By Brian Hieggelke and Brandie Rae Madrid
Forty-one-year-old media arts organization Chicago Filmmakers is soon pulling up stakes from their rented space in Andersonville and moving to their very own firehouse on Ridge Avenue. Brenda Webb, the organization’s longtime executive director and founder of its centerpiece event, Reeling: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival, explains how the organization is able to focus more on their mission and building ties in the community by having her scale back her role in Reeling. In our conversation, she explains how the new space will allow for a more diverse programming, addressing the needs of its surrounding community. As the Reeling Film Festival approaches next week, Webb tells about the genesis of that endeavor and the changes it has undergone in the last few years, including its return to the Lakeview neighborhood after a brief run in Logan Square.
Were you there at the beginning of Chicago Filmmakers?
I was friends with one of the founders. She and I were roommates when we were students at Columbia. There were five founding members, although Chicago Filmmakers was really started by Bill Brand and another person. It was founded because they were students at the School of the Art Institute and they wanted to show their work outside the university setting. As artists are wont to do, they become validated by not just showing their work within a college or university, but by having a legitimate place where they can show their work. If you’re a painter, there are any number of galleries you might approach. But for filmmakers [in that era], there was no place to go. They essentially created Chicago Filmmakers as a place to show their work and other work by filmmakers like them, as well as to invite experimental filmmakers. The roots of the organization are in experimental film. I just started coming to screenings because my roommate was one of the founders, and she was there every Saturday night tearing tickets and doing that whole thing. That was my first exposure to experimental film, which for me was a real eye-opener.
Were you a filmmaker?
I was at Columbia College learning film production. Columbia wasn’t, at that time, the most supportive place [for] experimental film. Except that my Tech 1 teacher happened to be an experimental filmmaker, so I was exposed to that early on. I just started coming to screenings. Back in the 1970s, there was a program called CETA, and it was a great program. In fact, I just met recently with the [former] director of the [film program of the] National Endowment for the Arts, and she was talking about wanting to reactivate CETA. That was basically a government employment program. Essentially what you would do is get a contract from the government to employ people. A lot of arts organizations like Chicago Filmmakers that started around the 1970s got their first paid staff through CETA. The list of organizations that got their first paid staff include Steppenwolf, Goodman, and all these major arts organizations in the city. That one program made a huge difference in terms of taking these organizations from volunteer-based groups to having their first paid staff. My annual salary was $6,000 or something like that at that time, but it was really great. Organizations like Chicago Filmmakers would apply to CETA, they would get a certain amount of money and they could hire staff. It was intended originally, I think, to employ the hardcore unemployable, to be a training program. But it was used by the arts organizations. I had to go down to the unemployment office and say, “I’m unemployed,” which I was at the time, and “I’m unemployable too. And I have very specific skills and they are only in film.” So you could go in there and say, “I understand Chicago Filmmakers is looking for…” You had to kind of pretend you were looking for a film job, knowing that there was a film job waiting. There were some loopholes to go through, but it was a government training program that really was exploited in a good way by the arts. That’s how I got employed by Chicago Filmmakers, because they were looking for someone to start an educational program. When I started in 1978, it was pretty much just a Saturday evening experimental film screening program that took place at N.A.M.E. Gallery. The organization started in 1973 as Filmgroup at N.A.M.E. Gallery, and then when it became incorporated in 1976, it separated from N.A.M.E. Gallery and became its own organization as Chicago Filmmakers. Our roots were in the gallery scene. At that time we were at State and Hubbard, and that was a real hub of arts activity. There used to be First Fridays where they closed down Hubbard Street, and all the art galleries would have things going on—performance art, experimental performance readings. We were part of that whole alternative art movement of the 1970s, which was kind of an exciting time to be around. That’s how it got started.
How long was Filmmakers in that area? You’ve been up in Andersonville for a while.
I think about eighteen or nineteen years at this point we’ve been up here. Before we were here, we were where the Chopin Theatre is now in Wicker Park. We were there maybe five, seven years. Before that, we were where Theater Wit is now on Belmont. Before that, we were at State and Hubbard for about the first ten years. That area was taken over by developers. The building we were in, we were the last occupant of that building. We had this really great ironclad lease which made the developer insane because he just wanted to come in and buy the building, and he wanted us to leave. I offered to let them buy us out of our lease, which I guess at that time I was in my late twenties, early thirties, and I just remember being in this conference room with all these lawyers and intimidating people, and I was kind of this hippie. “Well, I’d be happy to let you buy us out…” They just couldn’t stand that I was actually trying to negotiate. And they decided to let us wait it out. There was a rat that ran across our lobby the last screening of the last day because they had so neglected the building. They’d turned the heat off and stuff like that.
