Matt Damon to receive Gene Siskel Renaissance Award at special event

The Gene Siskel Film Center at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago announced that actor, producer and screenwriter Matt Damon will be honored with the Film Center’s Renaissance Award during a special event on Saturday, June 25, at 8 p.m. During the event, Damon will be interviewed in a live, virtual conversation led by Gene Siskel Film … Continue reading “Matt Damon to receive Gene Siskel Renaissance Award at special event”

Gene Siskel Center presents Black Harvest Film Festival prize

The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago announces the 2021 winners of the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize. Cash prize awarded to both the best feature film and best short film at the 27th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, as selected by a … Continue reading “Gene Siskel Center presents Black Harvest Film Festival prize”

Gene Siskel Center and Midwest Film Festival partner on MFF 2021 season

The Gene Siskel Film Center will partner with the Midwest Film Festival (MFF) as the host venue for the MFF 2021 film lineup. The partnership, which was set to roll out in early 2020 but delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, will kick off Saturday, October 2, at 6pm, with a celebratory event and screening ofthe … Continue reading “Gene Siskel Center and Midwest Film Festival partner on MFF 2021 season”

Conversations at the Edge: Fall Season at Gene Siskel Center

Conversations at the Edge’s fall 2021 calendar begins Thursday, September 23 with a season of virtual and in-person screenings and talks by groundbreaking media artists. All virtual events are free, open to the public, and take place on the Gene Siskel Film Center’s virtual cinema platform and Zoom. All theatrical screenings take place at the Gene Siskel … Continue reading “Conversations at the Edge: Fall Season at Gene Siskel Center”

Award-winning The Road Up screening at Gene Siskel Film Center

The Road Up, the inspiring documentary feature from Siskel/Jacobs Productions (No Small Matter, Louder Than a Bomb) will open October 8 at Gene Siskel Film Center.  The Road Up returns to Chicago following a successful film festival run, including the world premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. The … Continue reading “Award-winning The Road Up screening at Gene Siskel Film Center”

Barbara Scharres retires from Gene Siskel Film Center

After more than 45 years of service, Barbara Scharres (MFA 1972) will retire from her position as Director of Programming at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center. For over four decades, Scharres has played a critical role in determining the conceptual vision of the organization, establishing numerous landmark programs … Continue reading “Barbara Scharres retires from Gene Siskel Film Center”

Chicago-Made doc screens at Gene Siskel Film Center

The Gene Siskel Film Center will host virtual screenings of the new locally-produced documentary “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm” beginning Friday, August 14. Set on an idyllic family farm in Central Illinois, “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm” (USA, 83 minutes) follows organic farmer Henry Brockman as he grapples with the future of farming … Continue reading “Chicago-Made doc screens at Gene Siskel Film Center”

Gene Siskel Film Center’s Jean de St. Aubin gets set for big star-studded fundraising gala June 2

WHO SHE IS: As executive director since 2003, de St. Aubin oversees programming and initiatives of the 35-year-old Gene Siskel Film center of the School of the Art Institute.

Film festivals and other events are sprinkled amid regular weekly screenings. At their annual gala June 2, John Mahoney will lead a discussion with Oscar-nominated William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Later in the month, June 14-17, the center will host Chicago Filmmakers’ 19th Annual Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival.

David Mamet set to direct film on Chicago mobster’s role in death of JFK

Academy Award nominated director David Mamet is set to helm the film 2 Days, 1963, a story recounting the events that took place during the 48 hours preceding the assassination of President John F Kennedy. The drama is scripted by Chicago native Nicholas Celozzi who reveals that his great-uncle, notorious Chicago mobster Sam Giancana, engineered … Continue reading “David Mamet set to direct film on Chicago mobster’s role in death of JFK”

CFA Media Mixer pairs visual and sound artists in three new pieces

Chicago Film Archives (CFA) celebrates the 10th anniversary of their annual Media Mixer event with the premiere of three new pieces. The Media Mixer project started in 2012 as a way to open up CFA’s vault of archival footage to artists working in media, and to support the creation of a new video work by … Continue reading “CFA Media Mixer pairs visual and sound artists in three new pieces”

Chicago filmmaker Michael Smith premieres fourth feature at Siskel Center

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center will co-present the world theatrical premiere of Chicago filmmaker Michael Smith’s fourth feature film, Relative. Screenings will be held at the Film Center on Friday, June 10 at 7pm; Wednesday, June 15 at 8pm and Thursday, June 16 at 8:15pm. Each screening will … Continue reading “Chicago filmmaker Michael Smith premieres fourth feature at Siskel Center”

Midwest Film Festival hosts the Midwest Premiere of Code of the Freaks

Midwest Film Festival‘s (MFF) June First Tuesdays event will feature Salome Chasnoff‘s Code of the Freaks. This documentary challenges the realism of Hollywood’s portrayals of disabled people throughout decades of western filmmaking. On June 7th we hope you will join us for an important conversation and examination. The feature film will be accompanied by the … Continue reading “Midwest Film Festival hosts the Midwest Premiere of Code of the Freaks”

Midwest Film Festival presents Alternative Takes for May’s First Tuesdays

The Midwest Film Festival (MFF) presents Alternative Takes for May’s upcoming First Tuesdays event. This collection of nine short films offer distinct atmospheres, each with their own unique point of view. The selection features a range of dark humor, heartfelt expressions, and a mix of experiences for the senses. May 3rd will be a one-of-a-kind … Continue reading “Midwest Film Festival presents Alternative Takes for May’s First Tuesdays”

Kartemquin Films announces a substantial commitment of support

The non-profit documentary filmmaking organization Kartemquin Films announced a substantial commitment from Peng Zhao, CEO of Citadel Securities, and his wife, Cherry Chen, to support AAPI documentarians and the development of high-impact stories that reflect the varied experiences of their communities. “Documentaries have the power to open our eyes to new perspectives,” said Peng Zhao … Continue reading “Kartemquin Films announces a substantial commitment of support”

Midwest Film Festival presents Relative a film by Michael Glover Smith

The Midwest Film Festival (MFF) presents its second entry of their 2022 season. On Tuesday, April 5, at 7 pm, MFF will host an hour-long networking soiree before featuring the Midwest premiere of Michael Glover Smith’s feature-length film: Relative at 8 pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center. This screening will be followed by a … Continue reading “Midwest Film Festival presents Relative a film by Michael Glover Smith”

Chicago Filmmakers announces competition programs for Onion City Festival

Chicago Filmmakers announces the competition programs for the 32nd Onion City Experimental Film + Video Festival, which will take place March 31 to April 3. The five competition programs will feature 35 short films exploring themes of digital media production, politics of memory, and the value of physical spaces from the United States, France, Canada, South … Continue reading “Chicago Filmmakers announces competition programs for Onion City Festival”

25th Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival begins this week

As the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center prepares for its 25th Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF), they pause to pay tribute to the people of the Ukraine. Our thoughts and hearts turn to Ukraine as we prepare to open our 25th EU Film Fest: Ways to Help … Continue reading “25th Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival begins this week”

Watch the winning films from the 2021 Best of The Midwest Awards

Midwest Film Festival is kicking off the 2022 season with a screening featuring the winning films from The 2021 Best of The Midwest Awards!   With stories that range from comedy to documentary to experimental, the Best of the Midwest Showcase will have something for everybody. 2021 Best of The Midwest screening will begin Tuesday, March 1st … Continue reading “Watch the winning films from the 2021 Best of The Midwest Awards”

