The virtual edition of the great Beloit International Film Festival is now live. That means that Wisconsin and Illinois residents have between now and February 28 to stream ROY’S WORLD: BARRY GIFFORD’S CHICAGO, a documentary produced by yours truly, directed by Rob Christopher and narrated by Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor. I was last at BIFF with RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO in 2019 and it is one of my favorite regional film fests. Please visit the BIFF website for info regarding tickets for a film rental and the Zoom Q&A!
Category Archives: Film Festivals
I wrote the following capsule review of the Beloit International Film Fest’s “WI / IL TWO” shorts program for Time Out Chicago.
A Missed Connection. Photo courtesy of Third Wheel Entertainment.
Chicago Shorts Shine at This Year’s Beloit International Film Festival
Located in a picturesque small town in Wisconsin just north of the Illinois border, the Beloit International Film Festival is a gem of a regional fest that has long featured an impressive roster of Midwestern filmmaking talent, and this year’s lineup is no exception. Any Chicagoans planning on attending the 2020 edition of BIFF, which kicks off tonight, Friday, February 21, and runs through Sunday, March 1, would do well to check out the “WI / IL TWO”shorts program: It features a contingent of unusually strong Chicago-made short films. Among the works screening in this program (and thus vying for the fest’s highly competitive “Best Illinois Short” award) are Matthew Weinstein’s A Missed Connection, Layne Marie Williams’ Golden Voices and Eve Rydberg’s Home. This program screens at Bagels & More on Friday, February 21 at 7:30pm and again at the same location on Saturday, February 22 at 7:30pm. Filmmakers and cast members from all three short films will be present for a Q&A session following both screenings.
A Missed Connection is an emotionally resonant study of two college friends, Jacob (Tyler Pistorius) and Lauren (Kimberly Michelle Williams), reconnecting in a coffee shop by chance on a wintry night. That writer/director Matthew Weinstein packs a bit too much “character arc” into the brief run time is a welcome problem in an age of films of too little ambition, and one that is compensated for by spectacularly subtle lead performances and gorgeous Rembrandt-esque visuals. Golden Voices is a poetic horror film about a ghost-chasing podcaster (Kalika Rose) who stumbles upon sleepwalking children whispering of “gold” in rural Indiana. Director Layne Marie Williams, aided by cinematographer Grace Pisula (whose Gold Point Studio produced), packs a wealth of haunting atmosphere into a fleet 14 minutes that will likely leave viewers wanting more; this could easily be the pilot for a web series. Home, a pungent dramedy about the reunion between a father/daughter duo, both on the verge of homelessness, serves as a terrific showcase for two of Chicago’s finest theater actors (Francis Guinan and Carolyn Hoerdemann, who also co-wrote); when actors can cause your heart to lurch by interacting with a tomato—you know you’re in the presence of art.
For more information about this year’s Beloit International Film Festival, including ticket info and showtimes,visit the BIFF website here.
ROY’S WORLD, the documentary film I produced about the childhood of the great writer Barry Gifford (WILD AT HEART) in Chicago during the mid-20th century, will have its World Premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival at the end of this month. I will be in attendance for a Q&A following both festival screenings (on 2/28 and 2/29) along with the film’s director, Rob Christopher. Any UK friends interested in attending either screening, please check out our film’s page on the #GFF20 website here.
American friends: Penguin/Random House books will be publishing a new collection of Barry’s “Roy” stories (1973-2000) as a tie-in to our documentary this September. It is available to pre-order now here.
I am pleased to announce that RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO has won the Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tallahassee Film Festival! This was our fourth award in eight festival screenings and I couldn’t have been happier about the response at this superbly programmed fest that is so close to my heart!
Our next screening will be at Chicago Filmmakers on Saturday, May 4 at 7:00 PM, which will be followed by a Q&A with yours truly moderated by critic David J. Fowlie. I will also be dropping announcements soon about our Michigan and New York City premieres – so stay tuned!
My latest post for Time Out Chicago concerns my best bets for the Doc10 Film Festival.
Entering its fourth year, the Chicago Media Project’s Doc10 Film Festival has established itself as an annual highlight for fans of cinema. Focusing on vital new non-fiction features from around the globe, the festival kicks off at the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square on Thursday, April 11 with the much-anticipated local premiere of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez documentary Knock Down the House, and concludes on Sunday, April 15 with the sustainable-farm portrait The Biggest Little Farm. The rest of the lineup features a diverse array of movies, almost all of which will be followed by Q&A sessions with the filmmakers. Most impressively, 60% of the films in this year’s lineup—programmed by Chicago International Film Festival doc programmer Anthony Kaufman—were directed or co-directed by women.
