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Michael Smith

Michael Smith

Michael Glover Smith is a filmmaker, author and teacher whose most recent film, Rendezvous In Chicago, is an Official Selection of over 10 film festivals across the United States. It won Audience Choice awards at the 2019 Tallahassee Film Festival and 2018 Adirondack Film Festival and Best Comedy awards at the 2019 Lindsey Film Festival and 2018 Strasburg Film Festival. It screened commercially at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn and holds a 100-percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Smith previously wrote and directed the award-winning films Mercury In Retrograde and Cool Apocalypse and made Newcity Chicago's Film 50 list in 2018 for being one of 50 individuals "who shape Chicago's film scene." He is co-author with Adam Selzer of an acclaimed non-fiction book about the silent film industry in Chicago, Flickering Empire (Columbia University Press, 2015), and sole author of the film studies blog Whitecitycinema.com.

Articles (2)

インタビュー:バリー・ジェンキンス

インタビュー:バリー・ジェンキンス

タイムアウト東京 > 映画 > インタビュー:バリー・ジェンキンス インタビュー:Michael Smith 映画『ムーンライト』は、アフリカ系アメリカ人のゲイの若者、シャロンが人生の3つのステージで自身のアイデンティティを模索するさまを描いた、心揺さぶられる感動作だ。ニューヨークとロサンゼルスで昨年公開された際には、1スクリーンあたりの平均興行収入で2016年の最高記録を樹立した。今作はバリー・ジェンキンス監督の長編2作目となり、『第89回アカデミー賞』では作品賞、脚色賞、助演男優賞の3冠に輝いた。 ※このインタビューは、2016年10月に開催されたシカゴ国際映画祭での『ムーンライト』上映後のもの 原文はこちら

Interview: Juliette Binoche

Interview: Juliette Binoche

What was it about this story that attracted you to the project? “The magical thinking that Anna chooses to live in order to face the tragedy of her life, the loss of her son, was fascinating to me. She’s not able to say the truth, not because she’s manipulative, but because she cannot say those words: ‘He’s dead.’ I resisted playing a woman losing her child after Three Colors: Blue, because my experience with Kieślowski was so joyful. Somehow I wanted to protect that memory. But when I met with Piero Messina, there was such an intelligence in his eyes and a will in his way of talking that I was really tempted to make his first film.”   Anna is almost always on-screen, but her motivations are often ambiguous. Why doesn’t she tell Jeanne the truth? “It is probably impossible to imagine the pain of losing a child, and I can very well relate to the people who are inventing sort of a space in them in order to accept the loss. There might be an element of wanting to protect Jeanne from the pain... I don’t think Anna is perverse; she doesn’t know how to cope with her pain and loss. I was very keen to play moments where she’s willing, trying to say the truth, but she can’t. I hope the audience will be able to feel it.”   You’ve worked with a lot of the world’s best directors, including Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, David Cronenberg and Olivier Assayas. How is working with veterans like these different from working with a first-time feature filmmaker like Messina? “I considered P

News (102)

You can help save one of Chicago’s last surviving video rental stores

You can help save one of Chicago’s last surviving video rental stores

Since owner Brian Chankin founded Odd Obsession in 2004 (originally in Lincoln Park, now located in Bucktown), the beloved video rental store has amassed an impressive library of more than 25,000 titles on DVD, Blu-ray and even VHS. The store’s collection is organized by genre, country and director, and features a wide array of movies for all tastes, including classic Hollywood films, foreign movies and independently-release cult classics. From the beginning, Odd Obsession has distinguished itself by specializing in rare and off-the-beaten-path titles, including many that are not available on streaming services, making it an invaluable resource for local cinephiles. “This is a place where you can really embrace an all-inclusive sense of film history,” says Chicago Reader film critic Ben Sachs. Chankin is now moving on to pursue other endeavors and is handing over the business to the store’s volunteer staff who hope to keep it afloat. The goal is to keep Odd Obsession’s collection available to Chicagoans with a new model of membership that will make the business sustainable well into the future. Long-time volunteer Josh Brown is leading this transition effort, which includes the Indiegogo fundraising campaign “Keep Odd Obsession Movies Alive!” For contributions of $120 to $400, customers can receive between three months and one year of free rentals (four at a time for a week’s duration with an “extreme late fee forgiveness” policy); but there are plenty of other more affordabl

