Logan Square and Comfort Stations Independent MicroCinema. Screening local filmmakers, foreign, independent, cult, and classic films at Comfort Station.
Comfort Film Programming staff is made up of:
Raul Benitez Lead Film programmer.
Nando Espinosa Lead Film programmer.
Clare Manning Assistant Film programmer.
Emily Perez Assistant Film programmer.
For our second installment 2018’s Silent Movies and Loud Music series we welcome Side Hug, a local northside Chicago band as they soundtrack the Tod Browning classic West Of Zanzibar.
I had an opportunity to talk to Allan, Christian and Lyd about the formation of Side Hug and their upcoming performance on July 11th.
How did y’all become Side Hug?
L: We met working at an ice cream on the north side, called George’s Ice Cream and Sweets. Eventually Allan reached out and came to one of our shows in the winter so we added him as a guitarist this past year.
Does anyone still work there? Why the name Side Hug?
L: Not anymore! Our scoopin’ days are behind us. I think the name came to me because it seemed to describe us (hopefully Christian and Allan agree) as people - kind of awkward but well intentioned.
A: I agree with Lyd on the band name. I think we all kind of feel that way. Except maybe Christian because he’s just too damn cool in every way. I’m also glad to be in the band. I’ve wanted to play with Lyd and Christian since I first heard them play as Peru years ago.
So you weren’t always Side Hug?
L: We played under the name Peru for like a year but were still babies and played one show or somethin’.
What spurred the change?
L: Our bassist at the time and I were writing more songs and it took on kind of a different character than before. We used to play poppier stuff but since Allan’s come in our sound has changed a bit and the EP were recording soon is going to be more dreamier and a bit more complex which is exciting.
Any plans for your next release?
A: We don’t have any specific plans for the next EP yet. We’re still writing and getting to know the songs we have. But we’re excited to release something in the near future.
With recent EPs like dreamy indie pop, I asked Side Hug how they would categorize themselves. Generally, a dreaded question for any artist.
L: Probably close to a fusion of Gregorian chant music and polka. Just kidding. Genres are weird but maybe beachy garage rock?
A: I think I’d describe the sound as Indie-pop. Sometimes beachy, sometimes mellow and moody, and other times a little jazzy and upbeat. And the music is very clean with hardly any dirt or fuzzy distortion. And we have one of the better drummers in the scene. Which is dope.
Have you seen the Silent Movie and Loud Music series before?
L: We haven’t been to the series before but we’re planning on checking out the first movie in July!
Why West of Zanzibar?
L: Actually an ice cream flavor at our old ice cream store was called Zanzibar so we thought it was a sign, haha.
The original West of Zanzibar is a 1928 silent movie starring Lon Cheney as a paraplegic magician seeking revenge against his wife’s lover in Africa. It’s a relic of the silent era and a glimpse into what the threat magic, including voodoo looked like 90 years ago.
What’d you think of West of Zanzibar?
L: I think we all like it! Obviously it’s dated so it’s easy to note a lot of racially insensitive or problematic things but evil white dude loses in the end so that’s always a plus. Spoilers? Haha.
A: Lon Chaney is the man. He’s such a creepy actor, but he’s great.
What inspires you right now?
C: For me, my I find my inspiration in movies & documentaries about musicians. The Hired Gun, which is on Netflix and is about studio musicians - and of course Walk the Line.
Catch Side Hug’s original live score to West of Zanzibar, this Wednesday July 11th on the Comfort Station lawn at 8:30 pm, or whenever the sun goes down. This event, as always, is free - any donations collected go towards the artists.
Interview conducted by Emily Perez, Comfort Film Programs Assistant.
July 3rd at 8pm Comfort Film will host the first of 2018's long running series - Silent Films and Loud Music. Local bands create an original score to a silent film and perform live on the Comfort Station lawn. One of our most popular programs, we get to bring together local musicians and classic - sometimes forgotten - silent films. Every iteration of this series has revealed different story, and we continue this journey tonight with local synth band The Blood Sisters.
I got to ask Adam, Alex, Andrew and Mattie AKA the Blood Sisters about the formation of their group and their program.
Q: How did the Blood Sisters meet?
