Friday, December 2, 2016

Introducing Body + Camera, a film festival that broadens the meaning of dance

Posted By on 12.02.16 at 01:06 PM

Julien Prévieux, Patterns of Life, film still, 2015 - COURTESY OF JOUSSE ENTREPRISE GALLERY (PARIS)
  • Courtesy of Jousse Entreprise Gallery (Paris)
  • Julien Prévieux, Patterns of Life, film still, 2015

Mana Contemporary Chicago will create something new in 2017: a film festival about dance that also expands commonly held interpretations of what "dance" means. Presented in collaboration with Chicago Dancemakers Forum and Montom Arts, the first annual Body + Camera Film Festival will celebrate "the intersection between the moving body and the moving image" and welcome emerging and established artists "with contemporary, experimental projects that push traditional mediums to their edge." The festival is accepting entries now through February 20, 2017.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Twenty-five years later, filmmaker Julie Dash reflects on Daughters of the Dust

Posted By on 11.25.16 at 11:00 AM

Daughters of the Dust
  • Daughters of the Dust
Beyoncé's album Lemonade, released in April, includes imagery of African-American women in flowing white dresses that recalls a landmark film made 25 years ago—Daughters of the Dust (1991), written and directed by Julie Dash, is a vivid tone poem focused on a family of Gullah women living on the Sea Islands in South Carolina in the year 1902 and contemplating a move to the American mainland. For those who've seen Daughters of the Dust and Lemonade, the parallels are noticeable.

"My phone blew up the night Lemonade came on and my Web site shut down," Dash told Vanity Fair in August. "Someone called me and said Daughters of the Dust is trending on Twitter. And I said, 'No, it must be something else,' and they said, 'No, it’s trending!'"

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Monday, November 21, 2016

A new documentary is set to cover the full history of Chicago’s hip-hop scene

Posted By on 11.21.16 at 02:30 PM

Midway: The Story of Chicago Hip-Hop
  • Midway: The Story of Chicago Hip-Hop

Numerous prominent hip-hop artists have emerged from Chicago: Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Common, Chief Keef, Vic Mensa, Psalm One, and Mick Jenkins (to name a few). And yet a feature-length, comprehensive documentary about the history of the local hip-hop scene has yet to come to fruition. The team behind Midway: The Story of Chicago Hip-Hop hopes to change that.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

A Q&A with Hailee Steinfeld, who stands on The Edge of Seventeen

Posted By on 11.14.16 at 01:30 PM

The Edge of Seventeen
  • The Edge of Seventeen
After becoming an Oscar nominee at age 14 for her remarkable film debut in the Coen brothers' True Grit (2010), Hailee Steinfeld posed a conundrum to Hollywood—she was difficult to categorize. What to do with this intense young teen, who wasn't a blonde or ethereal Dakota Fanning-type, nor an easy fit into one of the three standard film roles offered to young women: Ingenue, bombshell, or Manic Pixie Dream Girl?

Fortunately, the James L. Brooks-produced dramedy The Edge of Seventeen provides Steinfeld, now 19, with a role worthy of her unique talent. Steinfeld plays an insecure and caustic high school outsider named Nadine whose world shatters when her older brother, a popular jock (Blake Jenner), starts dating her only friend (Haley Lu Richardson). Nadine feels like a real person; she's raw and messy and occasionally unpleasant. Moreover, Steinfeld's portrayal is not only her best work since True Grit, but also the most uncompromising and natural performance I've seen in a teen movie in a long time.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Daniel Nearing is the Chicago Film Office’s first filmmaker in residence

Posted By on 11.07.16 at 12:30 PM

Daniel Nearing - DCASE
  • Daniel Nearing

At the Chicago International Film Festival in October, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) announced local filmmaker Daniel Nearing as the first Independent Film Initiative (IFI) Filmmaker in Residence at the Chicago Film Office. As part of the yearlong residency, Nearing will direct an adaptation of the 1900 novel Sister Carrie, which will take place in Chicago, Paris, and Montreal.

Sister Carrie is the third installment in Nearing's Chicago trilogy, following his breakthrough Chicago Heights in 2010 and last year's critically acclaimed Hogtown. Like those films, Sister Carrie will be shot predominantly in black-and-white, explore race relations in Chicago, and feature African-Americans in central roles. But this time, Nearing says, gender relations will be the primary focus, specifically the mistreatment of women. Praising Sister Carrie as a "prefeminist" work, he confirms that "the film will be an indictment of the male gaze."

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Various Artists Independent Film Festival kicks off its inaugural year in Chicago

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 02:36 PM

Various Artists TV
  • Various Artists TV

The Various Artists Independent Film Festival (VAiFF), a Chicago-based competition festival for independent filmmakers worldwide, begins taking submissions November 1 for the "fall season" of its inaugural festival, slated for October 7-8, 2017, at ShowPlace ICON in the South Loop. The festival is sponsored by Various Artists TV, an independent network and website launched earlier this year in Chicago. The network streams films and shows from independent filmmakers and gives viewers the option to vote for their favorites; it also provides production services to independent filmmakers or small business owners looking to "crew up" a film, TV commercial, web series, or music video.

