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Curtis James Matzke

Curtis Matzke is an Emmy-nominated director, screenwriter, and producer. As the founder of Unfurnished Films, Curtis has contributed to numerous short films, documentaries, and micro-budget features. His work has been recognized at dozens of film festivals, including Cinequest, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, and Chicago International. He is the recipient of a professional development grant from the Illinois Arts Council and recently had a documentary project fiscally sponsored by Film Independent. He has also served as a judge for the Academy-qualifying Chicago Children’s International Film Festival and is a reader for the Austin Film Festival Writer’s Competition. In 2021, Curtis joined a select group of international filmmakers in the Canary Islands where they were mentored by legendary director Werner Herzog on their new short projects. Curtis holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Media Arts and Technology from Michigan State University with a concentration in Television, Cinema, and Radio, a minor in Film Studies, and a Specialization in Design.


"Recuperación de los Caídos" is a Spanish-language film created as part of Werner Herzog's Filming a Strange Planet accelerator program that took place in the Fall of 2021 in the Canary Islands. I had the pleasure of being one of a select group of international professional filmmakers to participate in the program. Mr. Herzog assigned us the topic of filming on a strange planet upon arrival and we had to find locations, cast, shoot, and edit the film in merely a few days under the guidance and mentorship of the esteemed German director, who described the film as "well-acted and mysterious." 

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Recovery of the Fallen (Recuperación de los Caídos)

A lone man wanders a barren landscape on a foreign planet, salvaging items off of bodies that have fallen to the surface. Recuperación de los Caídos was shot and produced in the Canary Islands under the advice and mentorship of director Werner Herzog.


Filmed as part of Werner Herzog's Filming a Strange Planet accelerator program in the Canary Islands. Writer/director is Chicago-based and one of less than a dozen Americans who participated in the program. Additional post-production completed by Chicago artists to finalize color, sound, and score.

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In the mysterious and haunting world Curtis Matzke creates in RECOVERY OF THE FALLEN, refugees from an uninhabitable world find themselves stranded in a barren and unforgiving landscape. It's a vision of Earth's future that rings eerily true as we wrestle with mounting and devastating effects of a warming climate. For information about what Chicagoans can do to combat climate change in the here and now, visit Chicago Community Climate Partnership.

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To get to know Curtis Matzke and his work, visit his company Unfurnished Films.


As a collective we tend to look around at the world we have and find ourselves so often disappointed by the landscape that it's hard to imagine any other possibility. While looking through the bleakest lens, it seems safe to assume that the multiple failings across the globe is just what the future holds. Our media is so consumed by this “eventuality”, that for about a solid decade in the early part of the 21st century dystopian films, shows and games reigned and if you didn’t have a bug out plan, then what were you really doing with your future. Though the trend has passed the sentiment is still lingering and has given way to a resigned acceptance that is beautifully captured in this poetic film. RECOVERY OF THE FALLEN unfolds as a musing on the end of the world and whether or not that’s as bad as it may seem. Set years into the near future, a no name Salvager reflects on his time on a desolate world that becomes home after the growing acceptance that the dying Earth was no longer a viable option. As this sad truth spread, almost like a gift from the Universe, portals to unknown realms open across the world and in humanity’s desperation or optimism people took to them in waves not knowing what awaited on the other side. Everyone’s entry into these new worlds are the same…you fall. And either you survive or are…recovered. Despite the seeming cruelty of this randomness, Salvager holds on to hope. What else can one do in uncertain times in an uncertain world? What else can push us forward, beyond our mistakes and into a future that at least has the chance to be better than our past? It is now and always will be, hope.

Joyy Norris is a Chicago born and reared freelance creative and writer. Her work is significantly influenced by her identity as a Black American woman invested in discovering solutions to the issues that plague society through art, conversation and imagination. She finds value in these pursuits through the dynamic and effective forms of documentary film and podcasting. Producing stories on heritage, personal enrichment and just chatting it up through an agency-driven lens, defines her work in media.

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