Interview: Director Kamelya Alexan winner of the MFF Empowerment Award

Director and self-proclaimed wearer of many hats, Kamelya Alexan won the Empowerment Award at the 2022 Midwest Film Festival’s Best of the Midwest Awards, for her short, Changing The Disciple. It is the story of Shango Johnson, a former gang leader born on the south side of Chicago, who wanted something more out of life … Continue reading “Interview: Director Kamelya Alexan winner of the MFF Empowerment Award”

Power of the Dog, Dune lead Chicago Indie Critics noms

The Chicago Indie Critics have announced the nominees for their sixth annual film awards. Leading all films with nine nominations is Netflix’s The Power of the Dog, directed by Best Director nominee Jane Campion. The dramatic western also received nominations for Best Studio Film, Best Actor for Benedict Cumberbatch, Best Supporting Actor for Kodi Smit-McPhee, Best Supporting … Continue reading “Power of the Dog, Dune lead Chicago Indie Critics noms”

Gotham announces winners of Focus Features and JetBlue

The Gotham Film & Media Institute announced the winners of its third annual Focus Features & JetBlue Student Short Film Showcase. The five winning filmmakers of the third annual Focus Features & JetBlue Student Short Film Showcase are Evan Bode (Thine Own Self, Syracuse University), Jorge G. Camarena (Spaceship, American Film Institute), Akanksha Chawla (Close … Continue reading “Gotham announces winners of Focus Features and JetBlue”

Full festival schedule for the 27th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center announces the full festival schedule for its 27th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, which will take place both virtually and in person at the Gene Siskel Film Center from November 5 through December 2. The festival’s month-long showcase of Black stories will feature … Continue reading “Full festival schedule for the 27th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival”

Chicago International Film Festival announces full lineup of 57th edition

The Chicago International Film Festival announced the full lineup of its 57th edition, running October 13 – 24, 2021. This year’s Festival expands across the City, with screenings at AMC River East 21, Music Box Theatre, Gene Siskel Film Center, drive-in screenings at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen, and neighborhood pop-up screenings at Bronzeville’s historic Parkway … Continue reading “Chicago International Film Festival announces full lineup of 57th edition”

The Chicago International Film Festival announces Opening Night film

The Chicago International Film Festival announced the opening night film at its Opening Night at the Drive-In presentation, and more highlights of the 57th edition, running October 13 – 24, 2021. This year, the Festival expands to venues across Chicago, including AMC River East 21; the Music Box Theatre; and the Gene Siskel Film Center; … Continue reading “The Chicago International Film Festival announces Opening Night film”

Siskel Center names L’Soft as Black Harvest associate programmer

The Gene Siskel Film Center has named L’Soft (they/them) as its Black Harvest Film Festival Associate Programmer.  In this new position for the Film Center, created with the aim of growing the Festival’s programming team and ensuring a thoughtfully and collaboratively curated lineup, L’Soft will work in tandem with Film Center Director of Programming Rebecca Fons and … Continue reading “Siskel Center names L’Soft as Black Harvest associate programmer”

Full Spectrum Features announces selections for Chicagoland Shorts

Full Spectrum Features (FSF) announces the films and filmmakers selected to take part in Chicagoland Shorts Vol. 7, an annual short film collection featuring boundary-pushing, emerging filmmakers from around Chicago. The world premiere will take place at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Thursday September 2 at 7PM. Chicagoland Shorts Vol. 7 includes:“35” by Eseoghene … Continue reading “Full Spectrum Features announces selections for Chicagoland Shorts”

Chicago filmmakers’ Monuments opens at Siskel Center

This Friday, June 4, is the exclusive Chicago streaming engagement of Monuments, from local filmmaker and Gene Siskel Film Center alum Jack C. Newell (Open Tables, 42 Grams), and Chicago Producer, Angie Gaffney (Executive Director of the Chicago Independent Film Alliance). The road film, featuring many Chicago landmarks and faces, stars David Sullivan (Primer, Flaked, Sharp Objects) as a college … Continue reading “Chicago filmmakers’ Monuments opens at Siskel Center”

Running the festival circuit with Midwest Film Festival

Join The Midwest Film Festival exclusively on Facebook Live on Tuesday, February 9th from 6 PM – 7 PM CST for a panel conversation led by industry pros. They’ll share their vast knowledge and experience in running the festival circuit and the success they’ve had. All attendees who register via Eventbrite will automatically be entered to win … Continue reading “Running the festival circuit with Midwest Film Festival”

Gotham winner ‘Identifying Features’ comes to Siskel

The acclaimed, gripping Mexican border thriller from debut Mexican filmmaker Fernanda Valadez, Identifying Features, will open January 22 with Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center Virtual Cinema. Middle-aged Magdalena (Mercedes Hernandez) has lost contact with her son after he took off with a friend from their town of Guanajuato to cross the border into the U.S., … Continue reading “Gotham winner ‘Identifying Features’ comes to Siskel”

Transgender doc ‘Born to Be’ opens in Chicago 11.20

Born to Be follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting, a plastic surgeon at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City-where, for the first time ever, all transgender and non-binary people have access to quality gender affirming health and surgical care. CTMS is Mount Sinai’s large, interdisciplinary transgender health … Continue reading “Transgender doc ‘Born to Be’ opens in Chicago 11.20”

Reeling: Chicago LGBTQ+ Int’l Film Fest award winners

Reeling announces the winners of the 38th annual Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival. The festival was held virtually this year from September 24 to October 7 and the event included 39 programs with films from 21 countries. The festival featured 31 Q&As with filmmakers which have been recorded and can be viewed here. We would … Continue reading “Reeling: Chicago LGBTQ+ Int’l Film Fest award winners”

MFF Union & Indie Passion Projects exciting lineup

Join Midwest Film Festival and The Gene Siskel Film Center on Tuesday, September 29th at 6:00pm at the CHI-Town Movies Drive-In with a brand new themed night to celebrate the passion projects created by Union & Indie Filmmakers.  This night is all about celebrating the short films created not only by indie filmmakers, but also members of … Continue reading “MFF Union & Indie Passion Projects exciting lineup”

Midwest Film Fest announces drive-in events

The Midwest Film Festival is delighted to announce three upcoming events to round out the 2020 season, all taking place at Chi-Town Movies Drive-In, located in Pilsen. Based on the sold-out success last month of Female Filmmakers Shorts Night, Erica Duffy, Executive Director, and the MFF Board, want to charge ahead with screenings, to fulfill … Continue reading “Midwest Film Fest announces drive-in events”

City of Chicago awards $2m in CityArts Program grants

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) announced the recipients of the 2020 CityArts Program grants. This year, the CityArts Program is awarding general operating grants between $2,000 to $30,000 – and special project grants ranging from $2,500 to $56,200 – to 191 nonprofit organizations for a total … Continue reading “City of Chicago awards $2m in CityArts Program grants”

Black Harvest Film Festival accepting film submissions

Black Harvest Film Festival film submissions due September 1. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center will present its 26th annual Black Harvest Film Festival virtually from November 6 through November 30. Beginning Friday, November 6, this year’s  festival will offer an engaging, fully-online experience, featuring the Chicago premieres of … Continue reading “Black Harvest Film Festival accepting film submissions”

Midwest Film Festival resumes with a night at the drive-in

Come and enjoy an amazing line-up for Female Filmmaker Night. The ChiTown Drive-in opens at 7:00pm and the screening begins at 8:15pm, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. In partnership with Chi Town Movies and The Gene Siskel Film Center, the Midwest Film Festival announces that they are resuming their 2020 season programming with … Continue reading “Midwest Film Festival resumes with a night at the drive-in”

