With Illini Film & Video back in action for the current semester, we decided it might be worthwhile to give you an idea of what these industrious youngsters have been up to, on and off campus. You can watch numerous shorts linked from their Web site although it’s hardly a comprehensive illustration of the club’s reign as the oldest active filmmaking RSO at the University of Illinois. Our sampling is only meant to touch on the breadth of their efforts; we plan to explore more fully how IFV involvement has influenced students past and present with a long-in-coming feature on their growing legacy, 11 years and counting!

THE BALLAD OF DIRTY DON stars 2009-10 IFV president Andrew Stengele in the title role, an outlaw conned by the Devil to sell his soul in order to hunt down the crooked sheriff (Victor Abson) and a pesky stranger (Andrew Nygard, writer-director and 2009-10 IFV vice president) for all eternity, although an unwitting barn owner (Michael Bach) may hold the key to Don’s ultimate undoing. The same characters squared off in Nygard’s prior ONCE UPON THE TIME IN THE MIDWEST under different alliances; fine tuned dry humor and confident visuals make this shoot-out the stronger one, albeit an acquired taste despite its “Midwestern” trappings. Note some familiar UI structures along the way:

Having twisted pop culture favorites like Spider-man, the Green Goblin, and Jigsaw in many YouTube-bound comedy videos, current UI student Jason Burgos and his clan collaborated with IFV two years ago on the hour-long Batman spoof THE DARK KNIGHT: NOT SO SERIOUS. They’ve dipped into the well again on their own with BATMAN REBOOTS, inexplicably throwing the Goblin into a BATMAN BEGINS pastiche that feels scaled down in scope and energy from the first adventure. “Dimly lit” not only describes the mustard videography, one of several tell-tale signs this is purely a done-for-fun side project, but also two of NOT SO SERIOUS’ main virtues brought back for REBOOTS – the blunt, knuckleheaded Bruce Wayne (Mark Hendricks) and a daft Commissioner Gordon (Dan Cohen) prone to silly walking:

Alas, REBOOTS stays true (enough) to the Christopher Nolan Bat-model that it leaves out the only thing consistently amusing in NOT SO SERIOUS – Burgos’ dedicated take on the late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. We’re simply not feeling it from the above trailer and have yet to test the full-length waters to see if we might be proven wrong. However, our next preview is nothing if not entertaining, audacious, and really fucking annoying if one actually stops to think about it. We may be inspired enough to check out the complete enchilada that is SLAUGHTER MASSACRE, a teen kill fest made in suburban Chicago by IFV events coordinator and UI sophomore A. Lawrence Dreyfuss:

Some may call it “Campy Horror 101.” Others might define it as “a fun excuse to team up hometown hotties in front of the camera.” The rest of us should only judge after we get a load of this in its entirety, but note that Dreyfuss is taking filmmaking classes at New York University this semester so his interests are more genuine than this slaughterific lark might lead one to believe. “Multi-talented” is surely the operative term for our next study buddy, Vanessa Prokuski, who recently began med school at Philadelphia’s Drexel University after finishing English and anthropology degrees at the UI. We must also mention her willing involvement with the IFV magnum opus, THE TRANSIENT, in order to possibly explain this:

Prokuski surely logs some street cred by writing and performing the song to which she raps, struts, winks, shimmies, and shakes her booty, all while sporting famously a neon lavender wig the likes of which we’ve seen somewhere around here before. The video itself, DOCTOR, operates like a manic byproduct of cabin fever and one too many whiffs of academia dust wafting across the Drexel College of Medicine’s book stacks; we enjoyed it anyway but will pass on using lab equipment to get our caffeine fix. The last choice is also our oldest and the lone non-comedic endeavor, created by UI students Mark Kendall, Giulia Mazza, and Kurt Werner for IFV’s “49 Hour Film Competition” in late 2008:

Even though BLACK BALLOON did not feature the cleverest methods of working in the competition’s “prompts” or win any awards at the final screening, your humble editor liked it best out of the entries because it employed classic cinematic language to describe a sensation if not tell a story. It also captures the stoic allure of our university far better in five minutes than nearly any other narrative we’ve seen that features campus as a backdrop or a more involved element. Where most projects made by students untrained in film production follow a very literal sequence of events – never mind the time-jump methodology popularized by Quentin Tarantino in PULP FICTIONBLACK BALLOON employs non-specific montage to move along an undergrad’s pursuit of his muse borne of words and music written long ago, yet little of it seems extraneous. Despite some flaws in pacing and soundtrack cues a bit heavy on Eighties synthesizers, BLACK BALLOON simply felt the most mature of the group.

~ Jason Pankoke

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