Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Q&A with filmmaker Jamal Joseph on Chapter & Verse and the prison industrial complex

Posted By on 02.14.17 at 06:31 PM

Chapter & Verse
  • Chapter & Verse
Chapter & Verse, which finishes a run in Chicago tomorrow night, follows a former gang leader (Daniel Beaty) who, after serving eight years in prison, reenters society and struggles to adapt to his changed Harlem neighborhood. Beaty cowrote the film with director, educator, and activist Jamal Joseph, who loosely based the narrative on his own experience.

As a young man, Joseph was a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army and was prosecuted as one of the Panther 21. While incarcerated at Leavenworth penitentiary in the 1970s, he earned two college degrees, wrote five plays, produced two volumes of poetry, and founded a theater company of prisoners previously divided by race, culture, and violence.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

After Sundance, the impact of the Chicago Media Project’s films continues

Posted By on 02.10.17 at 02:30 PM

Whose Streets?
  • Whose Streets?
During the 2017 annual Sundance Film Festival—which took place January 19 to 29 in Park City, Utah—the U.S. changed presidents. On January 20, Donald Trump took the oath of office and succeeded Barack Obama as president of the United States; in the week that followed, protesters rallied in support of women's rights and Muslim immigrants in major cities and small towns across the country, including in Park City. By the time the festival wrapped, the mood, according to LA Times film critic Justin Chang, had shifted. As he described on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air, it was like "you went up the mountain in one regime, came down the mountain in another . . . it seemed to be like, film is important, but it's not all about film."

Fortunately, the challenge of how to make films that have real and lasting social and political impact has been the linchpin of the Chicago Media Project (CMP) from its inception. Since its official launch in March of 2014, the member-based, nonprofit organization has followed through on its mission to "foster community and provide support for social impact documentary media" by backing films that bring social issues to the fore.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This month, three silent films will screen in the Chicago area with live music

Posted By on 02.01.17 at 11:38 AM

The Kid
  • The Kid

This month, the Silent Film Society of Chicago (SFSC) is collaborating with three Chicago-area venues to screen the silent films The Kid (1921), The Artist (2011), and 7th Heaven (1927) with live musical accompaniment.

The Kid, starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan, will play at the Arcada Theatre in Saint Charles on Wednesday, February 15, at 7 PM, and will be preceded by the short Felix in Hollywood (1923). The throwback musical-comedy The Artist, which earned Oscars for best actor (Jean Dujardin) and best picture in 2012, screens at the Logan Theatre on Thursday, February 11, at 9 PM. And the romantic drama 7th Heaven, starring "America's Favorite Lovebirds" Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, plays in the lower-level parish hall of Saint John Cantius Church on Sunday, February 26, at 3 PM.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

If you love Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Music Box has a night for you

Posted By on 01.24.17 at 02:06 PM

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
On Friday, February 3, and Saturday, February 4, the Music Box Theatre will host midnight screenings of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). Hogwarts-themed parties in the Music Box Lounge will precede each screening, beginning at 10 PM.

Following a sorting ceremony conducted by Music Box staff, house teams (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin) will compete for the House Cup in the Marauder's Map Trivia Tournament, which will draw from the original seven Harry Potter books, eight films, and HP fan universe. Potterheads also will have the opportunity to pose for photos as "Azkaban fugitives," partake in "divination" with a fortune teller, and knock out a punching bag dressed as Draco Malfoy. Alcoholic "Butterbeer" will be served both nights, in addition to other "potions" from the bar.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

An immersive John Hughes-themed film festival is coming to Chicago this summer

Posted By on 01.17.17 at 01:02 PM

Sixteen Candles
  • Sixteen Candles

The team behind last year's Ferris Fest, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, will return June 22-25 with an even bigger follow-up event. The Shermer Club: A John Hughes Fest will honor writer-director's John Hughes's 1980s teen movies with exclusive film screenings, a luxury bus tour to filming locations in and around Chicago, and expansive re-creations of classic scenes from those films—culminating in a full reenactment of the wedding scene from Sixteen Candles.

Centered at the John and Nancy Hughes Theater in Lake Forest, the festival will revolve around six film screenings (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Weird Science) and cast member Q&A's for each one. Special guests will include Andrew McCarthy (Pretty in Pink), Lea Thompson (Some Kind of Wonderful), director Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful), Ilan Mitchell-Smith (Weird Science), Craig Sheffer (Some Kind of Wonderful), Cindy Pickett (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), and John Kapelos (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles), with more cast members to be added soon.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

CFA receives MacArthur Grant to produce International Media Mixer

Posted By on 01.10.17 at 08:00 AM

A still from the 2016 Media Mixer film What's The Matter With Kids Today, made by Andrew Mausert-Mooney and Bobby Conn; the original archival footage was repurposed by the artists from the film 1942 Circa: Chicago Cubs Game - Train Ride - Baby, from the Baker Collection. - CHICAGO FILM ARCHIVES
  • Chicago Film Archives
  • A still from the 2016 Media Mixer film What's The Matter With Kids Today, made by Andrew Mausert-Mooney and Bobby Conn; the original archival footage was repurposed by the artists from the film 1942 Circa: Chicago Cubs Game - Train Ride - Baby, from the Baker Collection.