MFF offers free online Comedy Shorts Program

Just when we needed it the most, the Midwest Film Festival (MFF) is participating in #GivingTuesday by giving viewers access to their Comedy Shorts Program online, free of charge. Originally presented in February as the 2020 season opener program, there are 10 films available to view that touch on a wide variety of topics, all with one goal … Continue reading “MFF offers free online Comedy Shorts Program”

REEL WOMEN: Filmmaker, Rujanee Mahakanjana

Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2020 Reel Women During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready. Rujanee is an award-winning filmmaker and an educator based … Continue reading “REEL WOMEN: Filmmaker, Rujanee Mahakanjana”

Reel Black List: Troy Pryor, producer, actor, speaker

Troy Pryor is the inaugural honoree for the 2020 Reel Chicago Black List, an annual celebration of African-American creativity published during Black History Month. Troy Osborne Pryor is an award-winning producer, actor, and speaker from Chicago. He is a Chicago Scholars 35 Under 35, Black Enterprise TCX Fellow, and ADColor nominated Innovator of the Year. … Continue reading “Reel Black List: Troy Pryor, producer, actor, speaker”

Panorama LatinX Showcase at Siskel Center, Feb 1

Through a juried selection process, seven films have been selected out of over 40 entries to create the Gene Siskel Film Center’s second edition of the Panorama Latinx Short Film Showcase. The event takes place at 8:00 pm on Saturday, February 1, 2020, at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art … Continue reading “Panorama LatinX Showcase at Siskel Center, Feb 1”

‘Moving Parts’ to premiere at Siskel Center in January

The Gene Siskel Film Center will screen the Chicago premiere of the award-winning film, Moving Parts, on January 3rd, 6th, and 7th. Sponsored by IFP Chicago, Moving Parts is a narrative feature written and directed by Emilie Upczak. Filmed in the Caribbean and finished in Chicago, it tells the story of Zhenzhen, a Chinese woman … Continue reading “‘Moving Parts’ to premiere at Siskel Center in January”

Interview with ‘Good Kisser’ director Wendy Jo Carlton

Spotlight on the award-winning filmmaker whose ‘lesbian love triangle’ plays Siskel Center October 25-31 Wendy Jo Carlton’s award-winning new film, Good Kisser, follows the evolution of an all-female ménage à trois over the course of a single night. Sexy and fun, no doubt; but like most of Carlton’s work, the love taps into a world … Continue reading “Interview with ‘Good Kisser’ director Wendy Jo Carlton”

Black Harvest Feast coming to South Shore

Sisters in Cinema presents free screening and talk-back with Chicago filmmakers, South Shore Cultural Center, October 17 Sisters in Cinema will host The Black Harvest Feast, a film screening in collaboration with the Gene Siskel Film Center and the Chicago Park District’s Re:Center Program at the South Shore Cultural Center on October 17, 2019 at … Continue reading “Black Harvest Feast coming to South Shore”

Getting to know ‘A Sisterhood of Signatures’

Chicago filmmaker Okema “Seven” Gunn skillfully weaves important lessons into a light-hearted tale about four young girls Cursive writing leads the way to teenage enlightenment in A Sisterhood of Signatures, a Chicago-made short screening September 21st at the Oak Park International Film Festival. Written and directed by Seven Okema Gunn, the 17-minute film presents the … Continue reading “Getting to know ‘A Sisterhood of Signatures’”

‘No Small Matter’ back by popular demand

Chicago-produced doc about childhood education returns to the Gene Siskel Film Center September 6 Following up on its sold-out June premiere, the acclaimed early childhood education documentary No Small Matter returns to Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center for an encore week of screenings beginning Friday, September 6. The film’s encore run coincides with the start … Continue reading “‘No Small Matter’ back by popular demand”

‘R.A.W. TUBA’ wins Best Short at Black Harvest

Documentary about Richard Antoine White’s inspiring life earns the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize R.A.W. TUBA was awarded Best Short film at the 25th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival on Saturday afternoon. Directed by David Larson and Darren Durlach, the inspiring documentary tells the story of Richard Antoine White, aka … Continue reading “‘R.A.W. TUBA’ wins Best Short at Black Harvest”

Chicago Asian Pop-Up Cinema announces season 9

This year’s lineup of musicals, thrillers, dramas, comedies, and awards dazzle the Windy City September 10 through October 10, 2019 Non-profit pan-Asian film organization Sophia’s Choice today announces Asian Pop-Up Cinema – Season Nine, is the film series that cultivates American interest and understanding of Asian culture through movie storytelling while making Chicago a destination … Continue reading “Chicago Asian Pop-Up Cinema announces season 9”

Siskel presents ‘Toni Morrision: The Pieces I Am’

The Film Center will screen the “generous and intelligent doc” Friday, August 23 through Thursday, August 29 As a venue that celebrates all art forms and a public program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Gene Siskel Film Center mourns the loss of the celebrated Black author and Nobel laureate Toni … Continue reading “Siskel presents ‘Toni Morrision: The Pieces I Am’”

The 2019 Black Harvest Film Festival

The Gene Siskel Film Center’s 25th annual celebration of African Americans and the African diaspora August 3-29 The Gene Siskel Film Center celebrates the stories, dreams, history, and legacy of African Americans and the African diaspora in the 25th edition of the annual Black Harvest Film Festival. In addition to 50-plus film screenings, there will … Continue reading “The 2019 Black Harvest Film Festival”

Jon Favreau, Siskel Center Renaissance Winner

The hugely talented actor, director, and producer pleases everyone while interviewing with Robert Downey Jr. at the Four Seasons   Last Saturday night, Jon Favreau told a room full of people that he achieved success in Hollywood by failing in Chicago, and everyone burst into applause. “I want to thank Chicago for giving me that … Continue reading “Jon Favreau, Siskel Center Renaissance Winner”

Jon Favreau to receive Renaissance Award in Chicago

Robert Downey Jr. will Interview Favreau during the Siskel Center’s annual event June 15 at the Four Seasons The Gene Siskel Film Center today announced that it will honor acclaimed director, producer, screenwriter and actor Jon Favreau with its 2019 Renaissance Award on Saturday, June 15 at the Four Seasons Chicago, 120 E. Delaware. “Marvel, … Continue reading “Jon Favreau to receive Renaissance Award in Chicago”

Interview with ‘The Tale’ writer/director Jennifer Fox

Documentary Filmmaker talks to Reel Chicago before her twice Emmy-nominated film The Tale plays tomorrow at Gene Siskel Film Center This Saturday, acclaimed writer/director Jennifer Fox’s haunting and fascinating 2018 film based on her real-life experiences, The Tale, will play at a P.A.X.A (Parents Against Child Sex Abuse) event at the Gene Siskel Film Center. … Continue reading “Interview with ‘The Tale’ writer/director Jennifer Fox”

Reel Black List: Charles Andrew Gardner, actor

“I am most proud when I’m able to shift peoples’ perspectives through the work that I do.” Born and raised on Chicago’s south side, SAG-AFTRA Chicago local president Charles Andrew Gardner is an actor with a passion for illuminating the stories of the underrepresented. On-camera credits include episodes of The Chi and Chicago PD; feature … Continue reading “Reel Black List: Charles Andrew Gardner, actor”

“Chicago protest” double-bill lights up Siskel Center

“’63 Boycott” and “F*** Your Hair” will screen with filmmaker Q&As during special events on January 25, 26, 30 Later this month, the Siskel Film Center will offer audiences a chance to explore current and former grassroots political movements while viewing a pair of Chicago-made docs during special double-feature screenings of F— Your Hair and … Continue reading ““Chicago protest” double-bill lights up Siskel Center”

