Tag Archives: Kevin B. Lee

CIFCC First Annual Showcase of Films

The Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, an organization I co-founded earlier this year, will be putting on its first annual showcase of films on Saturday, November 5 and Sunday, November 6 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and the Wilmette Theatre in downtown Wilmette. Filmmakers will be present for live Q&As following all three screenings. Any of my students who attend these screenings will earn extra credit points (see the extra-credit page of your course website for more info). Detailed information about the films, venues and showtimes can be found below. Hope to see you there!


The Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle presents the Chicago premiere of James Redford’s new documentary, RESILIENCE: THE BIOLOGY OF STRESS & THE SCIENCE OF HOPE.



In conjunction with the Third Annual International Resilience Summit (Nov. 2-3), the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle is proud to present the Chicago premiere of RESILIENCE: THE BIOLOGY OF STRESS & THE SCIENCE OF HOPE. Director James Redford will appear in person to discuss the film.

RESILIENCE documents the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators and communities who are using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction and disease. RESILIENCE delves into the science, treatment and prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), a leading cause of medical diseases ranging from heart disease and cancer to substance abuse and depression. For more information about the film and to watch the trailer, please visit: kpjrfilms.co/resilience/

James Redford is a filmmaker and activist whose work includes the HBO documentaries, TOXIC HOT SEAT and THE BIG PICTURE: RETHINKING DYSLEXIA. He is the Chairman of The Redford Center, a non-profit film production company he co-founded with his father, Robert Redford, devoted to making documentaries that inspire positive change.


The Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle presents THIRST.



1122 Central Avenue, Wilmette, IL

THIRST (SED) is a claustrophobic thriller and an impressive debut for Chicago-based Ecuadorian writer/director Joe Houlberg. “The story concerns a young blind woman who vacations at a country home with her cousin and their two boyfriends. The house, a colonial mansion where the cousins spent summers in their childhood, seems to bring out carnal desires in the foursome and effectively functions as a fifth central character. Featuring ambiguous flashback inserts and an evocative use of image and sound to convey the sensory experiences of the blind heroine, this haunting mood piece establishes Houlberg as a filmmaker to watch” (Michael Smith, Time Out Chicago). In Spanish with English subtitles.

Followed by a live Q&A with Joe Houlberg moderated by CIFCC member Jason Coffman.


The Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle presents THE ART OF THE VIDEO ESSAY, curated by Kevin B. Lee.



1122 Central Avenue, Wilmette, IL

The New York Times called Chicago-based critic and CIFCC member Kevin B. Lee the “king of the video essay.” He is Chief Video Essayist at Fandor and his award-winning, TRANSFORMERS: THE PREMAKE, was named one of the best documentaries of 2014 by Sight & Sound.

Video essays—a relatively new form of criticism—came to prominence online in the early 2000s and provocatively comment on cinema by using the language of the very medium they analyze. Most video essays consist of clips from films that have been cleverly edited together and accompanied by voice-over narration in order to make points about cinema that writing alone can’t convey. THE ART OF THE VIDEO ESSAY is a 70-minute program curated by Lee, consisting of short video essays made by leading film critics from around the world.

Followed by a live Q&A with Kevin B. Lee moderated by CIFCC member Daniel Nava!

The Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to giving voice to independent films and diversity within the film industry. Our CIFCC Showcase series is bringing several new or overlooked movies to area theaters this fall.

For more information about us, please visit: chicagoindiecritics.org


WCCRH Episode Eight: Brandy Burre and Kevin B. Lee


The eighth episode of The White City Cinema Radio Hour is now online and consists of audio excerpts from Q&A sessions recorded at the 2nd annual Oakton Pop-Up Film Fest in Des Plaines, Illinois, in December 2015. In the first interview I talk to Brandy Burre, an actress best known for a recurring role on HBO’s The Wire, following a screening of Robert Greene’s extraordinary documentary Actress (for which she is the subject). Then I interview Chicago-based critic, filmmaker and pioneering video essayist Kevin B. Lee following a screening of Lee’s documentary short Transformers: The Premake. You can listen to both screenings on the Transistor site here.

The Second Annual Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival

I am excited to announce that, after the success of last year’s inaugural Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival, I have programmed and will be hosting P.U.F.F. again. The screenings of this year’s four award-winning independent American films, spanning various genres and styles, will all take place at Oakton Community College’s Footlik Theater (room 1344) in Des Plaines, Illinois, from Tuesday, December 1 through Friday, December 4. All four screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, moderated by various Oakton Humanities professors, including yours truly. The screenings are all FREE and open to the public. 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!

