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Category Archives: Chicago Movies

BOYCOTT ’63 and F*** YOUR HAIR at the Siskel Center

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Kartemquin Films is still going strong after half a century (see last year’s impressive one-two punch of Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap and Steve James’ America to Me) but the short-form works of Chicago’s documentary production-company powerhouse tend to receive less exposure than its features. That should change with the release of ’63 Boycott, a provocative new short directed by Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn that was recently shortlisted for an Oscar (but alas failed to receive a nomination).

Quinn’s 30-minute documentary primarily details the remarkable but strangely forgotten true story of how 250,000 Chicago students boycotted the public schools in which they were enrolled to protest segregation during the height of the Civil Rights movement. The filmmakers combine archival 16mm footage, much of it previously unseen, with present-day interviews with the original boycott participants to paint a compelling portrait of one of the largest civil rights demonstrations to take place outside of the South. But ’63 Boycott is no dusty museum piece: The filmmakers also draw parallels between the segregationist policies of Mayor Daley in the 1960s and the similarly racist policies of Rahm Emmanuel’s contemporary administration—particularly in regards to the mass closure of public schools in minority communities.

’63 Boycott is well paired with the world premiere of Jason Polevoi’s F*** Your Hair—a more light-hearted though no-less polemical non-fiction short—when both films screen together at the Gene Siskel Film Center’s annual Stranger Than Fiction Series beginning this Friday. The latter movie follows the strange odyssey of Andres Araya and Mila Ramirez, Latin American immigrants who founded Chicago’s 5 Rabbit Cerveceria and unwittingly found themselves at the center of a social protest movement after being commissioned to brew the house beer for Trump Tower.

After Trump’s disturbing campaign-trail pronouncements about Mexican immigrants, the owners of 5 Rabbit Cerveceria found themselves with little recourse but to pull their beer from the tower—a blonde ale that they promptly rebranded “Chinga Tu Pelo” (or “F*** Your Hair”). The relabeled brew catapulted 5 Rabbit to new heights of popularity as local restaurants, watering holes and individual consumers began purchasing the beer in mass quantities, making an anti-Trump statement in the process. Polevoi’s witty and engaging 38-minute shaggy-dog story, which features interviews with Hopleaf owner Michael Roper andThe Matrix co-director Lily Wachowski, should hold equal appeal for political obsessives and craft-beer aficionados alike.

The Stranger Than Fiction screenings of ’63 Boycott and F*** Your Hair will take place on Friday, January 25, Saturday, January 26 and Wednesday, January 30. Filmmakers representing both films will attend all screenings. More information, including ticket info and showtimes, can be found on the  Siskel Center’s website.

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RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO at the Gene Siskel Film Center

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Tickets for the four RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO screenings at the Gene Siskel Film Center next month are on sale NOW. I anticipate sell-out crowds (w/ the Friday and Saturday shows selling out first) and strongly advise buying advance tickets at the Siskel Center box office or online here. I will appear for audience discussion at all screenings, along with these special guests:

Fri, 2/8, 8pm – Intro: Conor Cornelius/Moderator: Tom Hush (WGN’s No Coast Cinema). Panelists: Actors Clare Cooney, Nina Ganet, David McNulty, Matt Sherbach

Sat, 2/9, 4:30pm – Moderator: Pamela Kammer Powell (FF2 Media). Panelists: Women of the Now (producer Layne Marie Williams, associate producer Jill Sandmire, colorist Grace Pisula and script supervisor Hannah Butler)

Mon, 2/11, 7:45pm – Moderator: Pat McDonald (Hollywood Chicago). Panelists: Actor Rashaad Hall, producer Layne Marie Williams, cinematographer Alex Halstead, editor Eric Marsh, production designer Haley McCormick. Note: On Monday only, the feature will be followed by McCormick’s short film DANCER (7 min)

Wed, 2/13, 7:45pm – Moderator: Matt Fagerholm (RogerEbert.com). Panelists: Actors Clare Cooney, Nina Ganet, Matt Sherbach, Shane Simmons

Please also RSVP to our delightful Facebook Event Page.

