100. I believe that the average citizen automatically views them as “not Hollywood quality” and, therefore, also not worthy of their time or money.
Given the upbeat lip service directed towards the arts in our community, you’d think that local cinema would get a fairer shake in the public eye. The film sector is certainly not treated with the prestige of traditional fine arts, the open-arms camaraderie of performance groups and theatre companies, or the rock-star status of would-be rock stars and other musical talents. Of course, the irony is that cinematic works often incorporate the contributions of many of the same people involved with these other scenes. Maybe it’s just that movies are usually made out of sight and over the long haul, so it’s easy to ignore them between the wrap party and the big unveiling.
C-U Blogfidential would like to help its neighbors think otherwise beginning with the information that branches off of this page. Filmographies usually list the comprehensive works of an individual, studio, or genre, but here it is meant to bring together movies “tied to the land,” so to speak. While this grouping may seem happenstance when compared to cinema histories of large cities, such as Arnie Bernstein’s Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100 Years of Chicago and the Movies (1998), it still amounts to a modest whole when put together. Here, long-time residents and their life’s work receive equal billing with various efforts by ambitious underclassmen and singular experiments that wriggle up from the underground.
Need your fix of horrific campus tomfoolery? Unwrap THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS VS. A MUMMY (2006). Want to think twice about academic symbolism and societal repercussions? Sit down with IN WHOSE HONOR? (1997). Desire a nostalgic, light-hearted adventure? Simply PRESS START (2007). Seek a peek into a dangerous void where evil stains a dead-end street? Dare to befriend THE GARBAGE MAN (1993). Think you can pick out your mud-caked and/or naked Aunt Fran? Rock on with INCIDENT AT KICKAPOO CREEK (2006). Believe you’ve seen every trick in the slasher film playbook? Rhyme in time with BUCKY McSNEAD (2001). Have a problem with the pigs? SHOT (1973) proves the joke’s on you, hippie.
These flicks and many others will fill out our “filmography of a small town” as information is collected and verified, graphics are discovered and digitized, old productions come to light while new productions launch, and movie-makers simply come and go. C-U Blogfidential is not meant to be the definitive source for this cultural output, especially since most of the contemporary works have sufficient Web sites of their own, but it will contextualize what has been accomplished in our area and maybe, just maybe, help inspire an auteur or two to launch that one film we’ll eventually thank for placing our micro-film microcosm on the map.
It may take a merely attentive person to make the best use of the earthy qualities of the Midwest, but it requires a special personality to mate story, vision, sound, and technology in ways that will register with an audience. Seeing how those are few and far between here in the Land of Lincoln south of I-80, and the instances of indigenous works with significant reach even more rare, we still need to acknowledge all that came before by respecting it, learning from it, and constructively adding to it. Failing all three, we should then shut our mouths if it’s not what we want it to be, the curious little thing that is our cinema history.
~ Jason Pankoke, Fall 2007
© 2007–2017 Jason Pankoke
Updated December 31, 2015