now screening

Roy's World:
Barry Gifford's Chicago

David Lynch:
"Barry Gifford is a

killer f**kin' writer ...

Roy's World captures his childhood and that time in Chicago, and many other places. I really enjoyed watching it and then contemplating what goes on inside a person with this history. I really love that world and the things that can happen there."

A documentary by Rob Christopher narrated by Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor

About the Film

Barry Gifford is one of America’s greatest storytellers. His work includes the novel Wild at Heart, which was adapted by David Lynch into a Palme d’Or-winning film, and dozens of other screenplays, novels and books of poetry and essays. In a series of autobiographical stories spanning more than forty years he has chronicled the adventures of Roy, a boy coming of age largely on the gritty streets of 1950s Chicago.

In Roy’s World: Barry Gifford's Chicago, excerpts from the Roy stories performed by Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon, and Lili Taylor are interwoven with Gifford’s recollections of his childhood. Fusing vintage footage and photographs of Chicago with animated sequences and an evocative jazz score by Jason Adasiewicz, Roy’s World presents an impressionistic portrait of a vanished world.

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Acting as an introduction to the city of Chicago, this clip features the voices of Barry Gifford and Matt Dillon.


Barry Gifford

​The author of more than forty works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, which have been translated into more than thirty languages, Barry Gifford writes distinctly American stories for readers around the globe. From screenplays, poetry, and librettos to his acclaimed Sailor and Lula novels (which include Wild at Heart), Gifford’s writing is as distinctive as it is difficult to classify. Born in Chicago while his parents were living at the Seneca Hotel, he also spent time in Havana, Key West, and New Orleans while growing up. This varied geography proved significant: throughout his career, Gifford’s fiction is born of the clash between what he has referred to as his “Northern Side” and “Southern Side.” Gifford has been recipient of awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, and the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. He was also awarded Italy's Premio Brancati. After David Lynch adapted his novel Wild at Heart for film, the two collaborated again for Lost Highway and Hotel Room. Gifford lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Stories drawn from The Roy Stories and The Cuban Club (both published by Seven Stories Press) are featured in Roy's World. A new collection of Roy stories was published in conjunction with the documentary in 2020.

Willem Dafoe


​A four-time Academy Award nominee, most recently for his role as artist Vincent van Gogh in the Julian Schnabel film At Eternity’s Gate, Willem Dafoe has appeared in more than a hundred films, contributing unforgettable performances to Platoon, The Last Temptation of Christ, Light Sleeper, eXistenZ, The Boondock Saints, Spider-Man, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Shadow of the Vampire, The Florida Project, and many others. His association with Barry Gifford began in 1990 when he played the psychopath Bobby Peru in David Lynch's film of Wild at Heart. Dafoe and Gifford both appeared in the documentary Nelson Algren Live. In 2018 he was awarded an Honorary Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, recognizing his life’s work.

Matt Dillon


Since making his feature film debut in 1979's Over the Edge, Matt Dillon has won wide acclaim for his performances in such films as The Outsiders, Drugstore Cowboy, Singles, There's Something About Mary, and Crash, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He previously appeared with Lili Taylor in Factotum. He plays a serial killer in Lars von Trier's film The House That Jack Built. In 2002 he co-wrote (with Barry Gifford) and directed the film City of Ghosts. His next film as director, a documentary about Cuban music titled El Gran Fellove, was completed in 2020.

Lili Taylor


​Lili Taylor, born in Glencoe, Illinois, has dozens of film and TV roles to her credit. Notable for her appearances in such award-winning indie films as Say Anything..., Dogfight, Short Cuts, and I Shot Andy Warhol, for which she received a Special Recognition award at the Sundance Film Festival, her other films include Public Enemies, The Conjuring, and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. She previously appeared with Matt Dillon in the film Factotum. For television, she has starred in Six Feet Under, Hemlock Grove, Almost Human and both seasons of the anthology series American Crime; for the latter, she received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie nomination.

Rob Christopher

director + producer

​Rob Christopher wrote, directed, and starred in the acclaimed fiction feature Pause of the Clock, which had its World Premiere at the Denver Film Festival in 2015 and screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2016. In January 2017 it was nominated for “Best Chicago Film” by the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He wrote the introduction to the young adult edition of Sad Stories of the Death of Kings by Barry Gifford and edited several Roy stories for publication on the website Chicagoist. He is also author of the book Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie and has written articles for such publications as the Chicago Reader and American Libraries. His film writing frequently appears in Cine-File Chicago.

