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updated: 9/15/2011 8:45 PM

Naperville, Elgin fight over film fans with competing festivals

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  • Naperville Central High School grad Jim Hemphill, left, talks with stars John Shea and Lea Thompson on his movie

      Naperville Central High School grad Jim Hemphill, left, talks with stars John Shea and Lea Thompson on his movie

  • "Christmas Tree: A Story in Five Parts" is one of the six finalists at the Elgin Short Film Festival in Elgin on Saturday night.

      "Christmas Tree: A Story in Five Parts" is one of the six finalists at the Elgin Short Film Festival in Elgin on Saturday night.

  • "Lars," set in 1985 East Germany, is one of the finalists in the third annual Elgin Short Film Festival on Saturday night.

      "Lars," set in 1985 East Germany, is one of the finalists in the third annual Elgin Short Film Festival on Saturday night.

  • "Mistaken" is one of the six finalists vying for prizes at the third annual Elgin Short Film Festival on Saturday night.

      "Mistaken" is one of the six finalists vying for prizes at the third annual Elgin Short Film Festival on Saturday night.

  • "The Small Assassin," a short based on a story by Waukegan native Ray Bradbury, will play at the Elgin Short Film Festival Saturday night.

      "The Small Assassin," a short based on a story by Waukegan native Ray Bradbury, will play at the Elgin Short Film Festival Saturday night.

  • John Shea and Lea Thompson star in "The Trouble With the Truth," playing at the Naperville Independent Film Festival. It's directed by Naperville Central High School grad Jim Hemphill.

      John Shea and Lea Thompson star in "The Trouble With the Truth," playing at the Naperville Independent Film Festival. It's directed by Naperville Central High School grad Jim Hemphill.

  • "Bright" is a film short playing at the Naperville Independent Film Festival next week.

      "Bright" is a film short playing at the Naperville Independent Film Festival next week.

  • "A Marine Story" is a feature drama being presented at the Naperville Independent Film Festival next week.

      "A Marine Story" is a feature drama being presented at the Naperville Independent Film Festival next week.

  • When their commanding officer gets stuck on planet Fax 263, Bonzo and Archie come to the rescue in "Hank Frisco: Galaxy Defender" at the Elgin Short Film Festival.

      When their commanding officer gets stuck on planet Fax 263, Bonzo and Archie come to the rescue in "Hank Frisco: Galaxy Defender" at the Elgin Short Film Festival.

  • Video: "The Triangle of Death"

  • Video: "Illegales"

  • Video: "Almost Runaways"

  • Video: "The Girl and the Fox"

 
 

OK you Northwest suburban film fans, get ready to ruuuuuuuuuumble!

In this corner, weighing in with 125 entries starting its fourth year, the Naperville Independent Film Festival!

In the other corner, the challenger, weighing in with 46 entries starting its third year, the Elgin Short Film Festival!

We expect a nice, clean fight for filmgoing audiences Saturday night when both fests fire up their projectors and butt sound-heads.

Naperville holds a definite edge over rival Elgin: The latter lasts only one night; the former runs through Sept. 24.

Still, Elgin's co-chair Joe Vassallo remained confident his younger fest would prevail Saturday night.

"Last year, we got tons of comedies," Vassallo said. "This year, we even got an entry from Russia. So I guess you could say we're now an international film festival! We build on our previous successes."

Naperville's co-founder Edmond Coisson fired back, defending the more established fest.

"We get entries from all over the world," Coisson said. "People know about our festival. People love our festival! They get the personal touch here they don't get at bigger festivals. They (filmmakers) even get phone calls from us about why their movie might not have made the cut. We provide feedback so they can get better next year and win. I want us to get the cream of the crop."

Naperville's fest also accepts feature films, which suggests that Elgin's fest might come up a little "short" by comparison.

But don't count Elgin down and out.

Vassallo hinted that Elgin's fest might be expanding as early as next year, although details are under wraps for the moment.

"We started out with shorts, but that could change," Vassallo said, keeping his cinematic cards close to his vest. "I still need to cross a few T's and dot a few I's before we can say anything."

Not to be outdone, Coisson laid his cinematic cards on the table.

"Naperville is a force to be reckoned with this year!" he thundered. "I've got a plan for 20 years down the road. We're going to grow! Grow! GROW! We'll get free taxi service for people at the festival. I can see that. The people embrace our festival. If we continue to show excellent movies, they will come!"

A preliminary jury has already picked the six finalists for Elgin's Short Film Fest. These will be shown Saturday starting at 7 p.m. at the Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin. (Come a little earlier to experience the red carpet arrival of film makers and judges. I'll be one of the judges. I promise to wave back.)

Likewise, a panel of judges has already established nominations for the best of the Naperville fest in categories such as Feature, Direction, Actor, Actress, Animation, Documentary, Music Video, Student Production and others.

Naperville's opening program will be the Midwest premiere of "The Triangle of Death," a documentary starting at 7 p.m. at the Classic Cinemas' Ogden 6 Theaters in Naperville. The festival is dedicated to U.S. troops.

From 7 p.m. to midnight every night through Sept. 24, the Naperville fest will show three movies -- two at the Ogden 6, 1227 E. Ogden Ave., and one at the Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville.

Closing night award ceremonies will be conducted at 6 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Hollywood Palms Cinema, 352 S. Route 59, Naperville.

The Naperville event is huge compared to its humble beginnings four years ago.

"That first year, I actually had to explain to people what a film festival was," Naperville's Coisson said. "A lot of people didn't know what it should be, how it should look. We had to learn logistically how to do it. It was all trial and error. We have poured thousands of man-hours into this event, and it all started with 15 volunteers sitting around a kitchen table."

Vassallo, not to be trumped on Coisson's humble origins story, piped in on Elgin's efforts to launch its film fest.

"In the beginning, it took some convincing," Vassallo said. "We knew we wanted the Hemmens to be involved. Now, it's all about getting it out there and putting on the best film festival we can. We continue to see the growth."

Vassallo said the Elgin fest will continue showing its popular compilation of 30-second samplings of every movie submission. He's working on a way that the public can see every film submitted, as well.

"We've always had an open mind," he said. "We see what comes at us every year. It's interesting to see what kind of movies we get year to year."

For Coisson, the most satisfying moment of all comes at the end of the closing night.

"We're running the race," he said. "If feels like we're running and we reach the finish line and we've won! As a group, we've won!"

But who will win the battle of the film festival opening nights on Saturday?

The answer is pretty obvious.

Movie fans will.

Chicago Film Festivals
Naperville and Elgin aren't the only film festivals coming up this fall. Chicago goes into full throttle film lover mode at this time of year:

• The 1st Greek Film Fest Chicago, Sept. 29 through Oct. 2. greekfilmfestchicago.org

• The Chicago South Asian Film Festival, Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. csaff.org

• The Chicago International Film Festival, Oct. 6 through Oct. 20. info@chicagofilmfestival.com

• The Festival of Films From Iran, Oct. 8 through Oct. 31. siskelfilmcenter.org

• The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, Oct. 21 through Oct. 30. cicff.org

• The Festival of New Spanish Cinema, Oct. 27 through Nov. 23. siskelfilmcenter.org

• The 30th Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival, Nov. 3 through Nov. 12. reelingfilmfestival.org

• The Bicycle Film Festival, Nov. 3 through Nov. 6. bicyclefilmfestival.com

• The 23rd Polish Film Festival in America, Nov. 4 though Nov. 12. pffamerica.com

• The Illinois International Film Festival, Nov. 18 through Nov. 20. illinoisinternationalfilmfestival.com

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