‘Rendezvous in Chicago’ hometown premiere at the Siskel

“You can make a good movie for $20,000 and a good film for $100,000, but you shouldn’t use the same script for both.” Michael Glover Smith Michael Glover Smith’s Rendezvous in Chicago will make its hometown premiere with four screenings at the Gene Siskel Film Center in February 2019. On the festival circuit, the feature-length … Continue reading “‘Rendezvous in Chicago’ hometown premiere at the Siskel”

Horn From The Heart: the Paul Butterfield Story

John Anderson’s intimate documentary celebrates the Hyde Park native who introduced a generation to the swaggering energy of Chicago blues Chicago filmmaker John Anderson’s 2018 documentary, Horn from the Heart: the Paul Butterfield Story, is a detailed and passionate tribute to the life and career of Chicago vocalist and harmonica player Paul Butterfield. Known to … Continue reading “Horn From The Heart: the Paul Butterfield Story”

Hollywood Comes to Chicago — 1979

“Blues Brothers” director John Landis describes impending explosions while scouting locations in John Davies’ vintage short film In 1979, Chicago filmmaker John Davies produced a short titled, Hollywood Comes to Chicago, that featured a tour through the Windy City and its film production industry. He planned to submit the piece to WTTW’s Image Union, a … Continue reading “Hollywood Comes to Chicago — 1979”

Reel Wrap: 2018 Black Harvest Film Festival

The 60+ films that screened during Black Harvest cannot be categorized, much like the group of artists who made them The Gene Siskel Film Center finished its annual month long celebration of African American Cinema — The Black Harvest Film Festival — with Rusty Cundieff’s 1993 hip-hop mockumentary, Fear of a Black Hat, last night … Continue reading “Reel Wrap: 2018 Black Harvest Film Festival”

Bing Liu on the making of “Minding the Gap”

“It’s sort of like watching a child grow up, ‘cause I’ve made hundreds of rough cuts over the years.” – Director Bing Liu Chicago-based filmmaker Bing Liu, the director of the Sundance award-winning Minding the Gap, sat down with Reel Chicago to discuss the making of his cinema-verite-style documentary. The film currently has a 100% … Continue reading “Bing Liu on the making of “Minding the Gap””

NK Gutiérrez at Black Harvest Film Festival

I’m starting to see filmmakers come forward and tell their story and their African American experience … the tapestry of the truth is really incredible NK Gutiérrez is a tireless supporter of the Gene Siskel Center’s Black Harvest Film Festival. As a member of the event’s Community Council, she is part of a team that … Continue reading “NK Gutiérrez at Black Harvest Film Festival”

Baseball drama “High & Outside” to premiere at Siskel

Chicago-native actor Phil Donlon prepared for his latest role by attending baseball camp and hanging out with Roger Clemons Chicago-born actor Phil Donlon got a taste of the big leagues while preparing to portray a player who watches his last chance to get there fade away. High & Outside: a baseball noir is a film … Continue reading “Baseball drama “High & Outside” to premiere at Siskel”

Black Harvest shares a wealth of American culture

The Siskel Center’s annual fest makes it clear: the next big thing in cinema will come from the African American community The Black Harvest Film Festival kicked off with an awards ceremony and a four-movie screening at the Siskel Center last Saturday night. It was followed by a reception at the Joffrey Ballet across the … Continue reading “Black Harvest shares a wealth of American culture”

Black Harvest Film Festival at the Siskel Center

The Midwest’s largest and longest-running Black film festival presents a combined total of over 60 narrative features, documentaries, and shorts     The 24th annual Black Harvest Film Festival opens on Saturday, August 4 when filmmakers and VIPs gather to celebrate the presentation of the Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership and shorts … Continue reading “Black Harvest Film Festival at the Siskel Center”

Reel mingles into the Siskel Center’s Renaissance Gala

Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio occasionally stopped to chat on their way to grab a drink or browse the posters on display.   Besides offering a ballroom full of dinner guests the opportunity to witness an intimate conversation between Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio, the Gene Siskel Film Center’s annual Renaissance Gala brought together dozens … Continue reading “Reel mingles into the Siskel Center’s Renaissance Gala”

Ethan Hawke lives up to Siskel Center Renaissance honor

Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio let loose for the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Annual Renaissance Gala last night   Sitting in a couple of easy chairs on a stage in the Ritz Carlton’s Grand Ballroom, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio traded professional and personal stories like old friends on a Sunday afternoon. Their “intimate conversation” … Continue reading “Ethan Hawke lives up to Siskel Center Renaissance honor”

Millennium Park Summer Film Series

Beginning June 5th, the Millennium Park Summer Film series will enhance the Tuesday night screenings that have become one of Chicago’s most beloved outdoor traditions. According to a press release issued by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), the movies will be “programmed in collaboration with a local independent film festival … Continue reading “Millennium Park Summer Film Series”

Siskel Center grants celebrate Black Harvest Film Fest

Gene Siskel Film Center introduces first-ever production grants to commission new short work in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Black Harvest Film Festival Short film projects will premiere on Opening Night of the 25th Anniversary Black Harvest Film Festival in August 2019 (Chicago — 24 April 2018) The Gene Siskel Film Center is … Continue reading “Siskel Center grants celebrate Black Harvest Film Fest”

The Chicago European Union Film Festival

The 21st annual Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF) at the Gene Siskel Film Center raises the curtain for 61 Chicago premieres in its newly renovated theaters, March 9 through April 5. Films represented by all 28 EU nations will give audiences thought-provoking, topical, poignant and hilarious stories, reminding us that while we may live … Continue reading “The Chicago European Union Film Festival”

Video Wrap: Siskel Center’s Oscar night viewing party

There were a few additions to the Hollywood on State Oscar night viewing party at the Gene Siskel Film Center last night: I ventured into the celebration with staff writer Joey Filer, who wielded a camera and microphone to capture the action for a thrilling video. We asked guests to name their favorite film of … Continue reading “Video Wrap: Siskel Center’s Oscar night viewing party”

Best seats in town: Siskel Center Oscar Viewing Party

The Gene Siskel Film Center will once again hosts its annual Oscar viewing party — “Hollywood on State: Where You’re the Star” — on Sunday, March 4. This star-studded extravaganza, sponsored by Southwest Airlines, BMO Harris Bank, and The Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Foundation, gives participants an opportunity to watch the 90th Academy Awards … Continue reading “Best seats in town: Siskel Center Oscar Viewing Party”

A stroll through “Rogers Park” with director Kyle Henry

It’s hard to imagine director Kyle Henry acting like a “tough bastard” because he’s a really nice guy. But after learning about the process behind Rogers Park — a feature film shot in the Chicago neighborhood of the same name — his self-applied description makes sense. Rogers Park is “a hyper-local yet entirely universal story … Continue reading “A stroll through “Rogers Park” with director Kyle Henry”

The Reel Black List: Okema Gunn, Film Critic and Writer

Okema “Seven” Gunn has been an educator for several years in New York City and the Chicagoland area. She has a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Masters in Secondary Education in Social Studies. She has written articles for Empire Radio Magazine, Scene Chicago, Exposure Magazine, Chicago Now, and N’digo Magapaper. Currently, she works as a … Continue reading “The Reel Black List: Okema Gunn, Film Critic and Writer”

Siskel to host “On Location” program during construction

Taking a cue from loyal patrons, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will begin making extensive renovations and technical upgrades to its State St. facility on Friday, Dec. 1. The process will continue through Thursday, Jan. 4. Theater 1 and Theater 2 will have the 17-year-old seats … Continue reading “Siskel to host “On Location” program during construction”

AICP Next Awards at Siskel Film Center

The AICP Next Awards will offer much more than a screening of new and experiential media on Monday night. Beginning with cocktails and hor d’oeuvres at 6 p.m., the event’s inaugural run at the Gene Siskel Film Center expects to draw hundreds of professionals and supporters from Chicago’s advertising, film, visual effects and post-production industries. … Continue reading “AICP Next Awards at Siskel Film Center”

Oscar’s Best Picture thrills Siskel Center guests

When asked to describe her expectations before the telecast of the 2017 Academy Awards at the Gene Siskel Film Center’s 14th annual “Hollywood on State” viewing party, legal secretary Joyce Bishop pretty much said that she expected the same-old, same-old.

