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A film fest aimed  at social change

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When: Friday through Sunday

Where: Meztli Gallery, 2005 S. Blue Island

Tickets: $5-$10 per day, sliding-scale donation with no one turned away due to lack of funds


Updated: May 28, 2013 7:28PM

Sabotage was once symbolized by a black cat in posters issued by the radical union the Industrial Workers of the World. For its three-day “Lucky 13th” edition of screenings, the Chicago Anarchist Film Festival adopts this agitator feline as its mascot. The festival aims to “present the works of un- and under-distributed filmmakers worldwide, who are engaged in providing radical entertainment, documenting social change and projecting a world that could be.”

Videos come from Brazil, British Columbia and Bulgaria. Jorge Alva-Huerto’s “No to NATO!” reports on last year’s protest in Chicago. “I don’t fool myself that our festival can correct mainstream images,” says organizer Rachel Azzarello. “But it might begin to dismantle images of anarchists the state creates.”

Presented with the Four Star Anarchist group, the deftly curated fest will screen shorts and features at the Meztli Gallery and Cultural Organization. This Pilsen nonprofit, named after an Aztec deity, hosted the First Nations Film and Video Festival earlier in April.

For the last screening Sunday, the fest relocates to Logan Square for Punk Rock Karaoke, a sing-along benefit at Township, 2200 N. California.


7 p.m.: “Sabotage by the State” includes “Cointelpro 101,” a history lesson about the FBI’s counterintelligence program to neutralize protest movements in the ’60s. This 56-minute documentary from San Francisco will be screened with DIY videos that anarchists made to record their resistance to grand jury subpoenas in Oregon and Washington.

One resistor, Leah-Lynn Plante from Portland, Ore., proclaims on camera: “The state thinks it’s a black hole that can destroy whatever it wants; in reality, it is much more like a stellar nursery wherein it unintentionally creates strong anarchist stars.” After her stint in solitary confinement, her comrades suspect, that same state created a snitch.

9:30 p.m.: “Sabotage as Direct Action” features “Just Do It: A Tale of Modern-Day Outlaws,” a highly recommended documentary that DOC Films screened last fall. Adopting the anthropologist’s role of participant-observer, Emily James chronicles three direct-action groups in England. The young protesters are appealing, articulate and admirable. “Change the Politics, Not the Climate” reads one banner. “This is not something I can know and then not do anything about,” states Lily, an environmental activist. “I have to do something.” Remarkably, in a refreshing touch, there is hardly any theorizing. Like her subjects, James empowers and entertains without contradiction.

Also screening is “The Action Camp: Indigenous Resistance,” a nine-minute report by Frank Lopez on a First Nations protest against the proposed Pacific Trail Pipeline in Canada, as the Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suet’en Nation welcome white activists into their struggle.


5:30 p.m.: “Ghosts With S--- Jobs” is a devastating satire that imagines North America as a cheap labor pool for China in the year 2040. Jim Munrue and his Toronto co-directors frame this fake documentary as a Chinese TV report on “jobs that no one in China do.” After recent Chicago screenings of the real documentaries “Death by China” and “Unmade in China,” this sci-fi exercise rips a roster of stereotypes. The title comes from gweillo, Cantonese slang for “white ghosts,” a slur for white people and non-Chinese.

A former Adbusters editor, Munroe is a graphic novelist who once set two Rapture-themed works in Palatine and Chicago. He will appear for a Q&A at his screening and might elaborate on the occupations he forecasts: digital janitors, robotic baby assemblers, human spammers and silk-gatherers stalking giant mutant spiders.

Bill Stamets is a Chicago free-lance writer and reviewer.

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