Weather Updates

CIMMFest celebrates relationship between movies and music


When: April 14-17

Where: Various times and locations

Tickets: $10, $15; $45 festival pass

Information: (773) 234-2466;

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Three years ago, Josh Chicoine and Ilko Davidov were two guys sitting at a bar talking about possibilities. Today, they are the co-founders of the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival, a four-day event now in its third incarnation that highlights the intersection of film and music.

Film festivals always have included music documentaries and musicals, but CIMMFest goes further by focusing only on films with music at their center, including concert films, animation, music videos, documentaries and feature films, along with related live performances, art exhibits and panel discussions.

“Music is important to film on so many levels,” Davidov said. “The relationship is endless.”

This year’s juried CIMMFest, showcasing 70 films from more than 20 countries, takes place April 14-17 at venues around town. Supplementing the films will be live performances by Mike Watt, Tutu & the Pirates, Gurf Morlix, Tim Rutilli, Gillian Lisee and stars from Chicago’s All Natural label.

Davidov is a filmmaker who has traveled to festivals around the world. Chicoine is a musician whose band the M’s was in the process of dissolving three years ago when Davidov contacted him. Chicoine was looking for his next chapter and the festival fit the bill.

“Everyone I talked to in the music scene was excited by the idea,” Chicoine, 37, said. “I thought this would be a big challenge but still within the world I had created for myself.”

One of the people they approached was Carlos Tortolero, who was then at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and is now with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.

Tortolero was intrigued from the beginning. He saw a chance to show that these two disciplines “don’t operate in a vacuum with no crossover.”

“This is no longer a subgenre; it’s its own genre and growing,” Tortolero said. “And you can take so many approaches with it. It’s expanded nicely over three years even though they’re working with a very limited budget.”

Opening CIMMFest at the Music Box Theatre (7:30 p.m. April 14) is the world premiere of “Fix: The Ministry Movie,” director Douglas Freel’s backstage look into the extreme highs and lows of the Chicago band. The director and Ministry bassist Paul Barker will take part in a Q&A after the screening.

The range of films is broad and includes “Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah” (followed by a performance of Foley’s songs by his pal Gurf Morlix); “Keep It Moving,” which documents three Chicago hip-hop artists as they visit Cote D’Ivoire; “Bollywood Dreams,” a story about three Brazilian actresses who try to break into the Bollywood film industry, and “Color Me Obsessed,” a documentary about diehard fans of the Minneapolis band the Replacements.

“There are certain variations on this sort of film fest,” Davidov, 45, said. “But I haven’t heard of another festival doing something exactly like what we do.”

An alternate opening night event at the Wicker Park Art Center (7:30 p.m. April 14) features the results of something that is becoming a popular draw at CIMMFest — live musicians performing their new score for a given film.

First up is sound artist J.R. Robinson’s latest collaboration, “Wrekmeister Harmonies,” composed of members of Tortoise, U.S. Maple and the Jesus Lizard, along with Fred Longberg Holmes, Jeremy Lemos and Ken Vandermark, accompanying avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger’s “Lucifer Rising” and “Scorpio Rising.”

At 9:30 p.m., a modern rock band, Chicago’s Joan of Arc, goes back to the days of silent film with its new score for Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic “The Passion of Joan of Arc.”

A few similar events were scheduled last year and proved popular. This year, festival music coordinator Nick Mayor came up with a list of bands and musicians he thought might be interested in scoring a film.

“You cast a wide net and see what comes back at you,” Chicoine said. “Joan of Arc kept bubbling to the surface.”

Joan of Arc band member Tim Kinsella says he suggested “the most ambitious thing off the top of my head.”

“Then they called my bluff,” Kinsella said, laughing. “It became a new, maybe impossible, ambition.”

Chicoine and Davidov saw this project as a perfect blend for the festival.

“Here was something the film geeks would dig,” Chicoine said. “And you also have this contemporary band performing the score and that had legs.”

Joan of Arc’s most recent album was strictly rock, and band members Kinsella, Theo Katsaounis, Bobby Burg and Victor Villarreal were looking for a way to get back into playing music in longer forms with different sorts of instruments and tones.

With this 85-minute score, Kinsella says they each have an “arsenal of instruments to play” and have found “a totally different way of thinking.”

While the Chicago Cultural Center is one of the presenting locations, most others are located in and around the hipstercentric Wicker Park neighborhood. This was intentional on the part of the organizers, who admit they used the South by Southwest Music and Film Festival as a model.

“One of the challenges we’ve had is creating a festival atmosphere as opposed to going to one film or concert,” Chicoine said. “We want the majority of venues to be close and walkable — multiple screens and concerts in one stop.”

In addition to the Wicker Park Art Center, these venues include Heaven Gallery, The Nightingale, Society for the Arts and even the honky-tonk restaurant Big Star, which will host a Bloodshot Records showcase from noon to 5 p.m. April 16. Clubs taking part in and out of Wicker Park are Subterranean, Double Door, Schubas, Berlin, Smart Bar and the Hideout.

Chicoine admits there have been growing pains but that this year “every box has been checked on the to-do list.” Hopes are attendees will exceed past numbers, which ranged around 15,000.

And, as always, hopes are that out of this festival new projects will grow.

“The best thing about CIMMFest is that, in addition to the musicians, more than half the directors come to town,” Chicoine said. “It’s cool to sit back and watch the relationships between them begin to grow.”

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