Chicago boasts one of the biggest and most vibrant independent film scenes in America, in terms of both production and outlets. To prove the point, Chicago is experiencing a boom in non-traditional screening series.
In addition to a growing roster of annual film festivals, established and fledgling organizations host screenings scattered around the city at theatres, nightclubs and other venues.
Each of the eight series listed below offers its own distinctive take on the local and international visual media scene. Keep this list handy when you get a yen to go screening.
EVERY NIGHT: Doc Films
Founded in 1932, the University of Chicago’s film society is the nation’s oldest continuously operational student-run cinema. Doc screens films every night of the academic year at 7 p.m., plus Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Spring series include Ben Hecht Sundays, Bertolucci/Pasolini Mondays, Spike Lee Tuesdays, erotica Wednesdays, and hip-hop and anime Thursdays, with recent commercial releases running Fridays and Saturdays. Over the years Doc has hosted visits from Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Terrence Malick, Frederick Wiseman, Fritz Lang, Woody Allen and Harold Ramis. Past Doc student volunteers have included New York Times critic Dave Kehr and playwright and Village Voice critic Terry Curtis Fox. At the Max Palevsky Cinema, 1212 E. 59th St. Call 773/ 702-8574 or see www.docfilms.uchicago.edu.
MONDAYS: IFV’s Screen-2-Stream
shows local film/video artists
Independent Film & Video (IFV) Chicago hosts Screen-2-Stream the last Monday of every month at Frankie J’s Methadome, site of last year’s dinner theater extravaganza “Frankie J Superstar.” IFV Chicago presents video installations and screens short film and video by local artists.
Each month the audience votes on the winners, which are then streamed on the IFV web site. March’s winners were Michelle Lee’s “Passion of the Dance,” Anthony Thurman’s “Tomb Hackers,” and Kevin Bruce and Matt Heinze’s “KGB Agent 57.” IFV also runs the Internet Equipment Exchange and maintains a database of local talent and crew.
The next Screen-2-Stream is Monday, April 26 at 8 p.m. at Frankie J’s, 4437 N. Broadway. Call 773/415- 7164 or see www.ifvchicago.com.
TUESDAYS: Networking part of the
scene at Chicago Community Cinema
On the first Tuesday of every month (except January), this four-year-old networking organization for local filmmakers takes over the upstairs of the Excalibur nightclub. It offers a night of schmoozing among film attendees and vendors (the beasts of Samantha’s Feature Creatures are a regular draw), a live musical guest, cash bar and a pretty decent hamburger if you’re hungry.
Each month provides a selection of local shorts, music video, international film, student work, trailers, and the occasional full-length feature (recent features have included the Michael Gillio starrers “Kwik Stop” and “2 wks, 1 yr.”) In December Chicago Community Cinema (CCC) offers its Golden Can award to the top films and individuals of the year in each of 17 categories.
CCC is at Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn; $8, $5 for students. Call 312/642-4222 or see www.chicagocommunitycinema.com.
WEDNESDAYS: workshops proceed
the enduring IFP/Facets Film Series
The Independent Feature Project/Chicago presents a monthly series of Wednesday night indie features and documentaries by local and national talent at Facets Multi-Media.
Pre-screening workshops offer an in-depth look into the creative and business development of the films. Recent local work has included episodes of Kartemquin’s PBS series “The New Americans” and features “Slave” by Noel Olken and “Bhavum: Emotions of Being” by Satish Menon.
The series continues April 14 with local directors Sam Green and Bill Siegel’s Oscar-nominated doc “The Weather Underground,” a look back at the anti-war activism and subsequent lives of the 60s radical group behind the Days of Rage. Members of the production team will attend the workshop and screening.
At Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton. Workshop at 5:30 p.m., screening at 7 p.m. $5; free for IFP, Facets and NATAS members. Call 312/435-1825 or see www.ifp.org.
EVERY OTHER WEDNESDAY: CUFF’S Sloppy
Seconds at the Viaduct Theater
Last January the 11-year Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF) expanded its programming beyond the annual fest, and began a bi-weekly screening series called Sloppy Seconds in CUFF’s former digs at the Viaduct Theater.
Sloppy Seconds is starting off with highlights from past fests, with the possibility of expanding into work not previously screened.
“For this series we’ll primarily stick with feature length narratives and documentaries, to distinguish ourselves from year-round shorts programs like the one at Chicago Filmmakers, and Prime Shorts at the Hideout,” said CUFF director .
Sloppy Seconds screenings have included Todd Verow’s “Little Shots of Happiness,” Kevin Dinovis’s “Surrender Dorothy,” and Ben Berkowitz and Ben Redgrave’s “Straightman.”