 


RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO in Cinefile Chicago

Rendezvous in Chicago screens at the Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival in Des Plaines (the Illinois Premiere!) this Thursday, November 29 at 2pm. Critic Scott Pfeiffer has reviewed the film for Cine-File Chicago. I found his spoiler-free review so insightful that I’m reprinting it below in its entirety. Check it out then come to the screening on Thursday:

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Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival

Oakton Community College (1600 E. Golf Rd., Des Plaines) — Tuesday-Friday, November 27-30 (Free Admission)

Michael Glover Smith’s RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO (New American)
Thursday, 2pm
At a time when our leaders prey on, and feed off, the worst parts of ourselves, it couldn’t be a more necessary time for an homage to Éric Rohmer. That’s just what my friend, Cine-File‘s own Mike Smith, has given us with his third feature, the sweet, delightful, humanistic rom-com RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO. It celebrates love and intelligence—that is to say, the best in us. Smith has taken the basic form of Rohmer’s RENDEZVOUS IN PARIS—three sketches united by their setting in one of the world’s great cities—and added his own original agenda, which encompasses feminism and a pro-gay vision. He’s even shot the movie in Rohmer’s favored boxy Academy aspect ratio. Smith’s script, based on stories he dreamed up with Jill McKeown (his wife and also a friend), shows his knack for the simple yet elegant structure: the three chapters correspond to the beginning, middle, and end of love, respectively, with the end cycling back into the beginning. Coming out of acting retirement after 37 years, Haydée Politoff, from Rohmer’s touchstone LA COLLECTIONNEUSE (1967), performs a place-setting Hyde Park prologue. She’s the faculty adviser to U of C doctoral candidate Delaney, wittily played by Clare Cooney. The first vignette, The Brothers Karamazov, takes place in a little candlelit wine bar. If I say it’s a bit of a Kubrickian/Lynchian antechamber, that belies how cozy it actually is. It’s a lonely Sunday night and whip-smart Delaney is working on her thesis. Suddenly, she finds herself being hit on, not entirely unwelcomed, by the only other patron: none other than Paul, the likably pretentious aspiring writer from COOL APOCALYPSE, Smith’s debut. (Amusingly, when we get a glimpse of what Paul’s writing, it’s the end of MERCURY IN RETROGRADE, Smith’s second feature.) Once again, Paul is played by the funny Kevin Wehby, who’s emerging as Smith’s Jean-Pierre Léaud, or Kyle MacLachlan. Delaney proposes a naughty little game, which quickly hoists Paul with his own male petard. The second sketch, Cats and Dogs, is my favorite. Achieving an effortless Linklater-ian tone, it follows a gay couple, Andy and Rob, as they walk from their Rogers Park home to the shores of Lake Michigan. Smith sets the scene with glimpses of the Essanay and Selig Polyscope buildings, nods to Chicago’s rich film history, a subject on which he literally wrote the book. We know, but Andy doesn’t, that Rob has a question to pop, but look out—as they meet the neighborhood’s dogs, it emerges that Andy’s more of a cat person, whereas Rob’s a dog guy! As Andy and Rob, respectively, Rashaad Hall and Matthew Sherbach are so natural, charming, and funny that I not only wanted them to be a real couple, I wanted to be their friend. They run into Tess from COOL APOCALYPSE (Chelsea David), who’s out walking Sophie the Shih Tzu, playing herself in a flawless method performance. When the gents get to the beach, there’s a moving homage to the immortal “Lake Shore Drive” by the late Skip Haynes, to whom the film is dedicated. The third sketch, The End Is the Beginning, is the most minimalist. It features Nina Ganet, back as Julie from COOL APOCALYPSE. After a sudden, tumultuous rom-com breakup with Wyatt from MERCURY IN RETROGRADE (Shane Simmons), Julie finds herself alone again, but for us. Warming to us, she begins to fall in love with the camera itself: that is to say, with you and me. Since she’s played by the sunny, freckle-faced Ganet, how can we resist falling in love back, at least a little? It’s a remarkably benign, even celebratory, view of “the gaze.”  As Julie takes us in her arms to dance, we spin round and round, dizzy on the cusp of new love. As an Ohio boy who’s lived in Chicago for 25 years now, I love the idea of doing for my adopted city what Rohmer did for Paris. My personal feeling is that the magic is always there in Chicago: you just need to know how to look. Perhaps the most valuable thing RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO did for me is to renew that feeling, after all these years. It’s a vision to treasure: heaven might just be a beach on the shores of Lake Michigan, lolling away the afternoon with someone you love, in Chicago, Illinois. Smith, producer Layne Marie Williams, and select cast in person (moderated by Cine-File Associate Editor Kathleen Sachs). (2018, 69 min, Digital Projection) SP


Two New RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO Radio Interviews!

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Clare Cooney and I recently appeared on two Chicago-area radio shows to promote the upcoming RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO screening at the Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival. There is very little overlap between these and the No Coast Cinema interview we did last month so all are worth listening to!