Michael Glover Smith


​Michael Glover Smith is a filmmaker, writer, and teacher. His debut feature film as director, Cool Apocalypse, won multiple awards at film festivals across the United States, screened at the prestigious Gene Siskel Film Center and is distributed on DVD by Emphasis Entertainment. His second film, Mercury in Retrograde, won "Best Narrative Feature" at the Full Bloom Festival and continues to play the festival circuit. Flickering Empire, his first book, is an acclaimed nonfiction study of the silent film industry in Chicago. He teaches film history and aesthetics at several Chicago-area colleges and is the founder and author of the film blog White City Cinema. His most recent film as director is Rendezvous in Chicago, which won the Best Film Comedy award at the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival and the Best Comedy award at the Strasburg Film Festival.

John Otterbacher

consulting producer

John Otterbacher has mainly worked as a producer, cinematographer, and post-coordinator specializing in independent film, TV, and new media. As a college instructor he has taught at several institutions, including Flashpoint Chicago. He has worked with and been on the board of a number of not-for-profit organizations, including IFP Chicago and the Grand Rapids Film Festival, and he is currently a member of the Education Advisory Committee for Cinema/Chicago and the Creative Cabinet for the Independent Filmmaker Association. He is the producer of Moving Parts, his fourth narrative feature, which is now available on streaming and DVD. His other recent projects include producer on Nearest Neighbors and director/producer on Officially Limited. He is also developing his next feature narrative, an as yet untitled film which focuses on water usage and is set in the Grand Canyon, with Moving Parts collaborator Emilie Upczak.

Jason Adasiewicz

soundtrack composer + performer

​Jason Adasiewicz is a vibraphonist and composer. His music for Roy’s World is his first film score. Performing with him on the soundtrack are Jon Doyle (sax, clarinet); Josh Berman (cornet); Joshua Abrams (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums). An integral member of Chicago’s jazz and improvised music scene, Adasiewicz brings his aggressive yet lyrical style to over 10 working Chicago groups, including Rob Mazurek’s Starlicker and Exploding Star Orchestra, Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly, Peter Brotzmann:Jason Adasiewicz Duo, Josh Berman and His Gang, Ingebrigt Häker Flaten Chicago Sextet, James Falzone’s Klang, and Ken Vandermark’s Topology and Midwest School. He won the 2011 Downbeat Annual Critics Poll in the Rising Star Vibes category. The Starlicker (with Rob Mazurek and John Herndon) album Double Demon (Delmark 2011) was named by the New York Times as a Top 10 Pop and Jazz Record of 2011 and the Los Angeles Times as a Top 10 Jazz Record of 2011. He has regularly performed, in multiple contexts, at the Chicago Jazz Festival. 

Marianna Milhorat


​Marianna Milhorat is a Montréal-based filmmaker whose work has screened internationally at numerous festivals, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Images Festival. Her short film Sky Room, originally commissioned by Chicago Film Archives, screened at the 2018 Onion City Film Festival. Her work has received awards at festivals including the Images Festival, EXIS (Ex-Now), and the Chicago Underground Film Festival. She received her MFA from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2012 and BFA from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinéma at Concordia University in 2007. Working in film and video, she utilizes landscape and duration to disrupt and transform notions of space and perspective. 

Lilli Carré


Lilli Carré is an artist, filmmaker, and cartoonist. Her films have shown in festivals throughout the US and abroad, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Animator Festival Poznan Poland, European Media Arts Festival, The Ann Arbor Film Festival, International Festival Rotterdam, and the Punto y Raya Film Festival. In 2010 she co-founded the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, which is held annually in Chicago, LA, and NYC, with additional curated programs presented internationally throughout the year. Her comics and illustration work have appeared in the New Yorker, The New York Times, Best American Comics, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. Solo exhibitions of her drawing, animation, and sculpture have shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Western Exhibitions, and the Columbus Museum of Art.

Kevin Eskew


Originally hailing from Indianapolis, Kevin attended the Animation Program at DePaul University in Chicago. He currently lives in Los Angeles. His short film Still Life screened at the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival. His most recent projects include animated segments for Gus Van Sant’s 2018 film Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, a biopic about quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan which starred Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black.

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​This project is partially supported by an Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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