We all met each other over the course of the summer and fall of 2016. One person was friends with another who was friends with another person and so on. Before long we had started hanging out and playing music together.
Q: How did y’all become the blood sisters?
I’d say we were born that way.
Q: How did the band’s style evolve?
The four of us have been playing music together in our band Jungle Green with two other friends for about two years now, but have worked on other projects here and there, too. We are usually playing as a rock band but are often splitting into side projects to make short records or for one off performances like this. It’s a new thing for us to be using samplers and synthesizers as a four piece—but it keeps things fun and interesting.
Q: Who inspires you right now?
All of us have different taste, so it’s hard to say, but for this project I’d say some of us were drawing on William Basinski or Brian Eno while others were thinking about noisier music like Black Dice.
Q: Why The Phantom Carriage?
To be honest, the name caught our eye and the Wikipedia entry was interesting. We had never seen the film until playing along to it to prepare for the performance. We’re glad we picked it. It’s a great movie.
Q: Have you been to the loud music/silent movies at Comfort before? What made you want to play one?
None of us have, but it was a great opportunity to do something different while spending a summer night outside.
The Blood Sisters are Mattie Mcall, Adam Obermeier, Alex Heaney, Andrew Smith and you can see them and their synths - performing tonight on the Comfort Station lawn at 8:30 pm, for free. Check out their other work - as part of Jungle Green, here.
All donations collected will go directly to The Blood Sisters.
Joy in Sound, Beauty in Silence: A conversation with Chicago Latino Film Festival Programmer Maria Lopez
I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Maria Lopez, programmer of The Chicago Latino Film Festival, after the festival’s wrap this April, about her program The Joy of Sound / La Felicidad De Sonido (2016) and her current place in the film world.
Wednesday’s program features two submissions to the Chicago Latino Film Festival, Palenque (2018) and the La Felecidad del Sonido (2016) that were never included in the festival programming. Both are experimental documentaries taking place in small Latin American towns.
M: I think most people, when they think about Latin American cinema, they think about showing Argentinian and Mexican films, and it turns out that the films that do really well during the festival are those (films). When I have the opportunity to program these screenings, my own screenings, when I don’t have to keep the film festival on mind, I want to show people something that they’re not familiar with. Documentaries are a little hard to sell... so we don’t program too many of them (at the festival), but I’m a huge fan of them.
Palenque is a Colombian Film, about an Afrolatinx town, the first to be liberated from European rule. Though that is the subject, this is not an interrogatory piece, rather, modern life in Palenque is witnessed.
M: It’s becomes really hard to program a 25 minute film... I wrote the director (of Palenque) back when we were making decisions to let him know that I had his film in mind if any other opportunity come along. When asked (by Comfort film) to program something I immediately knew I wanted to program this short film.
Following Palenque is the titular presentation, The Joy of Sound. Similarly, the audience is thrust into the environment by way of music. The eccentricity of the Panamanian town is animated by its relationship to noise, including the softly played classical music played through a car stereo. On a mission to spread classical music, he hands free CDs out through his car window to anyone who wants one.
M: I immediately thought about The Joy of Sound, which is from Panama which is another place people don’t know much about - Panama and their film industry.
Ana Endara Mislov, the director, was a participant in the Chicago Latino film festival in 2014 with her film Reinas, about the Panamanian beauty pageant circuit.
M: The similarity in both of these films is that both of them are kind of snapshots into the lives of the inhabitants of these particular towns and cities. You never really gets clear sense of who these people who are you just get a snapshot of everyday life in these towns... I like to use the word “symphony”, and in the end you get to see these characters interact with each other. It reminds me of the anthropological films I used to watch in college.
Both films use sound as a language, to tell the story of a place and it’s as much about its audience as its inhabitants. Palenque brings the camera into the lives of these residents by gently keeping pace with them. There is no all seeing camera, no questions being asked, instead it chooses to be an observation of their everyday lives.
M: Both of these films make you start thinking about everyday sounds and the beauty in them... that’s a word that comes to mind because there’s a very magical aspect to them. When you think of a documentary you think of someone sitting in front of a screen talking, and it cuts to somebody else - there’s really none of that in either of these documentaries. They’re both very dreamlike, surreal films... The whole theme of this series is sound and how powerful sound is... there’s also beauty in silence as well .
