Chicago Community Cinema changes identity, plans new theatre venue

After five years as Chicago Community Cinema, the monthly screening/networking event is reinventing itself as the Midwest Independent Film Festival. “It’s time to take it out of the nightclub scene and put it in a state-of- the-art screening venue where we can attract more films and filmmakers,” said event director Mike McNamara.

McNamara announced the “relaunch” at CCC’s Dec. 7 Best of 2004 Awards, which handed the top prize to director Duane Edwards for his short thriller “Hit and Run.”

McNamara said that negotiations are ongoing with a Michigan Avenue theatre to host the monthly event, beginning Feb. 1. “We’ve been raising the bar on the quality of films we’ve shown over the past fours years,” McNamara said. “It’s time to raise the bar on the venue.”

CCC had been held at the Excalibur nightclub for most of its history, after brief residencies at the Vic Theatre and Alumni Club.

The Midwest Independent Film Festival will widen its range to cover films made throughout the seven-state Midwest region while retaining a focus on Chicago and Illinois production.

MWFF will approach state film offices for submissions, and rely on high-profile sponsors like Kodak and Fletcher to promote MWFF to filmmakers from the Midwest at established festivals worldwide.

Edwards, who won best film at the last event under the CCC banner, was absent when his award was announced and hurried back to accept the award.

Edwards returned to CCC the $3,000 editing/sound design software prize he received from Avid and Bexel. “I know there’s someone else out there that will just die for that,” he said. McNamara said the prize would be re-awarded at a future event.

Scott Smith took best director for his Project Greenlight finalist comedy “Ten.” Best comedy went to new L.A. resident Willy Laszlo, cofounder of the Chicago Short Comedy Festival, for his inanimate object love story “Table.” Jennifer Atkins took best drama for “If You Step on a Crack.”

“This is my first Shell?,” best actor winner Scott Benjaminson of “Driver Ed” christened CCC’s new award, a crystal pyramid designed and donated by Shell? Jewelers. Michelle Graf won best actress for Kirk Sanders’ “Broken Echoes.”

“I’d like to thank Karen Friedberg for making me feel good about my body,” said Gustavo Mellado, accepting the best supporting actor award. Mellado’s title character dances a nude tango with a vision of his deceased wife in Friedberg’s 2003 IFP Production Fund winner “King of the Tango.”

Illinois Film Office deputy director Bob Hudgins presented CCC’s annual Bob Hudgins Award for contributions toward Chicago film to Kit Woods, assistant executive director of SAG/AFTRA Chicago. “She’s one of the den mothers of independent film in Chicago,” Hudgins said.

Awards also went to Bill Frye, best cinematography for “Broken Echoes”; Phil Lee, best editor for “Hit and Run”; Lou Mallozzi, best sound design for “King of the Tango”; Russ Blemker, best art direction for “Ante Meridiem”; and Jon Monteverde’s “Pop Cynic” for Samsara, best music video.


– by Ed M. Koziarski,