“The film I liked the most was Moonlight. It’s brave. It’s not a story that’s told all the time, but it’s told so well,” she explained. “But I think La La Land will win.”

STRATA survey shows agency optimism for the new year

ACCORDING TO A SURVEY conducted by Comcast-owned STRATA, 43% of agencies reported in Q4 2016 that their business will increase in Q1 2017. Of these, 42% are anticipating adding employees while none of the agencies surveyed planned to reduce staff.

The biggest challenge, 51% of the respondents stated, is expanding their client base. Video advertising remains the dominant focus, reported 34%, followed by digital video as the dominant focus reported by 27% of responding agencies — a 79% increase over 2016.

Chicago Film Society screens classic 16 & 35mm films

THE CHICAGO FILM SOCIETY, which changed its name from the Northwest Film Society, starts a new season of 15 vintage films Wednesday, Jan. 11, with the 1947 thriller “Nightmare Alley,” at the Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University, one of the series’ screening venues, along with the Music Box Theatre, the Logan Center for the Arts and the University of Chicago’s Film Studies Center.

Timely doc “Raising Bertie” screens at Siskel Center

THE FIRST THEATRICAL RUN of Kartemquin’s and Beli Film’s award-winning feature doc, “Raising Bertie” produced and directed by Margaret Byrne, screens Nov. 18-19, at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Set in North Carolina’s rural Bertie County, the doc is a six-year portrait of three African American boys growing into adulthood as they grapple with unemployment, violence, first love, fatherhood and the complex relationships between generational poverty, economic isolation and educational inequity.

Chicago premiere 9/16 for MPG’s acclaimed Angelou doc

Media Process Group’s feature doc, “Maya Angelou: And still I Rise,” the first documentary on the late author, poet and Civil Rights activist, will have a two-week US theatrical premiere, Sept. 16-20 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

“After showing the film in festivals around the world,” including Sundance,” said MPG’s Bob Hercules, “we’re thrilled to finally have a chance to show it in our hometown of Chicago.”

Pre-opening party celebrates 22nd Black Harvest Fest

Gene Siskel Film Center’s 22nd Black Harvest Film Festival starts with a double-whammy program pre-opening party tonight, Aug. 5 and then rolls on with 50 independent narrative and doc features and short films from the US and around the world, through Sept. 1.

At the “See” party, a sneak preview of the 2016 festival will be revealed at ACTIVATE 170 n. State in Couch Alley, just north of the Film Center, followed by a 9:30 p.m. party of Price’s classic “Purple Rain.

Filmmaker Gutiérrez needs sex & wants it known

Multi-talented artist, NK Gutiérrez, began her journey as a screenwriter just four years ago when she wrote her first short film “The Last New Year.”

Now its Chicago premiere screens Aug. 19 at Gene Siskel Center’s 22nd Black Harvest Film Festival.

The raunchy comedy, with its in-your-face sex talk, tells the story of Alyssa (played by Gutiérrez) who has not gotten laid in three years. With the support of her bestie, Shayna (Adrienne Walker), Alyssa embarks on a journey to end her dry spell and have an amazing bedroom romp before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Margulies’ visit canceled; film event-packed weekend

ACTRESS JULIANNA MARGULIES IS ILL – she has chicken pox – and her scheduled appearance Sunday, May 15 at Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville has been canceled. “The Good Wife” star has been on tour promoting her children’s book, “Three Magic Balloons,” and her visit here will be rescheduled for another time.

THE WEEKEND WILL BE PACKED with city-sponsored Lake FX Summit events, with media and entertainment-related panels taking place at the Gene Siskel Film Center and the Cultural Center, free and open to all. Here are some of Friday’s panels:

Premiere 4/30 for Connor’s film, 18 years in the works

Introducing a roundup of news about film activities throughout all that landscape Downstate, from south of Route 1-80 to Cairo at the tip of the state.

Springfield — “Before ‘I Do,’ the latest feature by writer-director Kimberly Connor of Springfield, will have red carpet premiere April 30 at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, 420 S. 6th St., at 7 p.m. on behalf of Predestined Arts and Entertainment Productions, Connor’s company.

Columbia wins the most prizes at Chicago Shorts fest

Shelley LaMantia, Professional Arts Dean at State Street-based business-oriented Robert Morris University, was very pleased at the turnout Thursday night’s 4th annual Chicago Shorts Film Festival.

The festival not only attracted about 100 entries, but the screening and awards ceremony played to an SRO audience of largely college students from the Loop and beyond, at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Chicago Shorts Fest aimed at Loop college students

A few years ago, Shelley LaMantia, Dean of Professional Arts at business-oriented Robert Morris University, had the idea of bringing together students who attend other Loop colleges and are housed in the Loop, to express their creativity through film.

She discussed it with RMU Chancellor Michael Viollt, who liked it and said the school should sponsor a short film festival. This was quite a departure for RMU since its visual media instruction consists of two video classes that are part of the graphic design curriculum.

Grant to Waterfront Fest will create new film center

The popular, annual Waterfront Film Festival of Holland will skip this summer’s event and return in 2017 after having transformed into a year-round Gene Siskel-like film center in Holland.

Nonprofit Waterfront, co-founded in 1999 by filmmaker Hopwood DePree, and his sister Dori DePree of Tic Tock Studios, received a $25,350 capital improvement grant from the State of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

The grant will provide matching dollars for Waterfront to establish permanent headquarters and a year-round foundation for supporting cinematic endeavors.

Siskel’s Black Harvest, Aug. 1-28, best ever at 20

It was 20 years ago that Gene Siskel Film Center director of programming, Barbara Scharres, first launched the Black Harvest Film Festival that continues to be the main theatrical exhibition vehicle for the underserved African American independent film market.

“We identified a cultural need in Chicago, and have been working to serve it ever since the first Black Harvest,” Scharres says.

First film fulfilling Freese’s passion to premiere

While Jordan Freese, a production engineer at Resolution Production Group, had spent a decade in corporate IT jobs before landing in the production industry and three years satisfying his passion for filmmaking, it only took Barbara Sharres 24 hours to book his film at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

His 82-minute debut film, the documentary “An Honest Living,” screens Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, Jan. 30 at 8:15 p.m.

Questar’s “Running of the Bulls” DVD the real things

Chicago has been host to many different kinds of events that fall into the sporting category, but the one scheduled Saturday, July 12 is hard to classify as it’s a version of the traditional Spanish Running of the Bulls. 

Called “The Great Bull Run,” it is one of eight such heroic displays of courage that are taking place across the US so far this year.

Kartemquin rewards staffers with a week at Sundance

Among the attendees at the Sundance Film Festival, the mother of all independent film festivals, Jan. 16-26 in Park City, Utah will be 10 lucky Kartemquin staffers.  Their hard work last year is being rewarded by an all-expense-paid, 5 day trip to Sundance.

“We’ll have some fun before the busiest year in our 48 year history kicks in,” reports Tim Horsburgh, Kartemquin director of communications and programs. Horsburgh, however, won’t have much time for that promised fun, as he will be handling details for the screening of two Kartemquin docs, starting Sunday, Jan. 19.