One of the most interesting films you can catch at this year’s Doc10 Film Festival is Hail Satan?, a witty and informative look at the meteoric rise in popularity of the non-theistic religious group known as the “Satanic Temple.” With unfettered access to the leaders of the group’s various nationwide chapters, including charismatic church founder Lucien Greaves, director Penny Lane crafts a deceptively simple work of political commentary that ultimately sympathizes with the “Satanists” as a group of merry pranksters who see their movement as a counterbalance to the repressiveness of other organized religions.
For those looking for something more aesthetically daring, Lukas Lorentzen’s Midnight Family offers an eye-opening expose of Mexico City’s private ambulance system through the lens of one particular family-owned company, which competes with other for-profit EMTs to provide urgent care. Director Lorentzen uses a combination of handheld and dashboard-mounted cameras to put viewers in the middle of the action in the exciting ambulance-run scenes, lending his film the feeling of a thriller. The unconventional approach earned Midnight Family the award for Best Cinematography at this year’s Sundance Film Festival—an eccentric but deserving choice.
For more information on this year’s Doc10 Film Festival, including the full lineup, ticket info and showtimes, visit the festival’s official website.
I am so honored that RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO won the Best Film Comedy award at the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival in Florence, Alabama last night! This was a great festival and it was a privilege just to screen alongside so many accomplished short and feature-length films. The award (our second Best Comedy award after Strasburg last fall) belongs to our entire cast and crew.
The next RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO screening will take place at the Beverly Arts Center on Wednesday, March 13 at 7:30pm and be followed by a Q&A with me conducted by critic Daniel Nava. Our next festival screening will take place at the Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia on the evening of Sunday, March 17 and be followed by a Q&A with me and producer Layne Marie Williams. For more info, visit the “Screenings” page.
There is a long tradition of American actresses becoming directors (including figures as disparate as Ida Lupino, Elaine May and Barbara Loden), often in order to give themselves better roles than what they’ve typically been offered by their male filmmaking counterparts. This trend has gratifyingly ramped up with a renewed urgency in the “Me Too” era: Among the very best short films to play Chicago cinema screens over the past year are urgent, female-centric works like Clare Cooney’s Runner and Maggie Scrantom’s Atoms of Ashes, both locally made. Magnolia & Clementine, a 16-minute short by Tennessee-based actress-turned-filmmaker Ashley Shelton, offers welcome proof that this is a nationwide trend. It’s a potent dramedy about an aspiring writer (Shelton) who throws a short story in the trash but is later mortified to learn that her live-in boyfriend (Linds Edwards) has stolen the concept when his own “original” story is published to acclaim. Anyone planning on attending the Beloit International Film Festival this weekend — where Shelton’s movie will screen on Friday, February 22 and Sunday, February 24 — would do well to check it out.
Magnolia & Clementine is, as one would expect, a great showcase for Shelton’s talents as an actress. A veteran of film and television in front of the camera, she does a lot here in a short span of time (plays a dual role, cries real tears, plays drunk, etc.) but the film ultimately delights because of her very real skills as a writer and director. Shelton understands the importance of pacing in film comedy: Many of the biggest laughs result from her cinematography and editing choices — whether it’s an eyeline match between the protagonist and an image of Jesus, or ending a scene with the “punchline” of a close-up of an empty roll of toilet paper. More importantly, Magnolia & Clementine starts off as a comedy but unexpectedly morphs into a poignant tale of self-discovery, a Chaplin-esque tonal balancing act that Shelton pulls off with admirable precision. What begins as a story about a relationship between a woman and a man ends up being about a woman’s relationship with herself as she learns to overcome her insecurities and fully declare herself an artist. There could be no more fitting subject for a filmmaking debut as auspicious as this one.
To learn more about this weekend’s screenings of Magnolia & Clementine, including ticket info and showtimes, visit the Beloit International Film Festival’s website.
There is a great story by Joey Filer at the essential Chicago film-industry news website Reel Chicago all about RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO. It features quotes from producer Layne Marie Williams, actress Clare Cooney and yours truly, and breaks the exciting news that our Chicago Premiere will be held at the Gene Siskel Film Center in February! Filer also makes some rather salient critical points about the film. He writes, “RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO’s music, camera work, 4:3 aspect ratio, narrative arc, vignette structure, and pacing, along with one of the most unconventional dance scenes in recent memory, all beg to be analyzed in a film theory course and written about in scholarly journals.” You can read the full article here.
I am also very excited to announce that our first festival screenings in 2019 will take place at the Santa Fe Film Festival in New Mexico (exact date TBA but the fest is held 2/13-2/17) and the Beloit International Film Festival in Wisconsin (exact date tba but the fest is held 2/23-3/04). Members of the cast and/or crew will be present for live Q&As after both screenings. Even more screenings will be announced soon – so stay tuned!
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:
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)
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
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!