The full schedule:

Actress (Robert Greene, 2014, 86 minutes)
Tuesday, December 1 at 2:00pm


Winner of Best Documentary at the Nantucket Film Festival, this extraordinary movie hybridizes non-fiction and melodrama elements in its portrait of Brandy Burre, an actress best known for a recurring role on HBO’s acclaimed series The Wire. When the film begins, Burre has retired from acting in order to move to a small town with her restaurateur boyfriend and two young children. Burre is not satisfied, however, with playing the new roles of “mother” and “housewife” full time, and Actress, while never less than emotionally gripping, turns into a complex essay on the nature of what it means to perform.
Followed by a live Q&A with director Robert Greene and actress Brandy Burre conducted by Michael Smith

Black Box (Stephen Cone, 2013, 84 minutes)
Wednesday, December 2 at 12:30pm


Named one of the best films of 2014 by the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips, this haunting drama is set in the world of college theater and centers on students grappling with issues pertaining to sexual and religious identity. Grad student Holly (Josephine Decker) tackles the ambitious project of directing a theatrical version of a cult young-adult novel titled The Reaper’s Children. The novel, about the sinister goings-on at an orphanage, made a huge impression on Holly during her formative years and the gothic-horror tone of her production has an uncanny way of both bleeding into the lives of its performers as well as informing the overall tone of Cone’s (ostensibly non-horror) film.
Followed by a live Q&A with director Stephen Cone conducted by Lindsey Hewitt.

Transformers: The Premake (Kevin B. Lee, 2014, 26 minutes)
Thursday, December 3 at 2:00pm


An official selection of the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival, this dense video essay offers a playful inquiry into the role of social media in the production and dissemination of the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster. It utilizes footage that Lee himself shot behind the scenes of the Chicago-made segments of Transformers: Age of Extinction, as well as footage shot and uploaded to YouTube by literally hundreds of other amateur filmmakers. The globe-spanning myriad of data that results adds up to an intellectually vibrant and viscerally pounding half-hour of pure cinema.
Followed by a live Q&A with director Kevin B. Lee conducted by Therese Grisham.

Cool Apocalypse (Directed by Michael Smith, 2015, 73 minutes)
Friday, December 4 at 12:30pm


Winner of the Best Dramatic Feature award at the 2015 Illinois International Film Festival, this microbudget comedy/drama tells the story of two very different relationships, one of which is about to begin and the other of which has just ended.
Followed by a live Q&A with director Michael Smith conducted by Laurence Knapp.

This film festival is sponsored by a generous grant from the Oakton Community College Educational Foundation.

Kevin B. Lee’s Transformers: The Premake / Flickering Empire News Roundup


At Time Out Chicago today, I have a review of Kevin B. Lee’s Transformers: The Premake, an astonishing 25-minute video essay that interrogates the role of social media in the making and releasing of Hollywood blockbusters. Released online last year, it has also just screened at the recently concluded Berlin International Film Festival. You can both read my review and watch Kevin’s short in its entirety by clicking on this link: http://www.timeout.com/chicago/blog/chicago-filmmaker-kevin-b-lee-explores-unique-medium-with-transformers-the-premake

In Flickering Empire news, Adam Selzer and I conducted an interview with Transistor Chicago’s Andy Miles for his webcast to promote the official book release party this Saturday night. Out of the four audio interviews we’ve jointly done, this one is by far my favorite; Andy asked good questions and the mood is fun and relaxed. Listen to the 20-minute interview and then come out to our book talk/book signing at Transistor. This free BYOB event will include the screening of four Chicago-shot silent films (An Awful Skate, The Roller Skate Craze, From the Submerged and His New Job), all of which will be live-scored by Chicago saxophonist Labrat: http://www.transistorchicago.com/22115

There’s also a nice story about the book in today’s Chicago Tribune (with a couple quotes from yours truly): http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/ct-prj-flickering-empire-michael-glover-smith-adam-selzer-20150219-story.html

And, finally, here’s a superb review by Chicagoist‘s Joel Wicklund, who says that Flickering Empire “immediately joins the ranks of essential film references”: http://chicagoist.com/2015/02/19/flickering_empire_gives_chicago_its.php

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