‘The Killing Floor’ co-writer Elsa Rassbach talks about the significance of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919

‘The Killing Floor’ co-writer Elsa Rassbach talks about the significance of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919

One of the most important cinematic events taking place in Chicago this year is the Logan Center’s preview screening of the 4K restoration of The Killing Floor. The locally made film, which originally aired on PBS in 1984 before screening at prestigious festivals like Sundance and Cannes, tells the true story of a poor black Southerner, Frank Custer (Damien Leake), who migrates from the rural south to Chicago in the early 20th century to work in a slaughterhouse. Upon arrival, he becomes involved in labor struggles involving a controversial and newly formed union, and eventually witnesses the notorious Race Riot of 1919. It's an important history lesson, a compelling drama and a lovingly recreated period piece all rolled into one. The screening will take place on July 27 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the riot and will be followed by a panel discussion with the film’s producer and co-writer Elsa Rassbach as well as community and labor activists. We spoke with Rassbach in advance of the screening. Tell me about your background as an artist and activist and the production company you founded that produced The Killing Floor. How did you end up making an independent film about this important chapter in Chicago history? Though my family was neither left-wing nor union, I’ve been drawn to the struggle for social justice ever since high school, when we engaged in sit-ins at Woolworth’s in my hometown, Denver, in protest against the firm’s segregationist pol

Elevated Films outdoor screening series kicks off with SXSW hit ‘Saint Frances’

Elevated Films outdoor screening series kicks off with SXSW hit ‘Saint Frances’

Elevated Films, an outdoor independent film series that supports cinema and local youth arts programs in Chicago, will kick off its summer slate with a sneak preview of Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan’s Saint Frances on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel on Thursday, June 13. The event offers an excellent opportunity for Chicagoans to see the locally made dramedy before it opens theatrically later in 2019. Saint Frances recently won two awards at the South by Southwest Film Festival where it had its world premiere in March—a surprising feat for a first feature with no recognizable stars in the cast. A single viewing makes it immediately apparent why it resonated with judges and audiences: This female-centric character study, which is shot through with compassion, insight and originality, speaks to our cultural moment in a way that other recent American movies do not. Director Thompson will be on hand at the Ace Hotel screening with members of the cast, including writer and lead actress O’Sullivan, for a post-screening Q&A moderated by filmmaker Kris Swanberg. RECOMMENDED: Where to see summer outdoor movies in Chicago' Saint Frances centers on Bridget (O’Sullivan), a 34-year-old Chicago woman with no “fancy job” (she’s a server), no boyfriend and no real direction in life. After she gets a job as a nanny for the film's title character, the 6-year-old daughter of an interracial lesbian couple in Evanston, Bridget also unexpectedly finds herself pregnant in the wake of a one-night

‘Black Mother,’ a visually stunning love letter to Jamaica, has its local premiere at Facets

‘Black Mother,’ a visually stunning love letter to Jamaica, has its local premiere at Facets

Toward the end of his recent film The Image Book, director Jean-Luc Godard quotes Bertolt Brecht in saying: “In reality, only a fragment carries the mark of authenticity.” This is a fitting epitaph to a film, and a career, characterized by its radical, collage-like approach to juxtaposing image and sound. It would have been equally appropriate, though for very different reasons, for this quote to appear in Black Mother, a visually astonishing and deeply spiritual love letter to Jamaica made by the acclaimed American filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah. While The Image Book primarily uses clips from other films to illustrate the misrepresentation of the Arab world in the West, Black Mother uses fragments of footage Allah shot by himself in his mother’s home country of Jamaica, on a variety of film and video formats (Hi8, miniDV, Super 8, 16mm and high-definition digital) over a span of 20 years. Chicagoans will have a chance to see the kaleidoscopic result, which is best experienced on a large screen, when the film receives its local premiere run at the Facets Cinematheque from Friday, May 3 through Thursday, May 9. Although Allah’s mother does appear in the film, the title is a reference to the notion of Jamaica as an ancestral homeland, a place the director has visited since the age of three and which he puts on screen in a captivating fashion. Black Mother is cleverly structured into three sections—referred to as “trimesters”—that speak volumes about both the history an