AICP Show the climax of November’s many activities

11/7 GREEK FILM FESTIVAL FILM HELLENES  opens two different venues, the Patio Theatre and the Gene Siskel Film Center for the US premiere of “The Grocer.” This award-winning film by director Dimitris Koutsiabasakos will be preceded by student-filmmaker Stella Kyriakopoulos’ short, “Bob Goes to the Parthenon.” Thereafter, the festival of Greek storyteller in countries throughout the world takes place exclusively at the Patio

Lisa Masseur brings her EP skills to One at Optimus

NEW EXECUTIVE PRODUCER at One at Optimus is veteran producer Lisa Masseur, who officially joined the production company a few weeks ago after being a permalance producer there since last January.  She replaces Kipp Christensen who returned to freelancing and reports to director of production Craig Leffel.

Masseur began freelancing as a producer last July after a seven year stint as EP/managing director at Radar Studios, where she oversaw all production and post, as well as sales and marketing efforts.

Siskel benefit gala to honor Gwyneth Paltrow June 15

THE GENE SISKEL CENTER of the School of the Art Institute never fails to delight when it comes to its annual fund-raiser, with a luminous Hollywood actor, director and producer, who, says SAIC, “advances the art of cinema.” 

Continuing in this tradition is the June 15 “A Summer Soiree with Gwyneth Paltrow,” at the Ritz-Carlton.  The versatile Oscar winning actress will be presented with a Renaissance Award celebrating her career. 

Director Eduardo Cintron to Dictionary Films’ roster

DIRECTOR EDUARDO CINTRON has signed exclusively with Dictionary Films, Cutters production division, as the seventh director on its roster and the third director based in Chicago, says Dictionary’s executive producer Megan Maples.

The award-winning bilingual director, called “a digital genius” by one of his peers, since 2007 has worked as an art director and ACD at Energy BBDO, R/GA and Lapiz/Leo Burnett.

Looby’s short ‘Lollywood’ doc screens at Slamdance

TODD LOOBY’S short documentary Lollywood, about a teenage filmmaker and war orphan at Liberia Mission, Inc. screens Jan. 20 and 23 in the Slamdance Film Festival.

Looby’s narrative short Son of None, shot during the same trip to Liberia Mission, won a special jury award at Slamdance 2011.

Looby’s wife Monica Desmond is executive director of Franciscan Works, the parent organization of Liberia Mission.

Borowski’s ‘Panzram’ serial killer doc out on DVD

SERIAL KILLER SPECIALIST John Borowski (H.H. Holmes, Albert Fish) has released streaming and DVD versions of his third documentary, Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance.

Borowski combines reenactments with historical documents and archival interviews, including with Henry Lesser, the Washington D.C. prison guard who secretly supplied Panzram with the pencil and paper to write his gruesome autobiography.

Local films abound at 18th Black Harvest, Aug. 3-30

Eight shorts by area filmmakers will screen as the Made in Chicago program Aug. 4 and 9, during the Gene Siskel Film Center’s 18th annual Black Harvest Film Festival, Aug. 3-30, showcasing the work of independent African American filmmakers throughout the U.S. and the world.

“As always, Chicago area filmmakers are especially front and center in our festival, and filmmaker appearances abound,” says Barbara Scharres, the Siskel’s director of programming.

Timely ‘God particle’ doc screens July 16 at Landmark

BEFORE SCIENTISTS at the CERN particle accelerator outside Geneva, Switzerland apparently discovered the long-sought Higgs Boson or “God Particle” earlier this month, 137 Films captured the ill-fated hunt by physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator outside Geneva, Illinois.

Filmmakers Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown copresent a screening of their 2008 documentary The Atom Smashers with the Illinois Science Council July 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Landmark Century Centre, 2828 N. Clark St.

IFO adds Raul Esparza as assistant managing director

THE ILLINOIS FILM OFFICE hired seasoned location scout Raul Esparza as assistant managing director/location manager, replacing Todd Lizak who officially retired in January.  He was asked to return to the IFO as a 75 day contractual employee to help interview prospective candidates for the vacancy and handle location scouting until his successor was hired.

May 10 fundraiser for ‘ChiTown’ basketball doc

A FUNDRAISER FOR CHITOWN, a documentary-in-progress from New York-based reality TV show director/producer Nick Budabin (Cake Boss, Kathy Griffin), who started shooting when he spent time here in 2011 producing “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes,” will be held Thursday, May 10 at The Joynt, 650 N. Dearborn, from 6-9 p.m. 

Carrie Holecek joins Red Car as managing director

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CARRIE HOLECEK left Bridges Media and crossed over to Larry Bridges’ Red Car post facility to become its newly appointed managing director.

Red Car’s executive producer Jon Desir, who also carried the managing director title, will continue to handle EP duties. Desir says the team approach he and Holecek will employ is a new one for the company.

Andy Davis and his “Stony Island” at Siskel Center 4/4-5

DIRECTOR ANDREW DAVIS made his mark as a rising star in 1978 with his first feature, “Stony Island,” about the fictitious Stony Island band, a fusion of rock, blues and jazz, mentored by musician Gene Barge, and the band’s journey to become American idols.

Now “Stony Island” and Davis are back home for two nostalgic days, Wednesday, April 4 and Thursday, April 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Celozzi’s Sam Giancana doc bows Saturday at Siskel

“To me he was an uncle,” Nicholas Celozzi says about Sam Giancana -— his great uncle, actually.  “He was a generous man, took care of all his family and a had great sense of humor.  An intelligent man.”

To the public, Giancana was the 1960s Outfit boss whose 1975 murder in his Oak Park kitchen remains officially unsolved. 

Talking Pictures Festival place for many local films

Talking Pictures Festival founding directors Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger of Percolator Films are documentarians themselves. Their Beneath the Blindfold, about local and international torture survivors, premiered in January at the Gene Siskel Film Center.   “Yet it felt a bit unconventional to open our film fest with a documentary this year,” Sommer says.

‘The Interrupters’ wins Best Doc at Spirit Awards

The elation producers Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz felt when their Kartemquin Films’ “The Interrupters” won the Spirit Awards Saturday for Best Documentary was surely mixed with sweet satisfaction for the Oscar doc nomination snub.

“Look, the Oscars, we were surprised and a little disappointed (not to be nominated), but the film has done remarkably, and this makes up for that,” James told the Tribune’s Mark Caro.

Comedy sneak preview leads month of screenings, events

February gets underway with a burst of worthwhile screenings and other events, starting with a sneak preview Friday night, Feb. 3 of co-producers Boris Wexler and Julian Grant’s comedy feature “Roundabout American”, written and directed by Wexler.  The story’s about young French chef who pushes the limits of the American Dream by converting a Chicago pizza shop into an escort-service for the super-rich with the help of a suburban slacker who dwells in his parents’ basement.

Alex Beh makes his feature debut with “Warren”

L.A. BASED ORIAN WILLIAMS, who produced the Joy Division biopic Control, has signed on to produce Winnetka native actor/director Alex Beh’s feature directorial debut, the coming-of-age story Warren.  “Orian has become a good friend of mine through friends out here in Los Angeles,” Beh says. 

“He’s a great guy and a stellar producer.  We are doing our best to get this Chicago picture in production by late spring/early summer.” 

“Chicago Fire” pilot shoots here March 14-April 1

THE “CHICAGO FIRE” PILOT is scheduled to shoot here March 14 through April 1, according to the Chicago Film Office’s Rich Moskal, who says no cast or director is confirm.  And, he adds cautiously, “There’s no guarantee the series will be shot in Chicago.” But given the fact the show is coming from “Law & Order’s” Dick Wolf, “There’s also a high expectation the series will be greenlighted and shoot here this summer.”