This has been your life’s work. When did you realize this was what you were going to do?
You know, I don’t know that I ever quite realized that. I went to Columbia College to go to film school. I already had a degree in psychology. At that time, Columbia College didn’t give advanced degrees. After being there a couple of years, I got hired by Treeflower Films, which is a film editing house. I dropped out of school. I didn’t really need another degree, and they didn’t give a master’s. I was just there a couple of years and then got offered this job. I sort of felt like, “I’m going to film school to get jobs like this, and I’ve got this job, so I’m not sure…” It was a mistake. I should have stayed in film school. Chicago Filmmakers came after that. It was an opportunity I took. I had no idea how long I would be there at the time.
Were you a filmmaker during this time?
I started as a filmmaker, made films in film school, but didn’t continue. I don’t think I had a big enough ego. Back in the seventies, film school was a slightly hostile environment for women. I just remember those times where if I hesitated—we were doing a group shoot, and I literally had [film equipment] taken out of my hand by some guy because I hesitated about some shot I was going to make. It wasn’t overly intimidating, but it was a little intimidating. It’s not like there weren’t girls in film school, but…
Is the role of women still a big issue in the industry?
I think it is still predominantly male, the whole industry. I’m not sure what film school is like these days. I would like to think it’s less sexist than it was. Feminism was just taking root when I was in film school. A lot of it has to do with it being a boys club in the industry. This was the seventies, and feminism was just taking root and not very welcome a lot of places. I guess my take on it in terms of the industry is a lot of it has to do with the kind of old boys’ club and people’s positions of power. They hire people they’re comfortable with, and that’s probably a lot of it. I think back then women were more intimidated by technology than they are now. I think there’s been a lot of equalization of that, especially with digital media where you don’t have to be very strong. It seemed like back when I was in film school the women were gravitating more toward writing and directing, and men more toward directing and cinematography. But I don’t know how it is now. I can’t believe it’s as sexist now. I just can’t believe people would put up with it.
Give us the genesis of Reeling.
Reeling started in 1981. I came in in ’78 and when I came into Chicago Filmmakers, the programming was largely experimental films, some documentaries. My own personal interest has always been more like social justice, social issues. When I came to Chicago Filmmakers, I just didn’t feel like showing the same experimental films to the same group of thirty elite snobs. It was a tight-knit group. The good side of it was the community. It was people from the Art Institute, experimental filmmakers, and we would see them time and again, the same group of people. The bad part was that it was not very expansive and was very elitist. What excited me was taking these same experimental films and exposing them to audiences that would never seek them out. That was far more exciting. I started doing outreach before they had the word “outreach.” I did something called a Feminist Film Forum where I took films by directors like Michelle Citron. I would take them to church basements in Chicago to show them to women’s groups, trying to radicalize people along the way and show them things and use film as a catalyst for discussion. I did a lot of those kinds of things. And these were 16mm films and projectors, so schlepping this stuff to Pilsen to show a film—I remember we screened a film that was part of the Feminist Film Forum about squatting on the Lower East Side of New York. I’m showing it because it was made by a woman, but it was really about tenants’ rights. And something happened at that screening in Pilsen that was really exciting and unexpected for me. Activists who were working on tenants’ rights issues in Pilsen showed up at the screening and used it as an opportunity to inform people about what was going on in their own community and how they could take action. And that was when I suddenly realized that it wasn’t just about showing film, exposing audiences to films that they might never get exposed to, but also to use these films as a catalyst for activating people. That was my interest, and out of that grew Reeling. The way Reeling came about was I was reading an experimental film journal called Millennium Film Journal, and there was an article called “Is There a Gay Sensibility in Avant-Garde Film?” All the filmmakers they were citing screened at Chicago Filmmakers all the time, like James Broughton, Kenneth Anger, Barbara Hammer, a lot of these people. But we had never framed them as LGBTQ. We would have a one-person screening with Kenneth Anger and all these other filmmakers, and again the audience would be the experimental film elite. And I thought, “Does the gay community know about these people? Does the LGBTQ community know that these filmmakers exist?” Reading that article made me think about reframing these filmmakers. The second thing that happened is I picked up a newspaper called Gay Life, which was the only gay newspaper at the time. I picked it up and said, “Okay, this is my ticket to the community. This is how I can communicate with the LGBTQ community.” I kind of put two and two together: “Here’s the experimental films, but I don’t know how to reach the LGBTQ community. Now I know how to reach them through advertising in this newspaper.”
