The Chicago Feminist Film Festival is back and now in its second year—from March 1-3, Columbia College Chicago will feature 55 films and shorts from countries around the world, providing a medium to showcase documentaries, comedies, romance, horror, experimental work and more from a collection of different voices.
“Our festival is bigger this year, and we grew in ways that were a little unexpected for us,” said festival co-founder and co-director Michelle Yates. “Last year we received 200 short film submissions, and out of that we selected something like 40 films or so, and this year we received 800 short film submissions.”
The popularity of the event provides an opportunity to feature new and innovative work in film. The opening night feature includes a horror anthology comprised of stories from Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic, and award-winning animator Sofia Carillo titled “XX,” while the closing night feature film is the documentary “Woman on Fire,” which tells the story of New York City’s first openly transgender firefighter, Brooke Guinan.
“When I saw Brooke’s story of being a trans woman firefighter, I felt an odd kinship that I wasn’t expecting there, and I found her very inspiring,” said Julie Sokolow, the film’s director. “It was the story about a transgender individual who was coming into the spotlight first and foremost as a hero, so I really got swept up in her representing the future of the America that I want to see.”
The diversity of films featured at the Chicago Feminist Film Festival served as the intent for Michelle Yates and Susan Kerns—founders of the festival and assistant professors at Columbia College Chicago.
“We’re showcasing a lot of different filmmakers and stories,” said Kerns. “And we’re also trying to make it a community space.”
Sponsors for the event include Columbia College Chicago, Chicago Climate, and Eleven04 Productions. Non-profits Women in Film Chicago and Chicago House will also be involved, encouraging community participation in a festival created to encourage inclusivity in filmmaking.
Support from these institutions has worked as a grassroots effort to widen the outreach of the Chicago Feminist Film Festival throughout the city of Chicago. Eleven04 Productions, a local film equipment rental and production company made up of Columbia College and DePaul film students, has been involved in the film preselection process and in the promotion of the event.
“This festival is a great help for students to pursue independent paths,” said Richard Song, owner of Eleven04 Productions, “and [they] chose films to represent different people’s voices.”
The festival opens Wednesday, March 1 at 5 p.m. at the Film Row Cinema of Columbia College Chicago with the opening night feature,”XX,” and continues for the next two days with a rotating schedule of films featuring family, coming of age stories, dance, nature, culture, and horror themes.
“If we can connect through the empathy that storytelling brings out in people, it’s increasingly important,” said Kerns, “and one of the ways that we can continue to reassure people that by and large humans are good—one of the ways we can do that is by storytelling.”
(Image credit: 2017 Poster Design: Elio Leturia)