For the past five years Chicago Film Archives has sponsored a local artistic collaboration called the Media Mixer. In each year, CFA commissioned three Chicago-based media artists to create new works with material taken from the organization's archival footage. Nancy Watrous, executive director of CFA, says that the artists could choose and use any footage that they wanted, as long as CFA had the copyrights or the works were in the public domain. "We then would pair them up—in some cases, kind of a blind date—with Chicago audio artists or musicians to score the new piece," she explains. CFA would then premiere the new works at a Media Mixer event at the Hideout. According to Watrous, the process and events had been "hugely successful," with some of the pieces going on to win awards at festivals.

In 2016,  CFA received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to produce an international version called the International Media Mixer. CFA will collaborate with Lab 80 film, based in Bergamo, Italy, on the project. The two organizations will exchange digitized film footage from their respective repositories and then commission media artists from the partnering country to create new works using the partner's footage.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A True/False Film Fest event at the Music Box will incorporate live, local music

Posted By on 01.03.17 at 04:07 PM

Thy Father's Chair
  • Thy Father's Chair

Tomorrow, January 4, the nonfiction showcase True/False will present the Chicago premiere of the documentary Thy Father's Chair (2015) at the Music Box Theatre, two months ahead of the annual True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Missouri. The Chicago-based instrumental band Mar Caribe will kick off the event at 7 PM with a 30-minute set; and a screening of the documentary short Balloonfest, directed by Nathan Truesdell, will be shown before Thy Father's Chair.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

A Q&A with Fences costars Stephen McKinley Henderson and Jovan Adepo

Posted By on 12.30.16 at 04:37 PM

From left to right: Mykelti Williamson, Jovan Adepo, Stephen Henderson, and Denzel Washington
  • From left to right: Mykelti Williamson, Jovan Adepo, Stephen Henderson, and Denzel Washington
Fences, in theaters now, is the first August Wilson play to be adapted into a feature film backed by a major film studio (The Piano Lesson, which was first produced in 1987, was made for TV in 1995). The sixth entry in Wilson's ten-part "Pittsburgh Cycle"—which focuses on a former Negro League baseball star turned trash collector in 1950s Pittsburgh who takes his bitter frustrations out on his family—premiered on Broadway in 1987 and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Wilson died in 2005, but had already written a screenplay for the eventual cinematic version—Denzel Washington, who starred as Troy in the 2010 Broadway revival, both directed and produced it for the big screen.

Washington stars in the film as well, alongside Viola Davis as Troy's wife, Mykelti Williamson as his brother, Russell Hornsby as his older son, and Stephen McKinley Henderson as his best friend, Bono; all of these actors also reprise their roles from the revival. The new addition is Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers), who plays Troy's sensitive and athletic younger son, Cory.

I sat down with Henderson and Adepo at a recent press stop in Chicago to talk to them about performing Wilson's "blues iambic," working with Washington and Davis, and why they decided to become actors.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Leah Pickett’s top ten films of 2016

Posted By on 12.22.16 at 11:30 AM

  • Moonlight

This past summer, a few articles appeared that called the Fate of Movies into question. "Why has this summer blockbuster season been so bad?" asked Benjamin Lee of the Guardian. "Could this be the year that movies stopped mattering?" pondered Wired's Brian Raftery. The May-to-September season was indeed underwhelming, especially for comic book fans, and a string of disappointing reboots and superhero movies (Deadpool was a surprise exception) strengthened the argument that 2016 has been a subpar year for film in general. But I disagree with that assessment—I watched many features I liked or admired, only a few I loathed, and at least ten I loved. Several were independent productions, some arriving through nontraditional channels like Netflix and ESPN. The best of the bunch pushed at the boundaries of their form—they challenged viewers' comfort levels and attention spans.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

A new film series focuses on the impact of Chicago architecture

Posted By on 12.12.16 at 11:30 AM

The Untouchables
  • The Untouchables
Chicago's buildings have long been featured prominently onscreen, as far back as the Lumiere brothers in 1896. The city's unique and experimental architecture has provided character, mood, and context to countless cinematic stories—from classic comedies to period dramas to dark superhero blockbusters—and continues to inspire new crops of directors to set their films here.

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