But you weren’t part of that community.
No. My personality is not to identify with mainstream culture. I just unfortunately happen to be a straight woman. But I’ve always been interested and attracted to things unlike my own. What was interesting was when I decided to do this, people who had been involved with Chicago Filmmakers like B. Ruby Rich—she is one of the foremost academics [and currently editor of Film Quarterly magazine], she wrote the book on queer cinema [“New Queer Cinema” and “Chick Flicks“] and she had been on our board of directors previously to that. When I went to her—she was one of the first people I went to and said I want to do this film festival—and she had said that before I had gotten involved with Chicago Filmmakers, they had done a feminist film program. She said they had talked about it being lesbian, and they were too afraid to do that at the time. So in some ways I think being a straight woman made it easier. I didn’t know if any [gay and lesbian film festivals] really existed. Pre-computers, you don’t just Google it. So I talked to Ruby and I go, “Do you know if there is such a thing as a gay film festival?” and she told me that there was one in San Francisco. That is the oldest festival. It’s just this idea that came about because I’m really interested in bridging art and community. We did other things like outdoor screenings. We’d show experimental films in the park trying to reach people. What happened is with Reeling, it pretty much took over my life. I was trying all these different things. We were showing films at Cook County Jail. We were showing films about Cambodian boat people to Cambodian senior citizens. To me, that was cool to go to all these communities to show people from Cambodia a poetic documentary about their experience—to expose them to this artistic thing—was really what gave me a lot of energy. Reeling in its first years was so successful, unexpectedly so. Because when we first did it, we had no idea there would be an audience of people who would be interested. And at that time, 1981, there were so few opportunities to see any kind of gay work. And, in fact, most of the films that we screened in the early days of the festival were either the few European films like “Mädchen in Uniform,” the kind of classic lesbian films or experimental films. And, in a way, the first year I felt like I tricked the audience because I was looking for a new way to show experimental films. A lot of the domestic films were experimental because there really were no gay American feature films at that time. There were some documentaries. In terms of what I could show that was available, it was largely experimental films and European features.
Do you think that events like Reeling helped create a marketplace for films like that?
Oh, I know they did. I’m certain they did. I’ve seen the whole evolution of it going from distributors and festivals who never actually wanted to apply the word “gay” or “homosexual” to a film—it was considered ghettoization and negative branding. In the early days, I used to go to the Berlin Film Festival to scout films, and it was really hard because you would read the program descriptions and they would never say [it was] a gay or lesbian film. It would be something like, “And then Joe discovers something about himself” or “then something is revealed.” I’d end up going to these films hoping that it was gay, and sometimes it would be and sometimes it would be about something else like incest. You never know until you get there. And we would talk to distributors, and we had a lot of resistance to putting films that were gay in our film festival because they didn’t want it to be classified that way. There was a real shift when the LGBT film festivals started cropping up in L.A. and New York, and now you have probably a hundred gay film festivals around the world demonstrating there is a market for these films, that there’s an audience. And apparently Outfest, the L.A. gay film festival, is the largest film festival of any kind in Southern California, as an example. When the gay and lesbian film festivals started showing these films and developing these audiences and demonstrating that there was a gay and lesbian audience, then mainstream film festivals started paying attention, distributors started paying attention, and the classification of gay and lesbian films—there was a change in the sense of branding—then you could call them gay or lesbian and not feel like nobody’s going to come and see it. I definitely have seen the impact of the gay and lesbian film festival circuit on the marketplace for sure, and in the heyday, the most talked about films at Sundance and places like that were the gay independent features. There was a strong queer cinema movement.
Where do you see this going? To some degree, it seems that with the mainstreaming of gay culture, we might be coming full circle where filmmakers might no longer want to be identified as gay filmmakers because that ghettoizes them.
