News Column

Naperville film festival goes for 'Oscar-ish feel'

September 13, 2013


The magic of the silver screen will take over two venues in Naperville for nine days beginning today as the sixth annual Naperville Independent Film Festival; comes to town.

Organizers say the 92 films to be shown will give viewers a chance to experience creative cinematography, to see something they never would encounter anywhere else, to escape into a different reality.

One such reality will hit festival attendees right from the start, during a pre-opening night showing of the documentary "Composed." The film chronicles the music and the life of Schaumburg pianist Chris Errera;, who stands 4 feet, 6 inches tall because he was born with a condition called diastrophic dwarfism.

In Errera's reality, crutches are required to get around, chords must be altered to fit within the limited reach of his inflexible fingers and people's assumptions that he's someone to be pitied exist only to be shattered, said David Slania, producer of "Composed."

"How can this man, who was born a diastrophic dwarf, which really limits the ability to play the piano -- how can he do it?" asked Slania, of Rolling Meadows. "It's just one of those stories -- you cannot be anything but impressed by what he's done."

The film will make its Naperville premiere at 7 p.m. today at the location where 75 of the festival's 92 films will be shown, Ogden 6 Classic Cinemas, 1227 E. Ogden Ave. And it's set to grace the screen on an extra day added to the festival's schedule this year, a pre- opening night, said Edmond Coisson, one of the festival's co- founders.

The festival has grown since it began in 2008 and is applying to become accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which could lead to next year's winners in two categories - - animation and live-action short films -- being entered into a pool for Academy Award consideration, Coisson said.

"We've escalated much higher on this ladder of success for film fests than I'd ever expected," Coisson said about the event he began with his wife, Glessna, and Naperville native and video production expert Gary Pradel.

The festival gets started in earnest with opening night at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Classic Cinemas showing the feature film "Least Among Saints," followed by an after-party at Country Inn and Suites, 1837 Centre Point Circle. Tickets for the film and party are $15 at;

From there, it continues with films grouped into categories such as horror, short films, animation, music videos, mobile videos, women in film, student-produced films and a group of 17 that won awards at the European Independent Film Festival in Paris earlier this year.

All the European award-winners will be shown at Smith Hall in Old Main on North Central College's; facilities/bark-park/ campus, 30 N. Brainard St., Naperville.

A closing ceremony in which organizers hand winning filmmakers 16- inch tall, 4-pound sculptures produced by the same company that makes the Oscars concludes the festival at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Center Stage Theatre, 1665 Quincy Ave., Suite 131.

"When you win something like that, you reach a certain level of status in the film community," Coisson said about the awards to be given in 11 categories based on the discretion of a panel of jurors who look for good composition, editing, cinematography, dialogue, music and acting.

Those who attend the festival's last hurrah can see clips from five nominees in each category and enjoy the suspense of waiting for the winner to be announced.

"Not to be grandiose, but I like to give it a little bit of an Oscar-ish feel," Coisson said.

Errera, the musician whose story will kick off this year's film festival, also will be present to conclude it -- this time in person instead of on the screen.

Mary Ellen Fieseler, film festival spokeswoman, said Slania and the crew behind "Composed" offered to have Errera perform at the closing ceremony, and festival organizers gladly accepted.

Seeing and hearing Errera play piano gives people an even greater glimpse into his reality and completes the experience of seeing him on film, Slania said. Those behind "Composed" hope to bring that experience to as many people as possible so they can learn from someone who's different.

"For all that he's had to deal with, the surgeries and everything, and also to be able to play the piano," Slania said, "he can only put out the music that's coming from his heart and soul."

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