Sloppy Seconds runs every other Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Viaduct, 3111 N. Western Ave.; $5. Call 773/ 296-6024 or see www.viaducttheater.com.
BI-MONTHLY WEDNESDAYS: Prime Shorts
add to the Hideout’s eclectic mix
Nestled in an industrial enclave behind the North Avenue Home Depot, the Hideout has become a hipster haven and prime venue for local musicians. A year ago, Hideout regular Xan Aranda started Prime Shorts there. “The life of a short film can be so fleeting,” said Aranda, a filmmaker and editor. “I wanted to be a part of prolonging the lives of short films with an ongoing show.”
Running the last Wednesday of every other month, Prime Shorts mixes films by local, national and international directors with live music and puppets. A first anniversary retrospective sold out the Film Center in January, prompting additional bookings.
The next Prime Shorts is Wednesday, April 28 at 8 p.m. at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. Call 773.227.4433 or see www.hideoutchicago.com.
THURSDAYS: “Conversations at
the Edge” with great minds on film
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) Dept. of Film, Video and New Media gathers leading experimental filmmakers from around the world to screen and discuss their work Thursdays at the SAIC’s Gene Siskel Film Center.
“Conversations at the Edge brings to Chicago media makers, critics, scholars and theorists in dialogue around the most provocative and daring works being produced in media today,” said department chair Daniel Eisenberg.
Upcoming screenings include Nancy Andrews’ “Monkeys and Lumps” and “The Dreamless Sleep” April 15, and Michele Mahoney’s “Midwestern Hospitality,” “Acrobats and Sword Swallowers,” and “The Undergrad” April 22. Screenings are 8 p.m. at the Film Center, 164 N. State. Call 312/846-2600 or see www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
SATURDAYS New monthly Dyke Delicious
starts off with a cult classic
Reeling: The Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival inaugurates its monthly screening series Dyke Delicious Saturday, April 10 with Tony Scott’s 1983 cult classic “The Hunger,” “perhaps most widely known for its lesbian sex scene between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon.” The series continues May 8 with a selection of lesbian shorts by local filmmakers.
At Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 2nd Floor. Doors open at 7 p.m., screenings begin at 8 p.m. $10 includes complimentary hors doers. Post-screening festivities at T’s Restaurant and bar, 5025 N. Clark. Call 773/293-1447 or see www.chicagofilmmakers.org/ reeling.
IRREGULARLY SCHEDULED Chicago
Filmmakers offers widely varying fare
This 30-year-old media arts group offers education, equipment and exhibition for filmmakers working outside the mainstream, and hosts the annual Reeling: Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival and the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival.
Ongoing, irregularly scheduled screening series include the Political Documentary Series, highlighting iconoclastic views of conflicts in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and in the U.S.; From Handmade to Digital, focusing on women’s contributions to technical innovation in visual media; and the Asian Diaspora Series, showing works by filmmakers of South Asian descent, in conjunction with 3rd I South Asian Independent Film.
Gene Siskel Film Center
Housed in the Art Institute’s Columbus Theater since its founding in 1972, the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute moved into its state-of-the-art State Street facility in 2001. The Film Center plays host to festivals throughout the year, most recently the Asian American Showcase, and regularly highlights prominent work of new and classic international and independent cinema. Ongoing series include retrospectives on Preston Sturges and Michael Haneke, and curated series of music movies and New Hollywood American films of the 1970’s. At 164 N. State. Call 312/849-2600 or see www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Since last March, Fresh Produce Records’ home the Ice Factory hosts this monthly screening of short works by up and coming film and video artists, the last Tuesday of the month. Select works are also featured in the Chicago Free DVD Distribution Project. Ice Capades organizers Colin Palombi and Sara Cough are compiling a best of show selection for the June 29 screening, and will the take the program on the road for a month-long national micro cinema tour in July. Screenings April 27 and May 25 at 526 N. Ashland. Call 312/942-1478 or see www.fprecords.com.
Group 312 Films
Organizer Serena Schonbrun started Group 312 in 2002 as the Chicago chapter of Los Angeles’ Group 101 Films. Group 312 is a loose non-profit collective of local film and video artists who create and screen one short per director per month, every month, on a common theme. Membership is open to any director willing to make a six-month commitment. Latest screening 8:30 p.m. April 26, May screening to be announced. Screenings are at the Ukrainian Village lounge The Darkroom, 2210 W. Chicago. Call coordinator Brian Wyrick at 312/773-5609 or see www.group312films.com.
Screenings are at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 2nd floor, and at Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston. Call 773/ 293-1447 or see www.chicagofilmmakers.org.
? by Ed M. Koziarski, email@example.com.