Yeah. And that’s been there since the very beginning. Chantal Akerman, for example, never wanted to have her films in a gay or lesbian film festival. She didn’t want to be ghettoized. So it’s not necessarily a new thing. That’s always been an issue with people’s films. I think it’s the same thing with women filmmakers being in a women’s film festival. Some women feel like, “I don’t want to be labeled a woman filmmaker because that’s limiting.” I think there are both sides to that argument. Would somebody say, “I don’t want to be labeled a French filmmaker because I’m French”? I think inherent in that argument or that protest is a certain kind of sense of it as a pejorative term, which bothers me. “I don’t want to be labeled as a woman filmmaker.” Well, what’s wrong with that? We have all kinds of descriptive terms—a French filmmaker, a documentary filmmaker. But why is it that a woman filmmaker or a gay filmmaker is bad? That has always been an issue, and I can understand both sides. People don’t want to be limited or categorized. But at the same time also where I think mass marketing was always the goal, people understand more of niche marketing, and I think that in some ways there is probably a greater understanding and acceptance of being labeled because people know that being labeled is part of being branded, is part of marketing, part of reaching the audience. I think there’s a greater understanding of that—that the mainstream isn’t always the best strategy.
Have you noticed any changes from the name change now that it’s more inclusive of bisexual and transgender people? Wasn’t it previously the lesbian and gay film festival? When did it change?
Just last year we changed it to LGBT. Our name change came kind of late. We sort of resisted it for a long time not because we had any issue with adding names, but it became the alphabet soup kind of thing. And it seemed like the time to finally do that. In general, I feel the bisexual is the hardest part. I think there’s still kind of a negativity about bisexuals. We don’t know what the sexual orientation is of our audience. We don’t really have the demographics about the audience attendance. My impression is that the bisexual audience is under-engaged in a way. If we show a bi film, sometimes it’s kind of a turnoff for the audience. There’s a certain kind of attitude about bis already which is that it’s kind of not real, it’s transitional people. I haven’t seen a big bisexual audience coming. Trans is growing. That’s also been a somewhat disenfranchised audience, and I think that’s where programming actually leads the attendance. And our lead film this year has a trans main character, so we’re really hoping that the trans audience will come out for that. But it’s not the easiest audience to reach. And I think part of that piece comes from presumptions that people make about a gay film festival, that it’s probably not going to be as inclusive as it should be, but we are always as inclusive as we can, bringing in films that are out there that are good. To develop an audience, sometimes you need more outreach and attention to bring in a trans audience, and so on.
You skipped a year a couple of years ago. Was that a funding thing?
No. It was really that now that there’s such a mainstreaming of gay cinema, gay culture, do you really need a festival like this anymore? And people were asking me that since year five of the festival. There’s always been a presumption of mainstreaming. And so we ask that of ourselves sometimes: Does the community still need our festival? It’s a lot of work to put on a film festival. We have seen the audiences change. The audiences are not as large as they were at one time. We used to hold our entire film festival at the Music Box, which is a seven-hundred-fifty-seat venue, where we would sell out several of those screenings, so there definitely was a kind of a peak, and I think we have been on a plateau in terms of audience attendance. So really it’s about that. It’s about the amount of work that goes into putting on the festivals, the amount of resources that go into it from Chicago Filmmakers, the kind of return on that in terms of community and interest and also the financial return on it. It’s not like we had a fiscal problem. We are fiscally sound. A lot of it was about internal staffing. Because I’m the executive director for Chicago Filmmakers and I’m also the founder and longtime director of Reeling, it’s a huge job. I work the maximum overtime, and I was getting burned out. It was both the board of directors of Chicago Filmmakers and me going, “Wouldn’t it be great if our executive director was just our executive director and could work on the organization more and build the infrastructure of the organization?” Those kinds of things aren’t paid attention to when you’re running a film festival. And so at our thirtieth anniversary, we thought, “We just celebrated thirty years. Maybe it’s time that we take a break and kind of evaluate the festival.” It’s so hard when you’re doing the festival. You’re kind of on this treadmill. One festival ends and you have to start making preparations for the next, so you don’t really have time to ponder and decide or make changes. We’re also talking about trying to change the time of year it takes place. It’s really hard to do that without taking breaks. The break really was about looking at the organization’s needs, to figure out if Reeling was still needed by the community or not and if we could transition it so it could be an easier thing to do. That’s why we took a year off. Definitely heard from the community what is needed, what is wanted. I think that even though there is a lot of mainstreaming of gay culture, you still see pretty much the mainstream stuff in terms of what makes it to the movie screens. You’re still not seeing a lot of shorts, documentaries, experimental films, narrative films that are not fairly conventional.
