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Category Archives: Uncategorized

RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO Acquired for Distribution by Cow Lamp Films

I am excited to announce that Cow Lamp Films has acquired RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO for distribution! The film will be made available to stream on various online platforms and for purchase as a Special Edition DVD after our theatrical/festival run concludes in October. You can read all about the acquisition in a nifty story by Dan Patton at Reel Chicago: https://reelchicago.com/article/rendezvous-chicago-2/

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Khalik Allah’s BLACK MOTHER

I have a review of Khalik Allah’s visionary Black Mother at Time Out Chicago. I’m reproducing it in its entirety below.

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Toward the end of his recent film The Image Book, director Jean-Luc Godard quotes Bertolt Brecht in saying: “In reality, only a fragment carries the mark of authenticity.” This is a fitting epitaph to a film, and a career, characterized by its radical, collage-like approach to juxtaposing image and sound. It would have been equally appropriate, though for very different reasons, for this quote to appear in Black Mother, a visually astonishing and deeply spiritual love letter to Jamaica made by the acclaimed American filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah. While The Image Book primarily uses clips from other films to illustrate the misrepresentation of the Arab world in the West, Black Mother uses fragments of footage Allah shot by himself in his mother’s home country of Jamaica, on a variety of film and video formats (Hi8, miniDV, Super 8, 16mm and high-definition digital) over a span of 20 years. Chicagoans will have a chance to see the kaleidoscopic result, which is best experienced on a large screen, when the film receives its local premiere run at the Facets Cinematheque from Friday, May 3 through Thursday, May 9.

Although Allah’s mother does appear in the film, the title is a reference to the notion of Jamaica as an ancestral homeland, a place the director has visited since the age of three and which he puts on screen in a captivating fashion. Black Mother is cleverly structured into three sections—referred to as “trimesters”—that speak volumes about both the history and present of Jamaica, including its painful legacy of colonialism. The film relentlessly avoids clichéd images of Jamaican culture (reggae, weed and Rastafarianism are barely acknowledged) and eschews the norms of documentary filmmaking. It’s a highly personal and visually dense cinematic essay in which sound and image are deliberately out of synch —only one shot in the film’s sublime final chapter, of Allah’s late Jamaican grandfather, features a subject speaking live on camera. An ambitious and dreamlike visual-aural fugue, it represents a clear evolution from Allah’s first feature, Field Niggas, in training a benevolent camera eye on a variety of dispossessed subjects, including sex workers. As in the films of Pedro Costa, Allah gives a voice to the voiceless while solidifying his own unique cinematic language.

For more information about Black Mother’s Chicago run, including ticket info and showtimes, visit Facets Multimedia’s website.

 


MAGNOLIA & CLEMENTINE at the Beloit International Film Festival

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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.

 


RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO Press Round-Up / Newcity’s Film 50

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(left to right: Rendezvous in Chicago Associate Producer Jill Sandmire, Production Manager Armani Barron, me, and Producer Layne Marie Williams)

My new film Rendezvous in Chicago had its World Premiere this past weekend at the fabulous Adirondack Film Festival in Glens Falls, NY where we had two screenings in front of large and appreciative audiences (the first show was sold out!) and were fortunate to take the 2nd place Audience Choice Award for Best Feature. It was great to have some of the “Women of the Now” on hand to celebrate the occasion. The first reviews have also started to appear in print and online. All are positive and all have good insights into the film. Here’s a round-up:

  • “Mr. Price,” a Virginia-based critic writing at the Strasburg Film website, concludes his review by noting, “Superb writing, backed up by standout performances against the gorgeous visual backdrop of the titular city, make this film an experience unlike any other.” You can read his full review here.
  • Pamela Powell, writing at her Reel Honest Reviews site, calls it “Refreshingly fun” and notes “the strength of the women in the first and third stories.” Her full review is here.
  • Leo Brady, at his A Movie Guy site, appears taken aback by the lighthearted tone (after my previous film Mercury in Retrograde) but still writes that “Rendezvous in Chicago is the perfect escape.” Check the full review here.
  • In a print article that appeared in the Glens Falls Post Star, film writer Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli recommended our Saturday screening as one of the day’s “offbeat” highlights and praised Rendezvous‘ “beautiful” cinematography. She also has a few quotes from me and producer Layne Marie Williams in her story, which you can peep online here.

Finally, I recently made Newcity Chicago‘s annual “Film 50” list for the first time. A lot of talented friends and colleagues have been on this list over the past seven years and it’s a huge honor for me to be in their company. You can read Ray Pride’s write up of me in the October edition of this great alternative monthly – physical copies of which are currently all around Chicago, or you can check out the expanded write-up online here. Thanks so much to Ray for the words and photographer Sally Blood for the photos (one of which I’m posting below):

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Interview with Middle Coast Film Festival Director Jess Levandoski

My interview with Jess Levandoski appeared at Time Out Chicago yesterday. I’m reproducing it here in its entirety.
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After four successful years in Bloomington, Indiana, the fifth annual Middle Coast Film Festival will move to Lincoln Square’s Davis Theatre later this month. The event promises local movie fans “loads of films, awesome parties and endless possibilities” between Friday, September 21 and Sunday, September 23. We recently spoke to festival director Jess Levandoski about what attendees can expect.

