Patch Work: Urban life and New Meaning with Eli Rudavsky

A still from Ramón Rivera Moret's "Mal de Ojo."

A still from Ramón Rivera Moret's "Mal de Ojo."

This week at Comfort Film we welcome Eli Rudavsky as our Guest Curator and his screening Patch Work a series of shorts on urban life and finding new meaning. I got to talk to Eli about patching together ideas, urban life and meeting Peter Kuttner. From New York but embracing Chicago Eli is an employee of Community TV network, a graduate student from University of Chicago and a filmmaker. 

Eli: l shot a film 2 summers ago called Seedie’s boy’s, the first film that I really made, which I’m going to show. One of the things I thought about in relation to the idea for this series, which is Patch Work, one of the things I do in the film is I incorporate old footage. [The footage] is actually from a film my dad made a long time ago... there were certain spaces that kind of needed to be filled - shots of a Woman’s face and of people’s hands - I looked through an old film of my dad’s and found these shots. I was able to patch areas that needed to be patched in my film. It was a long editing process where I had to change the narrative a lot. I made a lot of mistakes as a writer and as a director.

Em: This was your first film?

Eli: This was my first narrative film. 

Em: What is the common thread in these films?

Eli: I just thought that that fit into this idea of trying to craft a narrative out of something that’s not built for narrative. None of these films really have a clear narrative arc.

Eli: Originally when I wrote this story it was about one thing and that really changed. It’s about this girl named Seedie who has her old boyfriend, her current lover and her grandfather who she’s talking to. I was originally interested in the relationships between the men in the film. I was interested in jealousy, in old relationships. It ended up being very different, it ended up being much more about the protagonist. I was trying to craft it and figure out what this film is about. The focus of the film changed entirely when I started editing. 

I wanted some image of her absent mother, I felt that her mother was absent from the film. That’s when I turned to this archival footage. I turned to this image of a woman’s face, of a house with the lights on and a person’s hands sorting through jewelry. They were all small shots but I thought they lent some emotional grounding to the film. The relationship between Seedie and her mother. It became more about her longing for a parent. 

Em: I was going to ask if they’re specifically urban films. 

Eli:  I think a lot of them are about the tension between urban spaces and park or rural spaces. A park is a green space in the city so kind of an in between space in the city. The film that I made takes place in The Bronx and also in a rock Quarry. There are a lot of quarries on the east coast that have been filled with water and you can go swimming in, like limestone quarries. They are also kind of spaces that are on the line between urban and natural because they have the rockiness of the city and the concrete but they also have the trees and you can swim in them. I guess there’s several films about cities and the line between cities and nature. 

Em: Did you have a strategy for organizing the films?

Eli: I think to some extent it’s going to be practical, what’s kind of awkward and narrative and what’s kind of straight forward and funny. I want to make sure there’s a good balance. I’m worried that the film that I made is a little sappy, so I’m going to show it next to something that I think is totally unsentimental. I also want to focus on the play between places. I want to start by showing the film of the girls watching the film to locate the audience in a movie theatre. 

The film in the Dan Ryan forest preserve, the film in Corona park, Queens and my film that takes place in the Bronx, I think I’m going to show those in some order because I think they all relate to each other in dealing with the urban and natural setting and blurring those lines. Also, looking at what a fictional depiction of a park in The Bronx looks like and what a real depiction of Queens looks like in a documentary.

Eli: I definitely still think of New York as my home, New York is a big influence on me and also in my work. The short film I made is about being young in New York City, I think. The longer projects that I’m working on actually take place in New York. The feeling of being young and unsure in New York.

Mikki Ferrill,  Never A Lovely So Real,  May 2018-October 2018

Mikki Ferrill, Never A Lovely So Real, May 2018-October 2018

Em: What’s your impression of the film scene in Chicago?

Eli: I’m a total newcomer. Definitely my first step into this world at all was by working at Community TV Network. Because they’ve been around forever, many people who’ve been interested in filmmaking at all, documentary or social justice filmmaking... I remember I went to see this exhibition at the art institute called Never a Lovely So Real, a film and photography exhibit - and I saw this Kartempquin film about the expansion of DePaul university - 

Em: Was it Now we live on Clifton?

Eli: It was! There are all these great early Chicago films that I started getting interested in. Fast forward to a couple months later, I got hired at Community TV Network for a very part time gig, this guy in the Office named Peter Kuttner - I didn’t quite know who he was - I went out for coffee with him and it turns out he made Now we Live on Clifton.

Eli’s program Patch Work will screen tonight, May 22 at 8pm at Comfort Film. Thanks to Eli and the rest of the guest curators as we conclude our Guest curator series. Join us next week as we show Galaxy Lords on the Comfort Station Lawn. 

Interview by Emily Perez.

Comfort Station