Chicago-connected films and filmmakers head for Sundance; “Obama in Africa” gets local premiere

CHEVY CHASE hosts an evening at Sundance for the world premiere of Phil Ranstrom’s doc, “Electrified: The Story of the Maxwell St. Urban Blues” Jan 25 at Harry O’s in Park City.

Narrated by Chicago native Joe Mantegna, “Electrified” tells how Maxwell Street’s neighborhood led to the hard driving sound of the urban blues and ultimately to rock ?n’ roll.

Ranstrom’s companion film, “Cheat You Fair,” documents the last days of Maxwell Street market. Ranstrom began both projects in 1994 shortly before the Maxwell Street market was demolished.

THE SUNDANCE SCENE: Flashpoint Academy hosts a reception to celebrate Illinois flourishing filmmaking industry, hosted by president/CEO Howard Tullman, Dean Paula Froehle and media sponsor Zapwater Communications, Inc.

The Sundance premiere of the Chicago-made feature, “The Merry Gentlemen,” written by Ron Lazzeretti and directed by Michael Keaton, will be honored and the Illinois Film Office will be recognized at the event held at the SKY360? by Delta?Park City venue.

Chicagoans attending Sundance: Producers Steven Jones, Amy Rising and Christina Varotsis, the IFO’s Betsy Steinberg, Todd Lizak and Julie Morgan, former IFO director Brenda Sexton, the IFP’s Elizabeth Donius, Kodak’s Ericka Frederick, Astro Labs’ Manuela Hung and Carol Shaffner Fletcher Chicago’s Tom Fletcher and the IPA’s Sandy Gordon .

Also: North Light’s Tim Evans on behalf of “Diminished Capacity,” the film directed by Steppenwolf’s Terry Kinney that screens there Jan. 22 and entertainment attorney Hal “Corky” Kessler who gives a speech Jan. 22 on the Federal Tax Incentives at the Yallow Hotel in Park City.

MPG’S “SENATOR OBAMA GOES TO AFRICA” will have a Chicago premiere screening after all. The Music Box has scheduled Jan. 22 and Feb. 2 screenings. The doc’s scheduled premiere Jan. 22 at the Gene Siskel was canceled due to concerns the film might be perceived as supportive of one candidate and thus jeopardize its non-profit status.

Co-producers Bob Hercules, who directed, and DP Keith Walker, and editor Melissa Sterne will attend both screenings for Q&A.

NAME DROPPING. Filmmaker/actor and Chicago native Bob Balaban appears at the Feb. 3 Siskel Center screening of his movie, “Bernard and Doris,” about the friendship between Doris Duke, the world’s richest woman, and her Irish butler ? Alfred Molina and Mercedes Ruehl have starring roles as the Latino parents in “Humboldt Park,” another George Tillman-Bob Teitel movie shooting here in March and directed by Jay Hernandez ? The U2 tribute band Elevation will launch the showing of “U2 3D” Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. at Navy Pier’s Crystal Gardens.

“WE’RE ECSTATIC,” says Women in Film president Jeanette Beauregard over the huge success of its Kickoff Party/membership party last week. Despite the fiercely cold weather, attendance at RDS’ City View space was clocked at 125.

Guests were “men, women and out-of-towners from all corners of our industry,” reports WIF PR chair Anna Jung and 35 new members were signed.

DJ Miss Michaela spun records all nightand Greg Christian Catering and Budweiser provided food and drink.

“The event provided everyone with a wonderful opportunity to network with some incredible forces in the Chicago media creation community,” says Jung. Which is as it should be.

THE EXPERTS WHO KNOW about today’s fast-moving digital media creation industry are the panelists at the Avid Technology-sponsored “Mark Your Mark” event Jan. 31 at Flashpoint Academy.

Hear editors John Binder, Cutters; Mike LaBellarte, Outsider; Carlos Lowenstein, Whitehouse; Jon Adler, Daily Planet; and Sean Berringer, moderated by Tom Duff, Optimus, tell what it takes to make it in the fast-moving digital media world. Avid account manager Kurt Krinke will welcome guests.

FYI: THE WRITERS STRIKE is costing the Oscar economy $300 million, according to a story in Advertising Age. Media and everything related to the season of Hollywood awards is estimated at $300 million loss. Which makes one wonder why the big losers don’t get serious about negotiating a settlement.