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posted: 7/24/2014 6:00 AM

Reel life: Five years of Blue Whiskey fest

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  • French filmmaker Karim Ouret is interviewed on Skype by J. Spencer Greene, left, at the opening night of the Blue Whiskey Film Festival in Arlington Heights.

    French filmmaker Karim Ouret is interviewed on Skype by J. Spencer Greene, left, at the opening night of the Blue Whiskey Film Festival in Arlington Heights.


Blue Whiskey flows

The fifth annual Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival got off to a kickbutt start Sunday night at the Star Cinema Grill in Arlington Heights with the Illinois premiere of James Ward Byrkit's smart and inventive science-fiction thriller "Coherence," about a group of friends whose dinner gets interrupted by a massive collision of alternate realities. Always a party buzz-kill, I say.

Did anyone at Palatine-based Blue Whiskey ever think the fest would make it to five years?

"Actually, yes," managing director J. Spencer Greene told me. "We were so passionate about it. It was a struggle, but I knew we would find a way to make it happen every year."

A bonus: MovieMaker magazine voted Blue Whiskey as one of the "coolest" film festivals in the world.

I asked Michael P. Noens, festival director and Fremd High School graduate, what he loved about the festival.

"The fact that we screen one movie at a time. In other festivals, you have to choose between six or eight movies in some cases. Here, by the time we get to the awards program on Sunday, people will be able to see all the movies."

One highlight from the opening night: Greene used Skype to interview French filmmaker Karim Ouaret about his time-travel short "Lapsus." It was 3 a.m. in France.

Blue Whiskey Film Festival continues through Sunday, July 27. The awards program Sunday will be at the Star Cinema Grill. Friday and Saturday programs on July 25 and 26 will at be the Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center in Palatine. Go to for tickets and info.

Film critics notebook:

• It's the 25th anniversary of Cameron Crowe's mini-classic "Say Anything" starring Evanston native John Cusack and Oak Park actor John Mahoney. So, the Tivoli Theatre will host a midnight screening of "Say Anything" on Friday, July 25 at 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. Tickets cost a mere $5. Go to

• Wait, there's more! The After Hours Film Society also celebrates its 25th anniversary at the Tivoli Theatre with a digitally restored presentation of the Beatles' classic musical comedy "A Hard Day's Night," 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 28.

"It's never looked this good!" Debbie Venezia, founder and executive director of the society, said. "It's never sounded this good!" Yes, she's a Beatles fan. General admission $12. Proceeds fund awards for the AHFS Student Film Festival.

After the movie, Val Camilletti -- a Beatles aficionado who worked for Capitol Records during the Beatles heyday and now owns Val's halla record store in Oak Park -- will share plenty of anecdotes about the Fab Four.

• Dann Gire's Reel Life column runs Fridays in Time out! Follow him on Twitter at @DannGireDHFilm.

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