Five film events to drop this fall

Central Illinois will collectively host a mother lode of unique screening opportunities during the next 10 days as several movie events return for 2012, coincidentally scheduled one on top of the other! Since we want you to devote as much attention as possible to this upswing of indie film culture, dearest readers, we’ll keep your preview short and sweet. Here goes!

As of posting time, all three evenings of the third annual Freeky Creek Short Film Festival have either passed already or are now sold out. The lucky ones will get their fill of the willies and wine at Sleepy Creek Vineyards, 8254 E 1425 North Rd., Fairmount, IL, later tonight, Friday, October 26, and tomorrow, Saturday, October 27, both starting at 8 p.m., as projectionist/programmer Joe Taylor and host-in-disguise Bill Kephart keep everyone in stitches during the most unique presentation amongst the four fests. This also happens to be the closest geographically to Champaign-Urbana so, if you had planned on getting your fill of thrills from Freeky while putting minimal mileage on your motor vehicle, too late! Not even a rabbit’s (or drug-addicted Easter Bunny’s) foot can provide you good luck at this point.

Also taking place this weekend is the second staging of organizer Bob Bartel’s movie maven retreat, the Central Illinois Film Expo & Trade Show, tucked away at the Riverbank Lodge, 522 South 6th St., in Petersburg, IL, just west of Springfield. Most presentations will occur throughout the day today, Friday, October 26, and tomorrow, Saturday, October 27, with closing remarks and casting calls filling the first half of Sunday, October 28. As a production of the Central Illinois Film Commission, the schedule received by C-U Blogfidential promises workshops and presentations from many of that group’s usual suspects: photographer and CIFC president Dean Williams, talent agent Shawnee Tefteller, novelist and filmmaker Jim Conover, theater director and film producer Bartel, and more. Panels will cover expected targets such as industry trends, production needs, make-up effects, et al, but a few programming choices – Belly dancers? Military history? Key to the city of Petersburg presentation? – inspire us to scratch our heads a bit. Regardless, we’re sure a splendid time is guaranteed for all who attend this one-of-a-kind downstate expo!

Several days later, the Embarrass Valley Film Festival coordinated by the Coles County Arts Council and the College of Arts & Humanities at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston will devote its eighth annual incarnation to the film work of venerated Hollywood actor Gene Hackman, a native of Danville. Most discussions and screenings will take place on campus at the Tarble Arts Center (T), 2010 9th St., and Doudna Fine Arts Center (D), 9th St. & Garfield Ave., between Thursday, November 1, and Saturday, November 3, incorporating the following Hackman high watermarks: BONNIE AND CLYDE (11/1, 3:30 p.m., D), UNFORGIVEN (11/2, 7 p.m., D), THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (11/2, 10 p.m., D), HOOSIERS (11/3, 2 p.m., T), and THE FRENCH CONNECTION (11/3, 7 p.m., D). Introductions will be provided by C-U writer/reviewer Chuck Koplinski, critic Dann Gire from suburban Chicago newspaper The Daily Herald, and incoming EIU men’s basketball coach Jay Spoonhour. The product of a local children’s stop-motion workshop taught by EVFF associates will also be shown that Saturday.

Migrating from the academically sublime to the ridiculously bloody, the fourth annual Drunken Zombie Film Festival will overrun the Landmark Cinemas, 32251 N. Dries Lane, Peoria, IL, on Friday, November 2, and Saturday, November 3, stirring a heaping pot of underground gruesomeness befitting the holiday which precedes it by two days. As with prior years, the Drunken Zombie line-up consists of 20-odd shorts and several features which may hold the most appeal to fans who care more about discovering bold new talents upholding their beloved genre instead of slogging through franchise retreads and teen-targeted Hollywood kill-a-thons. (We’re sure horror fests lend themselves to down-and-dirty after hours partying as well!) We can tell you the short TEDDY, about a stuffed bear companion a hundred times more deadly than Seth Macfarlane’s TED, and the feature NAILBITER, a Kansas-made thriller about a family seeking refuge from a tornado and then some, come highly recommended from on-line press we’ve read recently.

And finally, the eleventh Route 66 International Film Festival parks itself for the first time at the revived Legacy Theatre, 101 E. Lawrence Ave., Springfield, IL, on those very same dates: Friday, November 2, and Saturday, November 3. Under the watch of new festival programmer Tom Szpyrka, Route 66 will present around two dozen short films hailing from all over the world as well as the features JUAN IN A MILLION from Chile and a Chicagoland indie pair, COIN TOSS and D.I.N.KS (DOUBLE INCOME, NO KIDS). Friday’s opening night schedule will be anchored by the world premiere of “the terrifying new experimental documentary” A BLOOD RED SKY, directed by “celebrity guest” Chad Calek who fancies himself a camera-wielding paranormal investigator if his body of work is any indication. The new film has something to do with doomsday prophecy and a ghostly occurrence on English soil which reveals dark secrets about the fate of humankind; we’re only guessing this is the case as on-line RED SKY promotion (as well as the whole ghost-hunting “documentary” subgenre) tends to lean towards the vague.

Whew! As much as we love to see all this homegrown cinematic activity erupt in the cities beyond – note how the C-U is not directly represented in the whole bunch with the absence of the IMC Film Festival this year – we sense a future conundrum should this bounty continue to play out in close quarters. It might not be a horrible idea for the respective organizers to creatively juggle their dates starting in 2013 to avoid a similar pile-up of events bound to attract audiences with similar, eclectic tastes.

Until then, gang, do your best in supporting your local movie culture!

~ Jason Pankoke

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