The Doc10 Film Festival brings documentaries about Satanism and ambulances to Lincoln Square

The Doc10 Film Festival brings documentaries about Satanism and ambulances to Lincoln Square

Entering its fourth year, the Chicago Media Project’s Doc10 Film Festival has established itself as an annual highlight for fans of cinema. Focusing on vital new non-fiction features from around the globe, the festival kicks off at the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square on Thursday, April 11 with the much-anticipated local premiere of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez documentary Knock Down the House, and concludes on Sunday, April 15 with the sustainable-farm portrait The Biggest Little Farm. The rest of the lineup features a diverse array of movies, almost all of which will be followed by Q&A sessions with the filmmakers. Most impressively, 60% of the films in this year’s lineup—programmed by Chicago International Film Festival doc programmer Anthony Kaufman—were directed or co-directed by women. One of the most interesting films you can catch at this year's Doc10 Film Festival is Hail Satan?, a witty and informative look at the meteoric rise in popularity of the non-theistic religious group known as the “Satanic Temple.” With unfettered access to the leaders of the group’s various nationwide chapters, including charismatic church founder Lucien Greaves, director Penny Lane crafts a deceptively simple work of political commentary that ultimately sympathizes with the “Satanists” as a group of merry pranksters who see their movement as a counterbalance to the repressiveness of other organized religions. For those looking for something more aesthetically daring, Lukas Lorentzen’s Midn

The Siskel Center hosts a double feature of provocative Chicago-made documentaries

The Siskel Center hosts a double feature of provocative Chicago-made documentaries

Kartemquin Films is still going strong after half a century (see last year's impressive one-two punch of Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap and Steve James’ America to Me) but the short-form works of Chicago’s documentary production-company powerhouse tend to receive less exposure than its features. That should change with the release of ’63 Boycott, a provocative new short directed by Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn that has already been shortlisted for an Oscar.  Quinn's 30-minute documentary primarily details the remarkable but strangely forgotten true story of how 250,000 Chicago students boycotted the public schools in which they were enrolled to protest segregation during the height of the Civil Rights movement. The filmmakers combine archival 16mm footage, much of it previously unseen, with present-day interviews with the original boycott participants to paint a compelling portrait of one of the largest civil rights demonstrations to take place outside of the South. ’63 Boycott is also no dusty museum piece: The filmmakers also draw parallels between the segregationist policies of Mayor Daley in the 1960s and the contemporary policies of Rahm Emmanuel’s administration—particularly in regards to the mass closure of public schools in minority communities. ’63 Boycott is well paired with the world premiere of Jason Polevoi’s F*** Your Hair—a more light-hearted though no-less polemical non-fiction short—when both films screen together at the Gene Siskel Film Center’s annual Str

‘Mercy's Girl’ and ‘In A Moment’ are must-see movies at the Middle Coast Film Festival

‘Mercy's Girl’ and ‘In A Moment’ are must-see movies at the Middle Coast Film Festival

