Computer Chess

Director: Andrew Bujalski
Screenwriters: Andrew Bujalski

Institute History

  • 2013 Sundance Film Festival


“Is there a computer program in the house which can stand up against a human chess master?” That’s the question posed by mastermind of the game Pat Henderson, head of an annual computer chess tournament. Set in 1980 in a nondescript hotel, Computer Chess follows several young geniuses as they try to make the ultimate chess program to beat a human player. As the nerdy guys sweat through various social situations (especially with the one girl there), and the convention overlaps with a group of new-age couples in therapy, things get really strange.

Writer/director Andrew Bujalski has created a playful, emotionally resonant period piece bolstered by keen aesthetics, which launches us back into the awkward and uncertain time when the hopeful wave of the ’60s and ’70s was about to crest into the Reagan ’80s. As high-definition video tries to replicate film while threatening to lose all of its original nuances, Bujalski brings the beauty and contrast of early PortaPak video techniques back from the landfill. As his characters mind-meld over one weekend, the humorous film captures a deeper feeling of a bygone era that is nevertheless extremely relevant in today’s technology-obsessed world. People just want to connect with one another, even if they are trying to make an artificial brain.

(Archives note: see also Andrew Bujalski's Meet The Artist interview on our YouTube Channel.)

— M. P.

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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