On Tuesday, November 13, we appeared on the Nick Digilio Show on WGN radio. You can listen to that 30-minute segment here.

Yesterday, Sunday, November 18, we appeared on WCGO’s Playtime with Bill Turck and Kerri Kendall. You can watch the 10-minute interview on Facebook Live by skipping to the one-hour-and-fifty-minute mark here.

More interviews and reviews should drop soon – so stay tuned!


RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO at the Strasburg Film Festival

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RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO had its second festival screening at the Strasburg Film Festival in Strasburg, Virginia on Sunday, November 11. The screening was held at the Box Office Brewery, a beautiful old movie theater that has been converted into a craft brewery. Representing the film were yours truly and stories co-author Jillian McKeown. Much to our delight we won the award for Best Comedy and were presented with a beautiful earthenware trophy during the Q&A following the screening. This was a big honor considering the festival received over 5,500 submissions from 100+ countries and we were very impressed by the quality of the other films being screened. Check out the full list of winners on the festival’s website here. Big thanks to the Strasburg Film Festival staff and everyone who came out to the screening, and congrats to the entire RENDEZVOUS cast and crew!
Our next screening will be the Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival in Des Plaines, IL on 11/29. Stay tuned for more info including 2019 screening dates!


The 5th Annual Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival!

I am excited to announce that, after the success of the last four Oakton Pop-Up Film Festivals, I have programmed and will be hosting P.U.F.F. for the fifth consecutive year. The screenings of these acclaimed independent American films (three features and three shorts), spanning various genres and styles, will all take place at Oakton Community College’s Footlik Theater in Des Plaines, Illinois, from Tuesday, November 27 through Friday, November 30. The entire festival is FREE and open to the public and ALL screenings will be followed by live Q&A sessions with cast and crew members from the films. Any of my students who attend a screening will receive extra credit points towards his or her final grade (see the extra credit page of your course website for more information). Don’t you dare miss it!

Oakton Community College’s 4th Annual Pop-Up Film Festival!
Footlik Theatre, 1600 E. Golf Road, Des Plaines
Tuesday, Nov. 27 – Friday, Nov. 30 – FREE admission

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Tuesday, 11/27 at 2pm: Madeline’s Madeline + post-screening discussion with Tina Fakhrid-Deen and Michael Glover Smith
Madeline got the lead role in the play! Strangely, the character wears sweatpants like Madeline. And has a cat like Madeline’s. And is holding a steaming hot iron next to her mother’s face… like Madeline is. An official selection of the Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals, Josephine Decker’s intense psychodrama is an indescribable masterpiece that has been acclaimed as “one of the freshest and most exciting films of the 21st century” by Indiewire.

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Wednesday, 11/28 at 12:30pm: Future Language: The Dimensions of Von LMO + live Q&A w/ director Lori Felker moderated by Shannon Sloan-Spice
This experimental documentary chronicles the life of Von LMO, a musician and self-proclaimed alien-hybrid who was part of the late 70s New York No Wave music scene. Between trips to his home planet Strazar, Von has spent some very real time in prison and on the streets of Earth. Challenged with translating his Future Language for audiences across the galaxy, Lori, our filmmaker and Von LMO fan, gets sucked into Von’s orbit and finds herself lost in his story. An official selection of the Chicago Underground Film Festival.

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Thursday, 11/29 at 2pm: Rendezvous in Chicago + live Q&A w/ director Michael Smith, cast members Clare Cooney, Rashaad Hall, Kevin Wehby, David McNulty and producer Layne Marie Williams moderated by Kathleen Sachs
RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO is a short, comedic feature film consisting of three vignettes that correspond to the beginning (“The Brothers Karamazov”), middle (“Cats and Dogs”) and end (“The End is the Beginning”) stages of a relationship. This love letter to the Windy City and its colorful inhabitants was an official selection of the 2018 Adirondack Film Festival.

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Friday, 11/30 at 12:30pm:
Experimental Shorts Program + live Q&A w/ directors Melika Bass, Maggie Scrantom and Haley McCormick moderated by Michael Smith
This program showcases acclaimed, wordless experimental short films that were all produced locally: CREATURE COMPANION (Bass), ASHES OF ATOMS (Scrantom) and DANCER (McCormick).

The film festival is sponsored by Oakton Community College’s Educational Foundation.


RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO Trailer

With less than a month until the World Premiere of my new film RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO at the Adirondack Film Festival, I’ve posted our trailer to YouTube (it was previously available only as an exclusive at Daily Grindhouse). Check it out!


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