So we did some focus groups, talked to some people, and it seemed like there was strong desire [in the community] to see the festival continue. And then we looked at making a transition in terms of staffing to get it off my plate. We ended up hiring a co-director instead of a festival director per se, in part because the scope of knowledge, experience, and skill base a successful director needs is wide. Richard Knight, the film critic from Windy City Times, took it on as a one-year contract deal. He couldn’t return. He was great, and we would have loved to have him back. That worked out really well, the first year that I actually handed programming off to someone else. I thought it would be the hardest thing to let go of; it was the best thing to let go of. Because for thirty years I spent my summers looking at movies. We are kind of back to square one this year. We were able to get another programmer, Alex Ensign, a U of C graduate from a while back. The issue with Reeling has been that, though it’s successful in its own terms of attracting audiences and stuff like that, financially the festival has never really returned enough to the organization to carve out a full-time, year-round salary. Each time we take a shot at that, it’s been the organization investing its resources, saying, “Let’s guarantee a salary for a year,” the concept being that if we had a year-round, full-time festival director, then off-season they could fundraise and get sponsorship. And that money would then go to their salary. The concept being if it weren’t me doing the festival and then the festival’s over and I have all these other things to do… Somebody who’s got some quiet time, downtime, because festivals are seasonal operations. Traditionally it was me and whatever seasonal people I would hire, and that’s a very dysfunctional kind of scenario because when you’re hiring people seasonally, they’re temporary. And you hope that they can come back next season and work again, and we’ve been very lucky in that we have had people who have been able to do that. We had somebody that came back for five years. She started as an intern and came back for five years and worked for us seasonally and off-season she was working as a temp. At a certain point, she was like, “I need a full-time job. I would love to have it with you, but if I can’t have it with you, I need to start looking elsewhere.” That’s the dysfunctional nature of it is when you bring seasonal people in, you train them, and then you don’t get the benefit of that training next year. I did make several attempts over the years to hire somebody seasonally on a contract basis with the idea that when the contract is over, if this seems like somebody that’s interested in continuing and being mentored in a role as festival director, then we’ll do that. And so I tried it a couple of times, and the problem was that they were never able to raise enough money to sustain a profit. That’s a long way of saying while the festival pays for itself—it doesn’t drain us of money—it does drain us of a lot of labor that doesn’t really return to the organization.
Do you think you will spin it off at some point and ideally become its own nonprofit? It’s unusual for a film festival to be part of another organization. Aren’t most of them standalone, make-or-break entities?
We’ve certainly thought about that. We’ve thought about organizational partners. In some ways, I think it would be tougher for Reeling to be on its own than under the auspices of Chicago Filmmakers because [we] have an office. And yet Reeling is so important to our mission. It’s really tied into our mission, because our mission isn’t just to support filmmakers, it is also to support diverse filmmakers and to give a showcase to diverse work. In some ways, it’s hard to let go of it because from a mission standpoint it’s really nourishing for the organization to feel like we’re doing good work in the world. And it also makes our mission more understandable to a lot of people. A lot of people think of film as entertainment. Even though I consider showing experimental films a mission, it doesn’t really translate in the general world.
Chicago Filmmakers today—how big is the budget of the organization, what’s the staff, what do you guys do?
