Elgin Short Film Festival returns, with in-person and virtual screenings

The Elgin Short Film Festival will celebrate its 15th year at The Hemmens Cultural Center on Saturday, Sept. 23, with live in-theatre and at-home virtual screenings. The ESFF has drawn film entries from around the world making this an impressive event that has entertained film lovers since 2009.

Daryl Nitz, who is known for his musical antics and celebrity impressions, will bring his "supper club era" comedic talents as Master of Ceremonies to present this year's finalists.

Winners will be selected by a panel of celebrity judges, and audience members will cast their votes for their favorite film. The audience vote has had an impact on who has won in previous years. In other words, your vote does count. Awards and monetary prizes will be presented to the top three films.

Festival highlights:

The top six films (20 minutes or less) will be shown in the intimate 1,200-seat theater of The Hemmens Cultural Center.

The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. with the filmmakers and judges walking the red carpet and giving interviews before entering The Hemmens. The film screening starts at 7 p.m.

In-theatre and at-home virtual screening tickets available - watch at home or join in person for all the excitement.

A special People's Choice award will be presented based solely on in-person audience votes.

Awards and prizes will go to the top three films.

Tickets to the Elgin Short Film Festival (including the Red Carpet Reception) are $10 reserved seating and may be purchased at The Hemmens Box Office, online at or by phone at (847) 931-5900.

Virtual screening tickets will be available online at

MPAA-R rated films are permitted. Attendees age 17 and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Follow the festival on Facebook at Elgin Short Film Festival, or visit the website at

The Hemmens Cultural Center is at 45 Symphony Way, Elgin. Parking is free.

Daryl Nitz will bring his "supper club era" comedic talents as master of ceremonies to present this year's finalists at the Elgin Short Film Festival. Courtesy of The Hemmens

Elgin Short Film Festival finalists

The six films the audience will see - the finalists in the 2023 Elgin Short Film Festival - are:

"Watershed Warriors": Meet two river activists from Friends of the Fox River, Gary Swick and Jenni Kempf. FOTFR has been working to protect and restore the Fox River for more than 30 years. They organize educational events, bring classrooms to the streams and set up river cleanups throughout the year, removing tons of trash from the Fox River and its tributaries. Directed by Wade and Thomas Balsamo.

"It Was Up There": The true story of a couple who are driving through an unpopulated region of the New Mexico desert when they see something unexplainable up in the night sky. This amazing and hilarious story, told by the filmmakers' parents, is lovingly animated by hand and brings to life a family legend that has remained a secret for over 15 years. Directed by Jesse Willmon.

"Kiss n Ride": On her way home from a lovely cafe date, a woman finds reminders of her date in every little thing, prompting her to fall in love with the Chicago winter night around her and dream of the date ending differently. Directed by Olivia Jensen.

"Appreciation, The Tomiko Morimoto West Story": Tomiko Morimoto West watched from her schoolyard as a low-flying B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killing her mother and other family members. Thirteen-year-old Tomiko searched the devastated city for the body of her grandfather to save him the injustice of a mass burial, cremating him under mountain tree branches. She went on to marry an American GI, become a professor at Vassar College, and at age 90 has only one wish: that world leaders work together for global peace. Directed by Michael Dwyer.

"Sale of a Lifetime": A broke, desperate salesman risks it all for his best friend. Directed by Casey McCoy.

"Something Like Intimacy": A timid young woman attends a costume party and rediscovers true intimacy in ways she doesn't expect. Directed by Grecia Aguilar.

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