"Hollywood on State" to honor Chicago filmmakers


Lonnie Edwards' "A Ferguson Story"

The Gene Siskel Film Center’s 14th annual “Hollywood on State” Oscar night viewing party this Sunday promises to satisfy all kinds of movie lovers, including those with a passion for getting behind the lens.

Besides telecasting the Academy Awards show live and providing an endless bounty of food and drink, the center will screen the current work of Midwestern filmmakers Lonnie Edwards, Lori Felker, Jennifer Reeder and Michael Glover Smith throughout the night.

“We’ve been doing this for a few years now,” explains Jean de St. Aubin, the Siskel Center’s executive director. “At a staff meeting in the fall, we start talking about who’s out there, who’s work really surprised us this year, and who’s doing interesting things.”

Since the center is in touch with the film community year round, its relationships to the artists is often deeper than those of a typical filmmaker and film jury.

“We’ve worked with all of them years before selecting them as honorees,” de St. Aubin continues.

“Lonnie’s short films have been in Black Harvest (the center’s annual celebration of the black experience). Lori’s have been in the Chicago Underground Film Festival. A lot of Jennifer’s work has screened here during Conversations with the Edge (the Art Institute’s weekly series of screenings, talks and performances). Michael is a straight-up filmmaker. You know, Chicago has a really deep bench of filmmakers.”

A wide range of achievements put the filmmakers on the Siskel Center’s radar.

Edwards’ award-winning 2015 documentary short, “A Ferguson Story,” captures multiple perspectives of the aftermath of teenager Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, MO. Reeder’s 2015 collection of shorts, “Blood Below the Skin,” combines pop culture whimsy with teenage female emotion to explore the depths of modern suburban existence. Felker’s work combine a variety of artistic visuals with intense footage, sound and music to create gripping emotion. Smith’s award-winning 2015 feature debut, “Cool Apocalypse,” has won fans nationwide and helped generate substantial buzz surrounding the release his second feature, Mercury in Retrograde, due out this year.

The work will screen on a monitor in a hallway between the Siskel Film Center’s two theaters. Before reaching that location, guests will walk down a red carpet at the building’s entrance, pass a custom-designed VIP area, and enter a lobby cafe with more than enough designer food and signature beverages to please the appetites of 250-300 film connoisseurs.

“You don’t have to spend any money once you’re in the door and you’re probably going to be over served,” de St. Aubin explains. “Chicago has a really deep bench of filmmakers.”

Sunday, February 26, 6:30 p.m. · 164 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60601. For tickets ($100-$250), click here.

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