Not including our firehouse project, the budget is around five-hundred thousand. We do a lot of different programs. We have a weekly exhibition program showing independent films, mainly experimental documentaries, shorts, non-traditional work. We produce two film festivals in addition to Reeling. We also produce Onion City, an experimental film and video festival [in its] twenty-sixth year. We teach filmmaking, so we have classes on all aspects of film production, trying to provide a low-cost alternative to film school. We don’t offer degrees, but you’re getting the same teachers who are teaching at places like Columbia College or the Art Institute. We have summer camps for kids. We have a production fund. We give out grants through a foundation that gives us money to award some grants. We are giving out a hundred-thousand dollars each year to Chicago-based filmmakers, videomakers, to create work for online distribution. We provide fiscal sponsorship to film productions, which essentially means film productions that are selected by our board. They apply to our board of directors and ask the board who okays them. These are films that can fundraise through our nonprofit offices. It’s usually documentary films that want to access donations as opposed to investors. We have a small distribution collection of six hundred films. We do a little bit of preservation. We have a membership-based program called filmmaker services. The roots have historically been in equipment access which is not as relevant anymore because a lot of people own their own cameras. Now we do things like the meet-up, so it’s really about building community, connecting filmmakers with each other. We have maybe a couple hundred members. Essentially the organization has a dual purpose, a dual mission, which is to support independent, non-commercial filmmakers on the one hand, and to serve audiences, which also supports filmmakers to develop audiences for their work. And then we’re buying the firehouse from the city. We’re about to complete the plans. We probably at this point won’t be in there for [at least a] year. We’re redeveloping for our permanent home, [where we will do] the same thing we do now—film screenings, classes.
Will the budget of the organization have to go into it? Apart from it being a permanent home, what will it bring in terms of scope and challenges?
One thing it’s bringing is a stronger place and role in the community. I think when you’re a renter and on the second floor and all that—I never really think of Chicago Filmmakers as being grounded in the community. It’s an organization, people come from all over the city—we happen to be in Andersonville, which is very pleasant. Being part of the firehouse helps because we own the building, it’s a public facility, people know about it. The people who live in that community are invested in it. They’ve been wondering for years, “Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen in that firehouse?” I think it really shifts our role into being a larger community player in the neighborhood. For example, partnering with Senn High School to do after-school programs. We probably will be forming more partnerships with institutions. Loyola, Senn. I think our programming—we probably will not stop showing types of films, but we will probably add to the programming, probably looking at more what the neighborhood wants and programming for families, festivals for the local community. But at the same time, trying to push the envelope a little bit. We’re not going to be showing Disney while I’m alive. We’re not going to go there. But we will be showing children’s programming, showing them independent films that they would never see. Because our classes will be on the second floor and our screening room will be on the first floor, we will be able to do more screenings. We really share that space now. We are only able to do screenings on the weekends. We will be able to do more screenings. We also hope that it will be a facility that is used by more organizations. We want to be very welcoming for independent curators, which there are a lot of now because people independently curate their own films and show them in bars and various places. Definitely soliciting their involvement. So it is not just increasing our programming but bringing in other programming.
On the education side, is anyone else doing any of this outside of the colleges? Are you the only one?
I think we are except for very specific things. Some of the theater companies [have] screenwriting classes. Probably screenwriting is the most available. In terms of comprehensive, the whole range, [we are the only ones] as far as I know. There are little things here and there. And that is an area of growth for us I think, and again, Reeling being on someone else’s plate instead of mine… We do basically no advertising for our classes. It’s kind of filled by word of mouth and people just Googling it and finding us on the internet. And it’s a great alternative. I think if we put more marketing into it, it could really grow, and we will have more classes in the firehouse. Right now we are limited by class size, space size.
You moved the film festival to Logan Square, and I’m wondering what has changed since then.
We’re actually going to move back to the Landmark Century. It was an experiment. We had always been in November at the Landmark. And when we took the year off, that was when we thought, “Well, when we come back, let’s come back in September instead.” We were in contact with the Landmark, and the plan was that we would come back in September. And when we realized so much deliberation about it had gone on that we were just not ready to launch the festival that early, we went back to them and said we need to move it to November. But it was too late at that point. They couldn’t move it to November. They had other plans for November. So honestly we were just looking for another place, and Logan Square was very enticing. The community was amazing. There was a Logan Square host committee that self-formed to welcome Reeling to the Logan Square community which was really amazing. It was community activists, business owners, arts groups. And what’s really cool is they said that it was the first time as a group that they had met also. It kind of brought all these different people in Logan Square around us. They were very welcoming and offered to help and do whatever they could. It was a really great experience in terms of community, but in terms of the audience, Lakeview is at this point in time probably a better location for us. The Landmark has a bigger theater than they have. It doesn’t mean we won’t ever go back there. There were many positives about that experience.
Reeling: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival Reeling returns to the Music Box Theatre at 3733 North Southport for its opening night gala on Thursday, September 18 and then moves on to its main venue, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema at 2828 North Clark from September 19 to 25. The fest’s home base, Chicago Filmmakers at 5243 North Clark, will also host select screenings.