Omar McClinton, CEO of Various Artists TV, tells me that adding a year-long competition and festival to the network's developing roster of projects felt like a natural progression. "Artists are all in this together," he says. "We are all looking for that opportunity. It's no longer a 'studio system' where there are more producers than distribution outlets. The Internet is limitless."

Various Artists Independent Film Festival
  • Various Artists Independent Film Festival
In each of the four submission quarters (fall, winter, spring, and summer), the VAiFF review committee will select semifinalists and post the films on for public screening. After a 30-day voting window, the films with the highest number of positive social media votes will secure the nominations for that quarter, receive cash prizes, and advance to the festival competition to vie for the top prize in their respective categories. All submissions must be under 45 minutes, not including end credits The nine competition categories are:

  • Drama
  • Comedy
  • Horror/thriller
  • Foreign
  • Documentary
  • Animation
  • Children/family content
  • Music video
  • TV/web series pilots

A panel of judges will select the top nine films at the festival; among the confirmed judges are producer Barrie M. Osborne (The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix), writer and producer Bob Gale (the Back to the Future trilogy), and video-effects producer Joyce Cox (Titanic, Avatar, The Dark Knight).

According to McClinton, combining the familiarity of independent film screenings and competitions with the convenience of mobile streaming and the ease of social media also lent itself to extending the submission process. "The competition is a year long, so we can make the best of the opportunity the Internet gives us and bring exposure to as many filmmakers as possible," McClinton notes. "We also include social media as a way to engage people from around the world who may not normally be exposed to the festival world."

Another unique characteristic of VAiFF is the lack of expiration date on the festival entries. "If a filmmaker spent their money, blood, sweat, and tears on a project that happens to be over two years old," McClinton says, "does that mean the project is no longer eligible for competition? Until VAiFF, that was [largely] the case. But if a film is 'great,' it's great, and needs to be seen and given its time."

For more information on VAiFF, including submission guidelines and rules for each category, visit

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Karl Wirsum, a film about one of the founding members of the Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists, has been restored

Posted By on 10.21.16 at 06:27 PM

Karl Wirsum
  • Karl Wirsum
Karl Wirsum, an eminent Chicago artist and founding member of the exhibition collectives the Hairy Who and the Chicago Imagists, is the subject of a rediscoveredtuesday 1973 film that offers a rare glimpse into his fertile creative process. The Chicago-based Pentimenti Productions will screen its digitally restored and remastered version of the original 14-minute short, Karl Wirsum, complete with a new score from local musicians Alex Inglizian and Marc Riordan, at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday, October 27, and at the Northwestern University Block Museum of Art on Friday, November 4.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Charlie Siskel discusses his new documentary about the author of The Anarchist Cookbook

Posted By on 10.14.16 at 08:00 AM

American Anarchist
  • American Anarchist

William Powell, author of The Anarchist Cookbook, died this past July at age 66. Published at the height of the counterculture movement in 1971, the book is a how-to guide for manufacturing bombs, weapons, and LSD, a subversive method of advocacy for a violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Powell and The Anarchist Cookbook are thoroughly examined in filmmaker Charlie Siskel's latest documentary, American Anarchist, which screens as part of the Chicago International Film Festival this weekend.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Local filmmaker David Singer finds humor and charm in Imperfections

Posted By on 10.10.16 at 11:30 AM

Imperfections - MATTHEW SPERZEL
  • Matthew Sperzel
  • Imperfections

 is an independent film that boasts a number of admirable qualities: an original heist story shot on a small budget, an authentic Chicago setting (viewers may recognize local haunts Lost Lake, the Hideout, and the Jewelers Row stretch of Wabash), and a 31-year-old female protagonist.

"I thought it would be interesting to have an actual adult woman as a protagonist of a movie," says the writer, director, and composer, David Singer, who spoke to me by phone this week. "I don't know why that's such a left-field idea, but it is fairly uncommon."

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Columbia film student rocks 1970s fashion

Posted By on 10.05.16 at 02:00 PM

Street View is a fashion series in which Isa Giallorenzo spotlights some of the coolest styles seen in Chicago.

  • Isa Giallorenzo

"I love the 70s," Nikki Milan Houston says. A fan of blaxploitation films and Jane Birkin, 18-year-old Houston recently moved from a small beach town in California to study directing and screenwriting at Columbia College. "Between the perfect bell-bottoms, loafers, fur coats, and minidresses, [Birkin] has the exact effortless look that I've always admired," she says. "Also, I have to throw in the Austin Powers costume designers as a huge inspiration." See one of Nikki's films right after the jump.

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