CIFF’s Illinois(e)makers

September 27th, 2007: As seen on Archive (PDF)

Six of the city’s finest hometown talents are showcased at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival.

The Chicago International Film Festivalreturns with its now five decade run as one of America’s oldest film festivals. As much as we love the rest of the world and the hundreds of films that make up the two-week-long festival, nothing makes us prouder than a Windy City alumn, setting a tale on the streets that inspired them. Hence these six “Illinois(e)makers.” (All shows are at AMC River East 21)

Louder Than a Bomb
6 p.m. October 11, 1:30 p.m. October 16, 3:30 p.m. October 18
“Maybe the way we judge kids and their intelligence, maybe we have that wrong,” waxes Kevin Coval, co-founder of this Chicago high school slam poetry documentary, echoing, “Where are you from? That’s prompt number one. And we begin to paint the neighborhood with language.” Profiling four teams, this film lives and breathes social justice and activism, revealing the hyper-diversity and age-defying inspiration of the next crop of poets, from the city that birthed the slam, seen through the eyes of hometown directors, Greg Jacobs and Gene Siskel’s nephew, Jon.

The Defiled
10:15 p.m. October 13, 11:15 p.m. October 15, 9:30 p.m. October 17
Feature film vet Julian Grant (he has two dozen on his resume) kicked out this post-apocalyptic zombie love tale of sorts – think “I Am Legend” but filmed in Chicago – during down time as a professor at Columbia College. He’s been creating projects as an independent producer, writer and director for everyone from HBO to The Lifetime Network. Though decidedly black-and-white and crunchy audio lo-fi, bridges were not closed to share its gem of a survival script. Just some fields on the South Side.

8:30 p.m. October 8, 4:30 p.m. October 9, 4:45 p.m. October 14
Based on the 1985 play of the same name from Chicago-born playwright/director Bob Meyer, scenes of the Chicago River and Rainbo Club lace this tale of an alcoholic Vietnam vet (John Malkovich) and his 12-year-old nephew (Jacob Zachar) bent on materializing his uncle’s dream of buying a boat. Adding to the semi-star power, the story is studded with minor-role stars John Goodman as the enabling boat salesman, and Dana Delany as Malkovich’s cautious sister. There’s a little hometown blasphemy when the Ukrainian Village is supposed to be the setting of Detroit. But Meyer and co-writer, Randy Buescher, set up a wholesome chase.

Go For It!
12:30 p.m. October 9, 6:30 p.m. October 14, 9 p.m. October 16
Though DePaul grad Carmen Marron set her sights on inspiring teen minds with her semi-autobiographical Chicago junior college dance saga, her old Logan Square stomping grounds’ setting is resonating amongst all sorts of age groups, from old Russian filmmakers to middle-aged Boston dads. The script’s a wee coming-of-age cliche – “I want yesterday back,” says a bleary eyed Carmen (Aimee Garcia) – but it’s an endearing growing pain in the end.

Tony & Janina’s American Wedding
7:15 p.m. October 10, 2:15 p.m. October 17
School of the Art Institute teacher and documantarian Ruth Leitman sets this heart-tugger in the ‘burbs, as a Polish family gets torn apart by our clunky immigration system. Barack Obama, way back in his senator days, presides as the thematic guiding light, as a father entangles himself in a years-long battle to bring his wife and son back through the bright lights of O’Hare for good.

Polish Bar
9:10 p.m. October 16, 7 p.m. October 17, 2:30 p.m. October 19
Billed as the Windy City’s “Mean Streets,” School of the Art Institute grads Ben Berkowitz and Ben Redgrave sub out the mob for Polish gangsters in this semi-autobiographical based on Berkowitz’ time in Wabash Avenue’s jewelry district and the extra money he’d scrap as a strip-club DJ. Rueben (Vincent Piazza) earns more money at the strip club one night than he does in a week at his father’s jewelry store. Mo’ money mo’ problems ensue as Rueben battles morals between his Jewish heritage and quest to be somebody.

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