The members of the Chicago Film Critics Association see themselves not just as critics, but as advocates.
Advocates of art over commerce. Advocates of personal, innovative films and the people who make them.
This weekend, the association, led by the Daily Herald's own Dann Gire, will put that advocacy into action when it holds the inaugural Chicago Critics Film Festival, a weekend of movies and movie discussions at the Muvico Theater in Rosemont.
“We believe that a big part of our job is to turn people on to films that don't get the marketing budgets and prime-time advertising that the big studio movies get,” said Steve Prokopy, the Chicago editor of the online film and pop-culture magazine Ain't It Cool News. “It was very fun for us to put together a list of films that we believe in, films that, in some cases, might not have been seen otherwise.”
The fest — dedicated to Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, who died last week — will include screenings of more than 20 features and short films that cover a variety of genres and subject matter. Most will be making their Chicago premieres. Some of the films' directors will be on hand, too, to discuss them with local fans.
Among the films in the lineup are “Stories We Tell,” a unique documentary by actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley that looks at how memories differ among members of a family. Polley will participate in a question-and-answer session after the screening.
The Sundance hit “The Spectacular Now,” a look at young love from writer/director James Ponsoldt, also will be shown. Ponsoldt will discuss the movie during a Q-and-A.
One of the highlights of the fest likely will be the screening of a rare 35 mm print of “Sorcerer,” the 1977 film by acclaimed director William Friedkin, who also helmed “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.”
“Sorcerer,” a remake of the classic French thriller “The Wages of Fear,” came out a week or so after the original “Star Wars,” and it flopped at the box office.
Since then, though, the movie has become a favorite among cinephiles, despite being largely unavailable on home video. The CFCA is screening the film in the way it was meant to be seen.
“Because it died such a quick death, good film prints were hard to come by,” said Cary resident Peter Sobczynski, a contributor to eFilmCritic.com and a CFCA board member. “And there were a bunch of studios involved in its production, so it took a while to untangle who had the rights to it. But it's all worth it. I think it's the best movie Friedkin has done, and one of the best movies of the 1970s.”
Not only will film lovers get to see Friedkin's movie on the big screen, but they'll be able to hear about the making of it from the director himself. Friedkin, a Chicago native who began his career at WGN TV, will appear at the festival Sunday night to sign copies of his recent memoir, “The Friedkin Connection,” and to talk about “Sorcerer.”
Erik Childress, an Elk Grove Village resident and producer of the film festival, said the event is unique in that every booking decision was based on one thing — the love of a particular film.
“The studios and filmmakers we reached out to were actually very positive because they could see there was no politics involved in this,” he said. “All these films were truly hand-picked by people who love them and want to share them with others. I think that's going to come through during the whole experience.
“The whole thing actually feels so amazing — that we have a whole weekend to ourselves and can program whatever films we want. I hope the people who come out have as much fun as we will.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.