I asked Maria about the difference in programming in these two vastly different worlds. It’s impossible to ignore the compromise that commercial filmmaking requires, and that applies to programming as well. It’s always struck me that Chicago’s larger film festivals include very little work out of Chicago.
M: At the end of the day, we’re trying to make a profit and we have to provide programming that will help. We have to put our own tastes aside and to really program what benefits the festival financially and what audiences will ultimately like.
I always like to ask curators about their impression of Chicago’s film scene and where they feel they fit within it. Their responses have ranged from inspired to disheartened. Maria sees herself an audience member, and an eager one.
M: I am absolutely grateful to be able to program for such a big festival as the Chicago Latino Film Festival but I’m also extremely grateful for organizations like Comfort Film that provide me that platform and that creative outlet to program films that I’m more passionate about. Sometimes I get to share things with audiences that don’t make it to the film festival or can’t.
An annual festival that happens over 3 weeks downtown, the audience the Chicago Latino Film Festival generates is vast and growing. 2018 marked its 34th anniversary.
M: I think it’s amazing that Chicago has such a diverse film scene, I think every year I discover a new film festival or a new film organization, I just recently discovered Southside Projections, which sounds absolutely incredible. It’s crazy to think that last year I had no idea. I’ve also started looking into filmfront in Pilsen which is not far from where I live. I had no idea that it existed! I’m grateful that Chicago has both sides of the coin... you have your really independent film venues and film organizations where you can catch free or experimental screenings of things you’ve never seen before.
I asked Maria about her current inspirations and what she’s been watching. Although she’s been taking a bit of a break since watching all of the festival programming, she mentioned a few memorable things she’s seen recently. This past weekend she watched the HBO documentary Being Serena (2017) as well as I am Evidence (2017) , a documentary about thousands of untested rape kits that go ignored in the US criminal justice system. Maria mentioned the act of sharing movies, specifically documentaries, as an immediate and beautiful way to communicate.
M: Right now I’m really inspired by documentaries, and have been watching as many as I can. I’ve always been a fan of documentary filmmaking since taking a documentary filmmaking class in college, I don’t necessarily want to make them... but in this class I learned to appreciate the genre and it made me realize how powerful documentary films can be.
Another film Maria mentioned was Haiti, My Love (2016) a part of the 2017 festival, and one she wanted to program again, here at Comfort Film.
M: The term I would use is magical realism to describe what it looked like and felt like. It wasn’t a a documentary but it felt like it - it looked like real people in a real town and the camera follows their everyday life... you don’t get to see a lot of films out of Haiti.
The film had low turnout at its screening as part of the Chicago Latino film festival. Maria expects this was due to a lack of audience familiarity with Haitian cinema.
Maria’s optimism and faith in cinema came from her childhood - which sparked an interest that never faded.
M: I got into film when I was a kid, I had a big family, 4 other sisters - so it wasn’t possible to take us all to the movies. We went to a small mom and pop video store that was a couple blocks from my house where we’d walk over and rent a movie each. Growing up, my dad was always watching films and it was due to him that I was exposed to black and white Mexican golden age films of the 40s and 50s.
Just wanting to spend time with him, I would sit and watch them and I began to appreciate the photography. I have a very early memory of watching one of those movies with him, it was María Félix, and thinking she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen! I think that’s what sparked my appreciation for film, having this weekend tradition with my dad. As I got older, I started going into the other sections of the video store... looking up directors, using the library to do more research. I knew in high school that I wanted to study film, I tried filmmaking and in college and I’m glad I did... I realized pretty early on that I enjoyed watching films more than making them and that’s one of the things that drove me to volunteer for the Chicago Latino film festival. That’s one thing I always knew I wanted to be involved in. I’m very proud of being Mexican and Latina and I always want to share my culture and Latin American cinema with people. I started volunteering in 2008, and interning 2009... it became a joke that I was a forever intern because I wouldn’t stop coming in.
In 2012 Maria started working officially working for the festival in an official capacity.
Catch Maria’s program for free (as always) this Wednesday May 23, at 8pm at 2579 N Milwaukee Ave, Comfort Station.