Every Freak Needs a Show: Polyvalent Subjectivity and a Local Underground Film Scene

  • Steve Bailey


On Friday, 6 November 1998 at the Canopy Club, a former first-run movie house that had recently been converted into a bar and live music venue in Urbana, Illinois, in the American Midwest, the Second Annual Freaky Film Festival presented three programs of experimental and avant-garde films. The first two programs, entitled ‘Love Sick Flix’ and ‘The Queer Experience’, centered upon romantic and sexual relationships, and gay and lesbian themes, respectively. The final program, ‘The Freaks Come Out at Night’, ran until nearly 2 a.m. and did not have the thematic coherency of the previous two, instead featuring five films dealing with a variety of horrifying, aberrant and unusual aspects of contemporary life. The headlining attraction, Affliction, by Chicago filmmaker Mark Hejnar, is a controversial documentary dealing with several figures on the very margins of contemporary culture, including the late punk rock performance artist G.G. Allin, jailed cartoonist Mike Diana and fanzine writer Full Force Frank. Despite (or perhaps because of) advertising cautioning, ‘WARNING!!! DO NOT ATTEND IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH!’, the program attracted a sizable crowd. The material was strong enough to provoke a fainting episode in one audience member and vomiting in others; it had previously raised legal concerns for Hejnar when he took the film abroad, and had to be smuggled into certain European countries for fear of customs violations.


Media Audience Custom Violation Cultural Formation Underground Cinema Audience Member 
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© Steve Bailey 2005

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  • Steve Bailey

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