New CIFCC: Diversity among multi-platform film critics

The new Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, (CIFCC) dedicated to giving a voice to local film critics working in new media, held its first film showcase last weekend, Nov. 5-6, at two theatres.

“Resilience,” a documentary from Robert Redford’s son, James, about a new cutting-edge brain science, showcased at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Saturday.

On Sunday, SAIC MFA candidate, writer/director Joe Houlberg’s acclaimed Ecuadorian horror-thriller feature, “Thirst,” debuted at the Wilmette Theatre screening.

James Redford

“Thirst” was followed by a 70-minute presentation of video essays from leading film critics around the world, curated by filmmaker Kevin B. Lee, chief video essayist for Fandor’s film site.

Post-screenings was an informative question and answer session by the filmmakers. The films were chosen, according to co-founder Michael Glover Smith, a filmmaker, author and film-studies instructor, “as works that are truly are independent and feel really vital and new.”

The CIFCC, comprised of some 30 members, began in March, 2016 in response to a need for diversity and independence in film criticism, to highlight independent films and allow critics to express opinions using a variety of platforms.

“There are a lot of great local critics working in ‘new media,’ such as podcasts, video essays, video blogs,” Smith said. “I felt like a new organization was needed in order to support them and to be able to give them more of a voice.”

CIFCC makes diversity among film critics a priority

According to Smith, membership diversity is also a CIFCC priority. Film critic groups are highly under-represented by women, individuals from different ethnic backgrounds, and the LGBQT community, and these voices need to be heard as well.

CIFCC co-founder Michael Glover SmithSmith explained that “independent” also means “we are independent in mind and spirit.” Many of CIFCC members don’t have editors to give assignments, which creates freedom in choice.

“We do feel a responsibility to shine a light on good independent films and independent theaters, which don’t get as much coverage as they deserve from the mainstream media,” said Smith.

After last weekend’s impressive first formal showcase, the CIFCC will hold its first awards event in January, 2017.

Keeping with the theme of “independence,” the group has unique categories, including Best Independent Film (under $20M), Best Micro-Budget Film (under $500K), Best Chicago Film, Best Undistributed Film (not screened in the public), and an Impact Award (positive impact on global cinema culture) to name a few.

To be considered for an award, contact

Film critic Pamela Powell, with a master’s degree from Northwestern University, writes for The Daily Journal newspaper, Fete Lifestyle Magazine, Reel Honest Reviews, and contributes to QVoice. Contact her at