Dennis Farina to appear at MWFF’S Best Awards Dec. 6

VETERAN ACTOR DENNIS FARINA and director Joe Maggio of indie feature “The Last Rites of Joe May,” will be special guests at the Midwest Independent Film Festival’s Best of the Midwest Awards Dec. 6 at Rockit Bar & Grill.  “The Last Rites” is a contender for a BMA award. 

Actor David Pasquesi, whose newspaper editor character on “Boss” was screwed out of his job by the mayor’s people, will also attend, along with just about everyone else in town, myself included.

The race for Lottery business will be watched closely

So the race  is on to find the new ad agency of record for the Illinois Lottery.  And from what we know now, it promises to be one of the most interesting races ever run for a piece of business here in the, uh, great state of Illinois.

Representatives from more than 50 agencies showed up last Thursday at the Gene Siskel Film Center in the Loop to hear newly-named Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones and Northstar Lottery Group vice-president of advertising and marketing Jessica Powell talk about the process of picking a new ad agency for the Lottery.

Every night booked through the end of the month

Take advantage of the last of the big, important events in November, especially during the two weekends prior to Thanksgiving, including several film festivals, a tour of Cinespace studios and a night with The HistoryMarkers.  Then we swing into holiday mode.  

The first cheery Christmas party invitation from LimeGreen may signal a month of holiday parties, to celebrate the season and also a year that many say was better than expected.  Send along your party information and add your forthcoming events to our Calendar page.

Industry marketing pro Nancy Reid teams with ReelChicago

A FIRST FOR THE REEL!  After years of managing the Reel solo, I am delighted that industry pro Nancy Reid has joined the Reel as VP/development.

In that role, Nancy will spearhead the Reel’s expansion in the coming months.  We plan to widen our coverage and become involved in multiple media to connect and serve our growing readership and advertisers the best way possible.

Filmmaker Niko Franghias revives Greek Film Festival

Greeks in Chicago — the third largest Greek population in the world, with an estimated 450,000 and second only to New York’s 500,000 –- celebrate their culture with a variety of festivals from January through November.  

One cultural event that’s been absent for a while is a film festival, and that will be rectified Sept. 29-Oct. 2 with the first FilmHellenes/Greek Film Fest Chicago! 

Soundtrack release party for Julian Grant feature June 22

A PARTY JUNE 22 for the soundtrack of 18 original country songs by the Crooked Willow band, from Julian Grant’s feature film, Fall Away, will be hosted by the film’s producer, Boris Wexler of Escape Films, at Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn at 7 p.m.

Crooked Willow was created by Chicago musicians Grant Stokes, who wrote the lyrics and is the band’s lead singer, Ryan Relye, David Golan, Ali Goodman and Hamid Assian.  

Ewww! A line around the block to see Paris Hilton

FORGET IMPORTANT SPEAKERS and breakthrough cable technology at The Cable Show Wednesday at McCormick Place.  The exhibition floor, filled with about 500 booths, was jammed with a line around the block to meet Paris Hilton, who needs no introduction to tabloid readers.  How interesting it would’ve been to hear what she had to say about working in cable — on that one show long ago gratefully long forgotten. 

Paskal Rudnicke hosting Mickey Grossman memorial tapings

THE LATE MICKEY GROSSMAN’S many friends, colleagues and clients can share their stories and feelings about him on tape, courtesy of his good friends, casting directors Mickie Paskal and Jennifer Rudnicke, who are hosting the taping, June 6-8, from  10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., at their office at 10 W. Hubbard St.

“People can stopy by and tape a few words that we will include in a collection of stories and moments for Mickey’s wife, Faith, and partner Linda Jack,” says Rudnicke.

June screening schedule has something for everyone

FILMMAKERS AND FILM BUFFS will have no problem finding a festival, screening series or premiere offerings to their varied tastes this month.

SHOCK THEATRE’S new monthly series from the second Golden Age of Horror, the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, starts running the first Friday of every month, June 3, through December, at the new Wicker Park Arts Center. 

Two local films in May 5-9 Architectural & Design Festival

The Architecture and Design Film Festival comes to Chicago May 5-9 at the Gene Siskel Film Center. “With Chicago’s rich architectural history, we couldn’t think of a more fitting host city,” said festival co-founder and director Kyle Bergman, who heads his own Vermont-based design/building firm.

Chicago is only the second stop on ADFF’s itinerary that began in October in New York and the first one of its kind in the U.S.

Ron Lazzeretti’s feature opens Lake County Fest, March 17-31

WRITER/PRODUCER RON LAZZERETTI’S Something Better Somewhere Else is the opening feature of the lean, stripped down 8th annual Lake County Film Festival, March 17, and running through March 21 at the College of Lake County in Grayslake.  

Former Draftfcb creative director and Merry Gentleman writer/producer Lazzeretti’s feature is a collection of bittersweet comedic shorts loosely connected by the theme of people fumbling to connect with each other.  

It screens Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

“Last Rites of Joe May” in Tribeca’s exalted circle

STEPPENWOLF’S FEATURE, “The Last Rites of Joe May, was selected among a record 5,624 films for screening at the 10th annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It will compete with 11 other features for The Founders Award.

Joe Maggio wrote and directed what’s called “the classic urban drama,” and the ensemble cast includes Dennis Farina, Jamie Allman, Ian Barford, Meridith Droeger, Chelcie Ross and Gary Cole. It was shot entirely in Chicago last winter and finished in New York.  

Keefe produces fridaynitebYtes web comedy series

JOE KEEFE of Long Tail Media Group is producing fridaynitebYtes,  a streaming comedy sketch series targeted to tween-and-teen internet users. The members contribute their sketch ideas and a professional cast and crew creates a show based on their ideas.

“This is where young members can contribute to upcoming episodes and learn comedy and production skills,” says Keefe, the founding executive producer of Second City Com he says.

Jim Sikora feature “The Critics,” 12 years in the making

Twelve years after Jim Sikora shot his film adaptation of Adam Langer’s play “The Critics,” the caustic satire of theatre and the people who cover it finally sees the light of day in a premiere run Feb. 18 and 19 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Jim Donovan, Mark Vanesse, Juliet Schaefer, Mary Beth McMahon, James William Joseph, and Maht Wells play five theater critics and their editor at Chicago alternative weekly “The New Void,” sussing out who among them has secretly written a new play that excoriates thinly veiled caricatures of each of them.

Premiere for 2010 Production Fund winner

“Salvaging,” the short film that won IFP’s 2010 Production Fund Competition, was written and directed by Joe Lyons, who works as a Local 476 union electrician and grip.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer/director and finally had the chance to go for it, as the IFP Fund allowed me to finally produce one of my scripts,” Lyons says.

“Salvaging” was the recipient last year of a grant worth $100,000 in in-kind services donated by local vendors that allows a filmmaker to complete his project.

Beast Editorial adds its first Smoke artist

BEAST EDITORIAL IS SMOKIN’ with the additon of Smoke artist Mark Anderson hired last month upon his return home from a two-year stint at Crash & Sue in Minneapolis. “The first day I got there I learned the company had been sold to an employee,” Anderson says. “It wasn’t quite what I had expected.”

A huge crowd for MPG’s Siskel retrospective

In celebration of Media Process Group’s 25th anniversary, a retrospective of company’s award-winning and always provocative documentaries were screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center recently, an event MPG’s founder Bob Hercules deemed “a great success.”

Carol Marin MC’d the program, which was divided into segments that covered MPG’s earlier body of work and its present projects and activities.

Special guests were Father Michael Pfleger of St.

