Two Chicago feature-length docs to screen at 2nd Doc Festival April 1-11

With documentaries gaining in interest with both filmmakers and the public, the April 1-11 2nd annual Chicago International Documentary Festival should handily achieve its goal of doubling the audience to 13,000 from the festival’s debut in 2003.

The festival opens April 1 with Naofumi Nakamura’s “Marina,” about the star of the renowned Afghanistan-set drama “Osama.”

The festival screens 95 films through April 11, down from 119 films in its inaugural year. This year’s fest spotlights Russia, with 12 films from the St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio, the world’s oldest, and nine films by British documentarian Angus MacQueen, whose long career reflects a continuing fascination with Russia.

Sixteen films compete for the Chicago Doc Grand Prix and $20,000 in cash prizes.

Daniel Kraus’s “Sheriff” plays April 11 in the fest.

Other fest highlights include John Landis’ Memphis car salesman story “Slasher;” Werner Herzog’s Dalai Llama biopic “Wheel of Time;” and “Sonny Boy,” an account of her father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease by Soleil Moon Frye (TV’s “Punky Brewster.”)

The Doc Fest drew an audience of 6,500 last year, a figure Doc Fest founder Christopher Kamyszew hopes to double this year, with a goal of 25,000 by year five.

“We want to combine masters of the genre with emerging filmmakers,” said Kamyszew. “We’re working to build a public for the festival. Docs are getting more exposure ? the public wants something more serious than they can get a chance to watch in commercial theaters.”

Kamyszew founded a theater at Warsaw University, and taught theater directing at Columbia College. In 1989 he established the Polish Film Festival in America, now the largest festival of Polish cinema anywhere, drawing more than 32,000 people a year in 13 cities. Kamyszew founded the nonprofit Society for the Arts in 1993, the umbrella organization for both festivals, dedicated to fostering cultural exchange between Europe and the U.S.

Two feature docs by Chicagoans play in the Doc Fest: John Borowski’s “H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer” and Daniel Kraus’s “Sheriff.”

“H.H. Holmes” claims the distinction of being the first in what looks to be a string of films on the late-19th Century Chicago murderer: Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio both reportedly have narrative versions of Holmes’ story in development. A Columbia College alum with a background in commercials, Borowski makes his feature debut with “Holmes” after the 2000 short doc “Urban Armor.” “Holmes” plays Tuesday, April 6 at 9 p.m. at Facets Cinemateque, 1517 W. Fullerton.

“Sheriff” is an intimate, action-packed portrait of Brunswick County, North Carolina’s top lawman. It’s the second feature doc by Krause, who debuted at age 20 with the 1998 Slamdance favorite “Jefftowne,” a stereotype-busting portrayal of a hard-drinking, pornography-loving, shoplifting man with Down’s Syndrome. “Sheriff” screens Sunday, April 11 at 5 p.m. at the Gallery Theatre, 1112 N. Milwaukee.

Screenings are held at six locations throughout the city: Beverly Arts Center and Doc Films at the U of C on the South Side, Facets, Gallery Theatre, Thorne Auditorium on the North Side and the Gateway Theatre on the Northwest Side.

Festival headquarters is at 1112 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773/486-9612. See a complete schedule at

Borowski’s Waterfront Productions is at 4406 N. Milwaukee; 773/988-1715. See

Kraus’s Go Pictures is at 1348 N. Bell, 773/252-1646. See

? by Ed M. Koziarski,