The most high profile event of the Middle Coast Film Festival, which kicks off at the Davis Theatre this Friday, September 21, will be an opening night anniversary screening of The Birdcage co-hosted by local drag queens Lucy Stoole and Kat Sass. While that should start the fest on an irreverently fun note (and if you haven’t yet seen the film, it’s worth checking out for Elaine May’s witty script and Gene Hackman’s layered performance), some of the other highlights are lesser-known new works by local independent filmmakers. In addition to a well-curated locally made shorts block, which presents another chance for Chicagoans to catch amazing short films like Maggie Scrantom’s Atoms of Ashes and Clare Cooney’s Runner, Middle Coast will also screen impressive micro-budget features like Mercy's Girl and In a Moment. Mercy's Girl, an auspicious debut feature from veteran actress, but first-time writer and director, Emily Lape, centers on a young woman living on the North Side of Chicago whose alcoholism and closeted sexuality can both be traced to a fraught relationship with her religious, blue-collar parents. Mercy (Lape in a wonderfully understated performance) finds her world turned upside down when she engages in her first serious relationship with another woman: free-spirited college student Jesse (Alison Hixon). This ultra-realistic drama may toil in the same “flesh vs. spirit” thematic vineyard as Chicago filmmaker Stephen Cone (Princess Cyd) but Lape also has her own uniq

Middle Coast Film Fest brings a weekend of independent film to Lincoln Square

Middle Coast Film Fest brings a weekend of independent film to Lincoln Square

After four successful years in Bloomington, Indiana, the fifth annual Middle Coast Film Festival will move to Lincoln Square’s Davis Theatre later this month. The event promises local movie fans “loads of films, awesome parties and endless possibilities” between Friday, September 21 and Sunday, September 23. We recently spoke to festival director Jess Levandoski about what attendees can expect. What exactly is the Middle Coast Film Fest? How would you describe its identity and mission? Middle Coast’s goal is to provide an inclusive, uplifting, and affirming community to filmmakers and audience members alike. In other words, we like to say we've created a jerk-free zone. We want this festival to be the event in Chicago where filmmakers can let their hair down and just show us films that elicit emotions. This isn't a fest where you'll get a distribution deal, it's a fest where you'll get to have real talk about your projects and where audiences feel empowered to really connect with you. We want to build a huge family! Send us your all your misfits and loners, you've got a spot here right here next to the rest of us. You've had four successful years in Bloomington already. What necessitated the move to Chicago and did you find it daunting to put on a film festival in a city that already has so many? As the founder and director of the festival, I moved, so it had to move with me! We built a great fest in Bloomington, and it really is a special town, but we hit a limit with what w

Local filmmaker Casey Puccini premieres his new comedy ‘I Don't Care’ at Chicago Filmmakers

Local filmmaker Casey Puccini premieres his new comedy ‘I Don't Care’ at Chicago Filmmakers

I Don’t Care, the sophomore feature of Chicago filmmaker Casey Puccini (Children Without Parents), will receive its local premiere at Chicago Filmmakers this Saturday, August 25. It’s a sharply made, acerbic comedy chronicling a pretentious filmmaker (played by Puccini himself in a performance that impresses for its stubborn refusal to elicit viewer sympathy) whose most recent micro-budget opus spirals out of control due to a combination of his own incompetence and unexamined hubris. Puccini has described the movie as not strictly autobiographical although, given that he’s also calling it a “cautionary tale,” it seems likely that both the central character and basic scenario arose from imagining his life having gone down a darker path.

 If the selfish fictional character of “Casey Puccini” were the whole show, I Don’t Care might risk being a too-bitter pill to swallow. Fortunately, Puccini had the good sense to cast the soulful, Jeff-award winning actress Sasha Gioppo opposite him (as an actress named, you guessed it, Sasha), and much of this modest film’s comedic power results from waiting for her character—initially good-natured but unpaid and underfed—to crack under the guidance of her ungrateful and indecisive “auteur.” The tension between the two reaches a boiling point in this modest movie's best scene, where a paranoid Gioppo accuses Puccini of stealing her necklace during the course of a particularly stressful shooting day. It’s a mini-masterpiece of cringe humor tha