MPG’s 25 years revisited at Siskel Center

BOB HERCULES AND KEITH WALKER’S Media Process Group celebrate their 25th anniversary with a retrospective screening of excerpts from six of their documentaries starting with 1989’s “Baseball’s Heirlooms” (1989) at the Gene Siskel Center Oct. 21.

Other films are “The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy ” (1999), “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” (2006), “Senator Obama Goes to Africa” (2007), “Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger” (2009).

Also screening is MPG’s in-progress “A Good Man,” Bob Hercules’s collaboration with Gordon Quinn, about choreographer Bill T.

Doc follows local pastry chef in competition

Legendary documentary filmmakers, D A Pennebaker and his wife, Chris Hegedus, have whipped up a docu concoction that centers on the owner of the French Pastry School of Chicago, as he competes in France’s oldest and most prestigious pastry competition.

Their 84-minute “Kings of Pastry” will screen Friday, Oct. 1 at the Gene Siskel Film Center with the filmmakers present.

“Shakey” signs stars Guttenberg, D’Angelo

KEVIN COOPER’S 3D dog comedy, “Shakey,” which starts shooting this month in the western suburbs, signed lead actors Steve Guttenberg (“Police Academy”), Beverly D’Angelo of the National Lampoon’s Vacation series) and Alfonso Arau (“The Three Amigos”).

Cooper, a Hollywood executive turned Columbia College professor, makes his directorial debut with “Shakey,” which is possibly the first comedy to shoot anywhere in stereoscopic 3D.

Black Harvest Fest abounds with local films

Actor/rapper Common will open the Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video on opening night, Aug. 6, when he receives the Deloris Jordan Award for Community Leadership from Ch. 5 entertainment reporter LeeAnn Trotter.

Of the 42 films screening in the 16th annual Gene Siskel Film Center’s month-long festival, 17 are local: two features, three feature documentaries and 12 shorts.

WIFC’s Focus Award honors Merri Dee

WOMEN IN FILM has made a righteous choice to honor broadcast trailblazer, talk show host, news anchor and community activist Merri Dee as its 2010 Focus Award honoree.

Dee has parlayed her celebrity into many children’s and educational charitable works. She spearheaded Illinois’ victims rights’ legislation after she and one of her talk show guests had been kidnapped, driven to a wooded area, shot twice in the head and left for dead, in 1971.

After retiring from WGN-TV in 2008 after 30 years, Dee formed full-service MD Communications.

Optimus plays a part in Pitchfork Music Fest

ONE AT OPTIMUS for the fourth year is the official partner of the Pitchfork Music Festival, showcasing more than 40 of the best independent bands and artists at Union Park July 16-18.

Optimus’ audio engineer Joel Anderson leads the Optimus team in coordinating, shooting and producing live video feeds of the performances and crowds. The content will be projected on jumbotrons and streamed live on Pitchfork’s website.

All live audio is being handled by CRC’s American Mobile, headed by CRC general manager Chris Shepard.

Directorial debut for composer Gina Fontanini

GINA FONTANINI, a film composer and music supervisor who worked at Studio Chicago/Music Industry Workshop, is making her directorial debut with the feature “Follow the Leader,” shooting in Chicago, New York and Prague this summer.

Fontanini worked with writer Christina Koustenis on the screenplay, based on Czech-born artist Misa Verbeek’s experience growing up in Czechoslovakia and immigrating to the U.S. as a young woman.

“Follow the Leader” is a coproduction of Fontanini’s La Gi Productions and New York music house Third Rail Productions.

Three star-studded gala fundraisers this month

MOVIE AND TELEVISION STARS will abound this month as they headline gala fund-raisers to support the city’s culturally important visual arts organizations.

The Museum of Broadcast Communications’ June 11 “Salute to Chicago Television” will honor three generations of broadcasters, directors, producers and executives — 50 in all confirmed so far — at its fund-raiser at the Hilton Hotel & Towers.

Founder/director Bruce DuMont declares this is the first-ever reunion of these broadcasting.

Feature bows after 8 years in the works

Before he wrote “The Merry Gentleman,” Ron Lazzeretti wrote and directed four 20-minute films that always he had in mind to marry them with a thematic thread that links them together as a single film. Eight years later, mission completed.

The four films are “Something Better Somewhere Else,” “in the form that I originally intended,” says Lazzeretti and will premiere May 21 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Low-budget indie wins Siskel Center premiere

Brandon Hutchinson took the mid-aughts boom of DIY relationship dramas as a personal challenge in crafting his own debut feature, “How I Killed Mumblecore,” which has its theatrical premiere April 30 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

He adapted the story from an experience he had in middle school, originally conceiving the film for child actors before maturing the characters to facilitate production.

DDB to welcome new creative chief

A NEW CHIEF CREATIVE FOR DDB after a two year search appears to be Ewan Paterson, 42, ECD at London’s Cemmow Horby Inge & Partners.

He will join the agency in June at a time when the agency accounts are sliding (State Farm gave nearly half of its creative business to DraftFCB and Wrigley moved Extra gum to Energy BBDO).

Paterson started his ad career in 1990 at Y&R, spent a decade at BMP DDB, to Bartle Bogle Hegarty in 2004 as CD on British Airways and a year later recruited by CHI.

Campaign MAGAZINE ranked him the No.

Esquire pays deserving tribute to Roger Ebert

A couple of weeks ago, Roger Ebert took to his Twitter account to remind fans of the 11th anniversary of the death of his close friend Gene Siskel, Ebert’s other half on “At the Movies” and “Sneak Previews,” television’s earliest movie criticism shows.

Although many film-review television shows have come and gone, Siskel and Ebert remain forever iconic with their “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” reviews.

Since Siskel’s passing in 1999, Ebert has battled his own health issues.

Chicago makes presence known at SXSW festival

Chicago has a particularly strong lineup this year at the increasingly influential South by Southwest Film Festival, running March 12-20 in Austin, Texas.

In the lineup are documentary premieres tied to Kartemquin and IFP/Chicago, narrative premieres from Frank V. Ross and Music Box Films, and a film and performance from Califone.

In “No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson,” produced by Kartemquin Films for ESPN’s 30th anniversary “30 for 30” documentary series, “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James returns to his native Hampton, Virginia.

McDermott’s farce a take on Shakespeare

“BLACK MAIL,” the modern-day take on “Much Ado about Nothing” by Slamdance and Jeff-winning writer director Hurt McDermott, premieres in a three-night run starting Feb. 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Taylor Nichols (“Barcelona”) stars in “Black Mail” as a movie theater owner in a flagging marriage whose misinterpreted love letter leads to farcical complications.

Andrzej Krukowski, Kerri Noto and Todd Slotten produced “Black Mail” through Fergus Films. Michael Dunne shot.

Kartemquin’s doc sells out for Jan. 29 premiere

It goes without saying that Kartemquin docs always attract an enthusiastic audience, but it is a rarity when one of them sells out two weeks in advance of the screening date.

“Typeface” did just that — largely to graphic designers and the online font community — for its Jan. 29 Chicago premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Kartemquin’s executive director Justine Nagan began production of the hourlong doc about four years, when she was visiting Two Rivers, Wisconsin and casually took a tour of the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum, which blew her away.

“We are more than Mafia!” states indie film

Director/producer Jenna Maria Constantine’s $350,000 feature “A Sicilian Odyssey,” the fictional journey of a young American writer uncovering her mother’s deepest secret, is also Constantine’s odyssey.

Its Dec. 20 premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center marks the second anniversary of when Constantine, of Chicago-based Jade Entertainment & KaplaniKid Productions, started filming in Italy.

I hope to generate a different image than we have of Sicily with a different focus and goal,” said Constantine.