What exactly is the Middle Coast Film Fest? How would you describe its identity and mission?

Middle Coast’s goal is to provide an inclusive, uplifting, and affirming community to filmmakers and audience members alike. In other words, we like to say we’ve created a jerk-free zone. We want this festival to be the event in Chicago where filmmakers can let their hair down and just show us films that elicit emotions. This isn’t a fest where you’ll get a distribution deal, it’s a fest where you’ll get to have real talk about your projects and where audiences feel empowered to really connect with you. We want to build a huge family! Send us all your misfits and loners, you’ve got a spot right here next to the rest of us.

You’ve had four successful years in Bloomington already. What necessitated the move to Chicago and did you find it daunting to put on a film festival in a city that already has so many?

As the founder and director of the festival, I moved, so it had to move with me! We built a great fest in Bloomington, and it really is a special town, but we hit a limit with what we could do there (and plus all the staff members moved away) so I’m so thrilled to have the new home base in Chicago! And as far as the saturation level of fests here in Chicago, that just means there are that many cool people in the area, you know? Plenty of room at the table, and if there’s not, I know we can just add more seats.

You’ve said that you want to “take over Lincoln Square” for the weekend of the festival. What do you see as the relationship between the festival and the neighborhood?

When I was looking into venues, I searched high and low for the perfect neighborhood to place it in. I needed to find a venue that didn’t already have a film fest every other weekend, I needed a spot that had a strong arts community and folks who enjoy doing stuff. The area of Lincoln Square, Ravenswood and North Center was perfect for it—you can find single family homes and apartment dwellers, young professionals and families, loads of diversity. It’s not all completely gentrified yet and there’s room for growth. So finding the newly renovated Davis Theater with the gorgeous full service bar and restaurant, the Carbon Arc, attached to it was a real eureka moment for me. It felt like a home for the fest when I walked in. It’s run by an awesome group of dudes who want to see a film fest be anchored there, so their support has been a key to our success so far. We’ve partnered with both Wintrust Bank and the Dank Haus Cultural Center to expand the footprint of the festival, so our closing night party will be on the rooftop terrace that overlooks the city and it will just be this perfect ending to our first year in the neighborhood. I just have a great feeling about it!

Tell me about the lineup. I know you can’t pick favorites but what are some of the highlights that you might recommend to a first-time Middle Coast attendee?

We open Friday September 21, at 2pm with our first block of shorts called “PEOPLE ARE AWESOME.” The first 100 badge holders through the door get a free swag bag. That’s pretty cute, huh? Free stuff! We will also have live music on the sidewalk, mountains of Lacroix water and fun vendor booths, including an advice booth from our sponsor Hello Tushy, where you can get honest advice from a real asshole (Hello Tushy is a bidet company. See what we did there?). Friday night also hosts our anniversary screening of The Birdcage, presented in partnership with Wussy Mag. We’ll have costume lewks contest hosted by Chicago’s own Lucy Stoole and Kat Sass. Saturday we open the doors of the Davis to run programming in all three theaters, including a big surprise film. Our lounge in the Carbon Arc will be open all day, as well as our vendors and podcasting areas.

Our big headliner Saturday night is a Chicago premiere, The New Romantic, written and directed by Carly Stone and starring Jessica Barden (Netflix’s It’s the End of the F*cking World!). I’ve been describing it as “If Hunter S. Thompson wrote Pretty Woman.”

You’ve also scheduled some panel discussions. Who’s going to be on them and what will the discussion topics be?

Friday we have a panel called “Script to Screen & Everything In Between!,” which is just our cute way of saying our panelists are going to spill the tea about productions they’ve worked on where shit has gone way wrong, but with style and grace and lots of Google docs and begging for help they made it work. It’s gonna be spicy.

Saturday we have a panel called “Coastal Connections,” which is a discussion with the LA Women’s Film Collective and Chicago’s Women of the Now. Our panelists will discuss the challenges they face and the action steps for femme identifying filmmakers to think about and walk away with. We need more representation in the film world and they’re going to ignite the audience to walk away with ways to achieve that goal.

For more information visit the Middle Coast Film Festival’s website.


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov)
2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene)
3. Hesburgh (Creadon)
4. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (Mizoguchi)
5. Custody (Legrand)
6. Three Identical Strangers (Wardle)
7. City Lights (Chaplin)
8. Sherlock Jr. (Keaton)
9. The General (Keaton)
10. John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection (Faraut)


“Filmmaker Friday” at Stage 18 Chicago This Friday

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A while ago I mentioned on this very blog that I am producing Roy’s World, a feature-length documentary about the writer Barry Gifford that is being directed by my friend Rob Christopher. This innovative film, now deep in post-production, will consist almost entirely of archival footage of Chicago from the 1950s and 1960s and is being narrated by the great actors Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor. I’m happy to report that Rob and I will be co-hosting the inaugural “Filmmaker Friday” networking event at Stage 18 Chicago this Friday, July 13th, from 4:30-6:00pm. Any and all active IFP Chicago members are invited to come hang out with other members, find potential collaborators, and make connections. There may even be a little Roy’s World teaser unveiled at this event as well… We hope to see you there!


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