Three movies to see at the Chicago Underground Film Festival

Three movies to see at the Chicago Underground Film Festival

The Chicago Underground Film Festival reaches a significant milestone with this year’s 25th-anniversary edition, which runs from Wednesday, June 6 through Sunday, June 10. CUFF’s notion of what constitutes an “underground” film has always been admirably expansive and this year’s program is typically eclectic in its offering of narrative, documentary and experimental works. We picked one movie to see from each category. Savage Youth is a fact-based crime drama set in Joliet that features half-a-dozen phenomenal performances by a cast of young adult actors. Will Brittain (Everybody Wants Some!!!) and Grace Victoria Cox (Twin Peaks) stand out as a budding horror-core rapper and a visual artist, respectively, whose lives veer inexorably into tragedy after they begin dabbling in drugs and petty crime. The film’s depiction of an economically depressed and racially divided small town milieu looks especially trenchant and disturbing in light of the current political climate (although it was shot before the 2016 election), but writer and director Michael Curtis Johnson allows his characters moments of tenderness worthy of early Nicholas Ray. Lori Felker’s Future Language: The Dimensions of Von LMO is a fascinating documentary about an eccentric subject: a cult figure and pioneer of the No Wave music scene in New York City in the late 1970s who claims to be a "hybrid alien" from the “planet Strazar.” Felker’s film, eight years in the making, is an impressive work of both archaeology an

Clare Cooney's ‘Runner’ is a highlight of the Chicago Critics Film Festival

Clare Cooney's ‘Runner’ is a highlight of the Chicago Critics Film Festival

The Chicago Critics Film Festival returns to the Music Box Theatre this Friday, May 4 and runs through Thursday, May 10, bringing a typically impressive and diverse slate of acclaimed new independent and foreign films, many of which are fresh off of their world premieres at Sundance and SXSW—and all of which are making their local premieres. A welcome new twist to this year's edition is the inclusion of two short film programs, which comprise works by universally acknowledged masters of the form like animator Don Herzfeldt (World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts) as well as first-time filmmakers like Chicago’s own Clare Cooney (Runner). The latter film, screening as part of the “CCFF Shorts Program #1” block on Sunday, May 6, is an extremely auspicious directorial debut for Cooney, who is better known for her work as an actress. Although it clocks in at only 12 minutes, it is one of the must-see events of the festival, especially considering that the whip-smart Cooney will be present for a post-screening Q&A. Runner tells the story of a young woman named Becca (Cooney) who witnesses a violent altercation between a couple while jogging through an alley near her Chicago apartment. Becca’s subsequent knowledge of what happened, and an unexpected re-encounter with one of the participants, causes her to face an ethical dilemma. As a director, Cooney knows how to get the most out of herself as an actress, but she also wisely eschews the melodramatic appr

Chicago filmmaker Nick Alonzo’s ‘The Art of Sitting Quietly and Doing Nothing’ will premiere at the Nightingale

Chicago filmmaker Nick Alonzo’s ‘The Art of Sitting Quietly and Doing Nothing’ will premiere at the Nightingale

I’ll never forget the moment I realized that Nick Alonzo was a special filmmaker. Five minutes into his first feature, the no-budget, minimalist comedy Shitcago, the movie’s unnamed protagonist takes out his trash, pausing long enough to examine a strange stain on the side of a garbage can outside of his apartment before shrugging and heading back inside. This non sequitur is typical of Alonzo’s work: a wordless, deadpan, even mundane sequence that somehow also becomes inexplicably funny. For the few who saw it, Shitcago seemed to announce the arrival of an original and quirky self-taught filmmaking talent whose style felt not just confident but, curiously (considering he was still a college student in his early 20s at the time), fully realized. Alonzo’s second feature, The Art of Sitting Quietly and Doing Nothing, which has its world premiere at the Nightingale Theater on Friday, May 4, is a more ambitious film, narratively and aesthetically, that confirms Alonzo’s status as a director to watch. The Art of Sitting Quietly and Doing Nothing begins with a man masturbating beneath a blanket in the woods. He stops long enough to swat a mosquito on his face then, while writing in his diary shortly afterward, expresses a fear of having contracted the zika virus. This impulsive young man, Carl (newcomer Alex Serrato), is a Chicagoan who has chosen to live in the woods indefinitely after having been dumped by his girlfriend, Gloria (actress and filmmaker Alycya Maganas), a tragedy r

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