And now, the sequel: Critics expand second Chicago film fest

  • "Animals"


  • "I Put a Hit On You"

    "I Put a Hit On You"

  • "Mood Indigo"

    "Mood Indigo"

  • "American Ham"

    "American Ham"

  • "Bucket of Blood"

    "Bucket of Blood"

Updated 5/5/2014 8:02 AM

When Erik Childress proposed that the Chicago Film Critics Association launch its own film festival from scratch, my initial reaction was quick and heartfelt: Are you nuts?

Erik lives in Elk Grove Village, land of 1980s soap opera superstar John Loprieno. Erik also serves on the CFCA board of directors.


I'm the president. I'm supposed to be the sane one. Nobody in the CFCA had much experience in film festival startups. And our not-for-profit organization had depressingly limited capital.

Yet, there we were, in April of 2013, a semi-merry band of arts journalists debuting our first film festival, the only one in the nation to be programmed and produced by actual movie critics.

That fest went three days at the Muvico Rosemont 18.

So when Erik proposed our second film festival be expanded to a full week, I resisted the urge to say "Are you nuts?" But I thought it.

Starting Friday, May 9, the second annual Chicago Critics Film Festival begins a week run at the Windy City's historic Music Box Theatre at 3733 N. Southport Avenue.

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Chicago movie premieres? We have 23 so far.

Film shorts? At last count, 14.

Special guests? Lots, including standup comedian and now director Bobcat Goldthwait (with "Willow Creek"), vintage genre star Dick Miller (with "A Bucket of Blood") and director David Wain (with his opening night comedy "They Came Together" starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler).

We have at least nine filmmakers scheduled for personal appearances, more than twice as many as our inaugural festival, headlined by legendary director William Friedkin and indie fave Sarah Polley.

I asked Erik his preliminary assessment of our second festival one week away.

He said, "This is, indeed, that rare sequel that's going to surpass the original in scope, vision and appreciation for what's up on the screen." (Yes, he really does talk like a film critic.)

He could be right, especially when the festival closes May 15 with the locally shot "Animals," a drama about two junkies living out of their car near Lincoln Park Zoo. (Director Collin Schiffli and star/screenwriter David Dastmalchian are slated to attend.)


Other highlights:

• "El Critico" -- A comedy about a bitter film critic whose life inexplicably transforms into the sort of cliche-filled romantic comedy he detests. (Probably based on a true story, I'm guessing.)

• "I, Origins" -- Writer-director Mike Cahill and actress Brit Marling, who gave us the critically acclaimed "Another Earth," return with another mind bender in which a molecular biologist (Michael Pitt) and his lab partner (Marling) make a discovery with the potential to change society.

• "Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead" -- Back in "Dead Snow," the hero accidentally killed his girlfriend with an ax, chainsawed his arm off and witnessed Nazi zombies slaughter his pals. He's back for more.

• Documentaries galore, such as "The Overnighters," "Private Violence" and Mike Myers' "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon." (Gordon, a powerful Hollywood agent, will be there.)

• Two programs of short films curated by CFCA member and Arlington Heights native Colin Souter.

• In addition, festival pass holders can attend a screening of the restored, original version of Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent classic "Battleship Potemkin," part of the Music Box's Silent Film Series.

A lot of local movie critics have taken leadership roles in making this second film festival happen. Erik sums up the why: "The fevered anticipation of knowing there's a film we so want to bring to an audience's attention, and just waiting out the hours and days to know that we will be able to."

True, but there's another way to answer that: Local film critics just love movies.

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