Hollywood in the Suburbs

"Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan."  |  File photo
"Refugee Stories of the Selfhelp Home."  |  File photo
"Our WWII Fathers."  |  File photo
"It's Not You, It's Me."  |  File photo

The sixth annual Naperville Independent Film Festival returns with nearly 100 films from around the globe set to premiere on two screens.

Films will be screened at Classic Cinemas Ogden 6 Theater and Smith Hall, on the North Central College campus, from Sept. 13 to 21.

This year, 92 films will be screened, including winning films from the European Independent Film Festival (ECU), which took place in Paris earlier this year, said founder and organizer Edmund Coisson. These projects will compete for the NIFF trophy that will be presented to winners at the closing awards ceremony, held at Center Stage Theater on Sept. 21.

New this year is an invitation to apply for accreditation in two film categories (live-action short and animation) by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“We every year we try to achieve the best films to be screened, and I think this year we achieved that goal again to get the cream of the crop out there,” Coisson said. “This is the best of the best.”

The fest kicks off with premiere screenings of two locally produced films on Sept. 13; the Naperville premiere of “Composed,” a documentary feature film by Charley Rivkin, and the Midwest premiere of the documentary feature “Gus: An American Icon,” by Pedro Brenner.

“Composed” is a documentary about a little person who has to overcome many obstacles in his life but continues to play and compose music. “Gus: An American Icon” is a feel-good story about people with a passion for dance, he said.

On Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. is the opening premiere of “Least Among Saints” at the Classic Cinema. Filmmaker Martin Papazian, who also writes, directs and acts in it, will be on hand.

Another movie to enjoy is the horror movie “Stormy Night” on Sept. 15. “Once Upon a Time in Bolivia” will show at 8:45 p.m.

History buffs might enjoy “Refuge: Stories of the Selfhelp Home,” a local film by Ethan Bensinger that tells the story of the final generation of Holocaust survivors and refugees through the lens of the Selfhelp Home in Chicago. That shows at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Classic Cinema.

Two more premieres are on Sept. 16, “Double Negative” by Naperville resident Mischa Ayoub and the local film “Wingman Incorporated.”

“The reason why I have a lot of local films is because we are gaining more and more popularity as a film festival in the community and it seems to me we are getting a lot of films from the surrounding areas in Illinois,” he said.

On Sept. 17 are the Midwest premieres of “Beneath the Blindfold” and “Girl From Birch Creek,” both of which he called “must see” films.

On Sept. 18, there is a group of three films from Naperville he hopes people make a point to see. The first is a short documentary on living with food allergies. After that is “A Place to Call His Own” by another Naperville resident. Finally, another documentary is “Between the Harvest” by a man from Downers Grove.

Also on Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. at Classic Cinema there will be a short documentary about World War II veterans called “Our World War II Fathers.” The filmmaker will be there, along with his father and his father-in-law, both WWII vets.

On Sept. 19 will be an encore of “Least Among Saints” and “Beneath the Blindfold.”

Sept. 20 is the last night of premieres, and includes “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” and “Go Ganges.” The third premiere that night is a horror movie called “Axe Giant.” There will be encores of “A Place to Call His Own” and “Between the Harvest” because “those are films that must be seen,” he said.

The awards ceremony and wrap party will be on Sept. 21.

He recommends checking the website for synopses, times and locations of all the films being shown.

“I think (people) will be surprised at the quality and experiences of the filmmakers,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of good quality documentary and feature films. If you don’t see this film now … you might never have this chance to see this film again. Unless this film gets picked up for distribution.”

Elgin Short Film Festival

The fifth annual Elgin Short Film Festival will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin.

Around 30 films were submitted; the top five as scored by the selection committee will be shown in the competition.

The festival is open to all ages and general admission tickets cost $5. Pre-show activities start around 6 p.m. with red carpet arrivals, music and entertainment, said Joe Vassallo, committee co-chair of the film festival.

Of those five, three will receive a trophies and cash prize. The festival is sponsored in part by the City of Elgin, Elgin Cultural Arts Commission, The Illinois Lottery, Villa Verone Restaurant, Danny’s Pizza and Marcus Theatres.

Mike Toomey, a regular performer on the WGN Morning News, will again serve as master of ceremonies. Winners will be selected by a panel of judges, and the audience members get to vote for their favorite film.

Trailers for all of the submitted films will be shown in a montage during the awards ceremony.

“This year’s entries come from everywhere,” he said. “This is year has another set of great films. It’s a nice mix.”

Five years ago, he was on the Hemmens Cultural Board when they were looking for a way to showcase the Hemmens and bring people downtown, and to showcase art in Elgin as well. He threw out the idea of a film festival and they ran with it, he said.

“The first year we didn’t really know what we were doing … but we’ve gotten much better at it over the years,” he said. “It’s an avenue to promote filmmakers and bring people to downtown Elgin.”

Usually short filmmakers are the ones trying to break in the business. They are the ones working to hone their craft, he said.

“You’re looking at up and coming filmmakers; people who are looking to make that big splash,” he said. “So it is something new. It is possibly seeing the next Francis Ford Coppola. You’re looking at up and coming artists who are producing new, great films. And we have a great night.”

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