‘Nothing else like it in the area’: How local film buff got involved with, now leads AfterImage Film Festival in St. Charles

Independent films often rise to great heights.

“Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” in 2023, “Fruitvale Station” in 2013, “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005, and “Platoon” in 1986 come to mind. Independent filmmakers created all.

When attending an independent film festival, you never know if you’ll be seeing a film destined for future accolades, but you know you’ll be seeing interesting, compelling and entertaining fare.

Andrew Carlin of St. Charles is counting on that to be the case once again as he directs the AfterImage Film Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 12-14, at the Charlestowne 18 Classic Cinema theaters in St. Charles.

The AfterImage Film Festival in St. Charles will be the Illinois premiere of four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke’s new film "Wildcat," starring his daughter Maya Hawke alongside Laura Linney. Courtesy of AfterImage Film Festival

The festival opened on Thursday, and Carlin expected a good turnout for the fourth annual AfterImage Film Festival. As awareness of the festival increases, Carlin believes that “once we get people in the door, we think they will have a great time and come back for more.”

It’s what Carlin, a resident of St. Charles, has had in mind for many years. He’s been an independent film distributor for 15 years. Still, much of that passion has funneled into creating the nonprofit AfterImage Film Festival organization, which originates from the former Geneva Film Festival.

“I was a volunteer for the Geneva Film Festival in 2017 and became close with the executive director, Scott Rolf,” Carlin said. “Following the 2017 festival, he told me that, after having run it for the past 10 years, he was ready to step away and asked if I wanted to lead it.”

Carlin was definitely interested but wanted to relaunch the concept as a nonprofit with a new name that was not affiliated with any specific town — and also to move it into a movie theater setting.

As such, AfterImage serves the entire Fox Valley region with events that take place in the Tri-Cities area and beyond, while Classic Cinemas has been the site of the festival since Carlin took over.

This weekend’s festival has screenings for nine feature films and 10 short films. The short films are shown in two theaters at different times — one for narrative films, the other for documentaries — with four to five showing at each. Single film tickets cost $13 and are available only through the Classic Cinemas website at, which has a complete schedule of film screenings.

Like most other film festivals or even regular movie showings, AfterImage is trying to rebound from the COVID pandemic. After solid attendance in 2019, the pandemic slowed all momentum. Festival planners are hoping the event can find firmer footing this year.

“I think once people hear about the festival, their curiosity is piqued,” Carlin noted. “There’s just nothing else like it in the area.

“We’ve tried to design the festival so that it offers something for everyone,” he added. “You can watch a French comedy set in the 1930s, and as soon as that’s done, you can walk into another auditorium and watch a documentary short film about the Great American Dog Show in Chicago. We even have a silent romantic comedy.”

Carlin is confident the movies speak for themselves. “I’ve had the privilege of working on well over 150 theatrical releases, including multiple Academy Award-nominated films,” he said. “When my wife and I moved to the area, it was immediately clear that the one aspect that the arts community lacked was access to great indie films. That’s the void that AfterImage is trying to fill.”

It’s a welcome addition to the local arts scene for those who spend a great deal of time promoting the arts as a quality-of-life aspect of being a Fox Valley resident.

For example, Carlin acknowledges that the St. Charles Arts Council has been instrumental in spreading the word about the film festival, even though the council is not directly involved in organizing the event.

But that doesn’t stop its members from being film critics when the time is right.

An arts council leader, Sue McDowell, said she and her husband attended the film festival last year and “were blown away by the films we saw.”

“It’s all right here in St. Charles, and I think it’s one of the ‘best-kept secrets’ in the area,” McDowell said. “I’m always advocating for more awareness for the arts in our area.”

Help stop the scams

When the Geneva Police Department conducts a Financial Scam Awareness seminar at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at the Geneva Public Library, I have some advice: If you can, you should go.

The weekday time indicates this would be targeted toward senior citizens who may not be aware of scam threats or not particularly diligent about protecting digital financial accounts because they don’t know how.

Prior to retiring from full-time work, I covered the payments and financial industries, focusing on data security.

You don’t need an expert to tell you how dangerous this financial scam stuff is becoming, but I spoke to one to make this message more meaningful.

“The thinking embedded in us as human beings is this (a breach of your accounts) is a low probability event and won’t happen to me; therefore, it is not something to take too seriously,” said Trace Fooshee, a strategic advisor who focuses on financial scams for Datos Insights.

“Those of us in security, we have seen enough to say that, yes, maybe it is a low probability event, but it will eventually happen to you or a loved one, and if it happens with enough frequency over a period of time, it is necessary to take precautions,” Fooshee added.

Many people have likely become numb to the daily reports of data breaches, whether a major retailer, utility company, social network or bank reports that client information has been stolen. But these reports force us to realize that our information is likely already “out there” somewhere in the hands of very organized and relentless groups of criminals.

The Geneva police will provide helpful tips and open eyes to dangerous scam processes. You’ll have to fight the urge to think, “I wouldn’t fall for that.” You might.

I reported on data security for more than 10 years, and I have fallen for two scam tricks, one of which is becoming increasingly common, in which a “friend” on Facebook reaches out to you — and you respond. Then, later, I found out that it was a hacker. The other caught me in a hurried state because I was on deadline on my computer and a moment of not thinking clearly cost me.

So, go to the library website and register for the seminar. The bad guys are always working and waiting for you to get lazy with account passwords or two-factor authentications. We all have to try to complement the defenses our payment networks and banks have in place because they rely on us to take part. And it’s an ongoing skirmish.

“Security technology is coming up with unconventional ways to address the problem and throw a curveball at adversaries, but unfortunately, the bad guys are also very good at figuring it out and getting around it,” Fooshee noted. “You build a 12-foot wall, and the bad guys come up with a 14-foot ladder.”

Floods make their comeback

We walk through Island Park in Geneva fairly often. In the past few years, after the Geneva Park District worked to put in new drains and patch up areas prone to flooding, the park has looked pretty good.

It even had me thinking that music events and large gatherings like the Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival, which were common years ago, could take place there again.

But the past two weeks have told us this is not the case. I saw debates on social media about why Island Park was submerged in water again. Yes, it has rained a lot, but it has also rained a lot in the past few years without significant issues.

I would align myself with those who say the work under the bridge across the Fox River in Island Park to prepare for adding a third rail line has had a dam-like effect, causing the water to seek its level on the island’s banks and, thus, making the new drainage setups overflow.

Humans wreck a lot of stuff when expanding buildings, subdivisions, airports and train lines. In this case, we may have wrecked Island Park yet again.

Villa pops up again

I like to keep track of the small-business owners who rely on the pop-up retail front strategy.

Carolynn Maltese has informed me that her Villa and Farm store is again opening in the Geneva Commons.

She’ll be at 1410 Commons Drive through April. Villa and Farm offers home décor, vintage pieces, and repurposed furniture, among other indoor and outdoor items.

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