by Bill Stamets

Chicago International Movies and Music Festival

Posted in Uncategorized by Bill Stamets on March 5, 2010

Crossover is the key to the second annual Chicago International Movies and Music Festival. Running through Sunday, this twofer fest mixes cinema and concerts.

Tonight’s Robyn Hitchcock event is sold out, so check out Mucca Pazza, a local “circus-punk marching band,” on Saturday. For Sunday’s Closing Night, DJ Spooky, who once remixed “The Birth of a Nation” on stage, will mix soul vinyl with video sampled from Mel Stuart’s film of a 1972 concert in Watts.

Various music documentaries profile Bob Marley’s mentor, an electronic music pioneer, French rappers, Seattle soul, Tibetan folk artists and fans of Stradivarius violin. Two recommended films that recently screened in Chicago come back: “Still Bill” and “Rapping in Tehran.”

Selected capsule reviews follow:


7:30 p.m. “The Scenesters”: Todd Berger writes and directs this insider send-up of young L.A. types he knows all too well. Like his character Wallace Cotten, he is trying to make it in the film industry. After releasing a mumblecore indie, Cotten sidelines as a police videographer. He starts making a documentary about a crime scene cleaner, a television news reporter and a serial killer targeting the title’s demographic. Cotten’s partner Roger Graham is played by Jeff Grace, a former ad exec at Leo Burnett in Chicago. He created Altoids ads targeting “Young Urban Hipsters” when not doing Second City spots and stand-up on the side. “The Scenesters” is framed by courtroom scenes where a prosecutor cues clips from the documentary, its making-of outtakes, TV news reports and videos shot by the killer. The result is snarky niche fun at the expense of unethical film execs– further testimony to the stereotypical Hollywood syndrome of self-loathing. Admission: $10; St. Paul’s Cultural Center, 2215 W. North Ave.

8 p.m. “Polkaholics”: Chicago writer-director Wes Hranchak also shot and edited this chronicle of a polka star’s homecoming. His host is the excitable Don Hedeker, who plays guitar in the band Polkaholics and lectures on biostatistics at the University of Illinois. In 1956, Li’l Wally Jagiello released the Top Forty hit “I Wish I Was Single Again,” followed by 150 albums. Hedeker invites the Miami retiree back for a bar gig on Division Street, once known as “Polish Broadway.” Running just under an hour, Hranchak’s folksy black-and-white video ends by injecting a dose medical suspense to this showman’s salute. Free screening at Cassidy Hall, Chicago Cultural Center.


11:30 am. “Music of the Brain”: Australian director Fiona Cochrane follows up “Opera Therapy,” her documentary about four cancer patients creating an opera, with a report on research linking music to infancy, speech, therapy and social evolution. Most of the dozen talking heads here sport credentials containing the prefix “neuro-” but nary a neuron enters the picture. There’s little specific evidence  for claims that range from intriguing to inane. It’s less than mind-blowing to learn that music is “mood-elevating.” One bit of debunking: playing Mozart in the crib really does not increase your kid’s creativity scores. Free screening at Chicago Cultural Center, Cassidy Hall.

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