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Naperville Independent Film Festival celebrates 5th anniversary

Logo image courtesy Naperville Independent Film Festival

Logo image courtesy of Naperville Independent Film Festival

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Independent Film Festival

♦ Sept. 15-22

♦ Several area theaters

♦ Tickets, $5

♦ (630) 709-5264

Online: Film Fest Schedule
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Updated: September 17, 2012 7:02PM

When director Kevin Smith took his first film, the self-financed “Clerks,” to the Sundance Film Festival in 1994, it won the Filmmaker’s Trophy and was picked up by Miramax.

The little film went on to pick up more hardware at the Cannes International Film Festival, and became a critical and financial success, earning $3.1 million.

The next “Clerks” could at the Naperville Independent Film Festival, held at five area theaters Sept. 15 to 22.

Exactly 100 films will be included in this year’s fifth annual Naperville Independent Film Festival, said film fest founders Glessna and Edmond Coisson. The complete schedule is available on the fest’s web site.

“We have 100 chances to come and see a film that nobody’s seen before from all over the world,” she said. “Every year we get some from every corner of the world. It’s juried, it’s judged, and we have the honor of presenting it in Naperville. I love bringing the arts here. I love bringing people here to see Naperville; it’s an amazing place. We give them a chance to have their body of work shown to an audience and possibly walk away with an award.”

The films will be shown at Classic Cinemas Ogden 6 Theaters, Hollywood Palms Cinema, Hollywood Blvd. Cinema and Smith Hall at North Central College. Films at this year’s fest will represent 16 countries and 18 states, including Illinois, he said.

Three Hollywood stars are slated to appear this year, they said. Stefanie Powers (“Hart to Hart”) and Alex Hyde-White (“Pretty Woman,” “Catch Me if You Can”) are scheduled to attend the premiere of their film “Three Days of Hamlet” at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 at Ogden 6 Theaters, with a reception to follow at the Country Inn and Suites.

Directed by Hyde-White through his production company TMG, the film follows a troupe of actors who gather for three days to rehearse and perform a staged reading of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

“You can meet them and talk to these people,” she said.

The following night, actor Michael Madsen (“Reservoir Dogs,” “Kill Bill Vol. 2”) is scheduled to attend the premiere of his movie “Vice” at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Hollywood Palms Theater. There will be a Q&A to follow.

Of the 100 films being screened, 23 films were selected by the European Independent Film Festival, or ECU, that takes place every spring, he said.

“We became partners,” he said. “All the winners from there come over here, we screen them here; and all the winners from here go over there, they screen them there. They accept films that were nominated and won at other film festivals, and out of the batch of winners, they pick the best. So when we get these films from Europe, they are already the best of the best.”

All the ECU films will premiere at the Ogden 6 Cinemas. “Women & Children,” “Bliss Street” and “The Forest is Red” will screen there at 7 p.m. Sept. 15.

“They backed us from the get-go,” Glessna Coisson said. “They’ve even gone so far as to decorate with a Paris theme.”

The fest has grown steadily over the past five years, she said.

“The first year, we had to teach people what a film festival was, basically,” she said. “We’re really proud of making this five-year anniversary and being as successful as it has been. Last year, we had 31 percent increase in attendance.”

They have traveled to film festivals all around the country and internationally, and thinks theirs is top-notch.

“Your uniqueness is in what you do, how you present it, and what we’re striving for is getting our filmmakers distribution deals. I’m very happy to say we had seven last year. That’s our goal. When a filmmaker comes here and sees their work at a place like Hollywood Palms, in front of an audience, it’s incredible, the feeling it gives them. And we champion that.”

Filmmakers also have the option of participating in audience question and answer sessions after every film, she said.

All films cost $5, and parking is free.

“We’re trying to make this affordable for people,” she said.

Two locally-shot films will enjoy premiers Sept. 16 at the festival. The G-rated “I Heart Shakey” will be shown at 4:30 p.m., and the thriller “Spades” by John Wesley Norton will be shown at 7 p.m. at Hollywood Blvd. in Woodridge. These films employed local crews and actors as well, he said.

The pair will host a fundraiser at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at Ogden 6 for the Naperville not-for-profit WAR Chest Boutique. WAR (Women At Risk) International helps rescue women and children from human trafficking.

“We have police coming that night to talk about it,” she said. “It’s really important and I’m thrilled to be able to share that with audiences and make them aware of what’s going on.”

The fundraiser will be followed by two films, “Parts” and “Who Shall It Be.”

The festival couldn’t happen without its “wonderful volunteers,” Glessna Coisson said.

“We are truly blessed to have great volunteers,” she said. “Each one of these brings something unique and needed to the table.”

The winners of this year’s Naperville Independent Film Festival will be announced at the Red Carpet Closing Night Ceremony at the Hollywood Palms Cinema on Sept. 22. Madsen will be a presenter at the awards ceremony.

The next step, Edmund Coisson said, is to have the NIFF become an Academy-qualifying film festival. That means every winner at their festival will be allowed to go into the following year’s Oscar pool, he said.

“Right now, the Academy has 63 film festivals,” he said. “This is the ultimate incentive for a filmmaker. Trust me, being nominated for an Oscar and winning, the difference is only the Oscar in your hands.”

“You never know who’s watching your movie,” she said. “That’s why these filmmakers are so excited. Showing they won at the Naperville Film Festival is a feather in their cap.”

The film fest is a chance to see new material from fresh talent, she said.

“It’s all unique and new. If you’re tired of looking at number 7 in the line of whatever, come out and see the independent films.”

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