Chi LifeEventsFestivalsFilms

Chicago International Movies & Music Festival Announces 2014 Movies

posted by Oscar March 19, 2014


Festival season in Chicago is soon to be underway and today we’ve learned the films that will be a part of the 2014 Chicago International Movies & Music Festival (CIMMfest). The list includes seven World Premieres and three US Premieres. The music headliners have also been announced, but a full music lineup will be unveiled next week. Music highlights at CIMMfest 2014, announced last week, include Yo La Tengo, Brooklyn disco orchestra Escort at Concord Music Hall, Booker T. and the Bloodshot Records 20th Anniversary Showcase with Murder By Death.

The festival will take place May 1-4 at venues in Wicker Park, Bucktown and Logan Square. Some of the titles coming to Chicago for CIMMfest include 20,000 Days on Earth starring Nick Cave, the Chicago Premiere of Meerkat Media Collective’s Brasslands, about the world’s largest trumpet competition in Serbia directed by a team of 10 filmmakers, and festival favorite Led Zeppelin Played Here. Opening night feature is the tearjerker Butterfly Girl; director and producer, CNN International news veteran Cary Bell, will be in attendance.

Single film tickets go on sale March 24 and are priced at $5-$25 (some events are discounted for students with valid ID); most special events are priced at $15. Individual movie tickets are $10. Concerts are priced per venue. Read more below.

Among the seven World Premieres at CIMMfest 2014 are the features: Looking for Johnny, the definitive look at the life of punk pioneer Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls; and Rova Channeling Coltrane, an internationally produced duet of films on the Rova Saxophone Quartet‘s reincarnation of John Coltrane’s Ascension, called “the most vexatious work in jazz history.” US Premieres include The World of Goopi and Bagha, Indian book illustrator Shilpa Ranade s animated verson of Satyajit Ray’s 1969 film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne.


Of local interest are the energetic rock doc The Last Kamikazis of Heavy Metal by Chicago sisters Biliana and Marina Grozdanova who follow Chicago’s hard-driving female-fronted metal band Hëssler on tour across the US. The World Premiere of We Grew Up Here, starring members of Chicago band Paper Thick Walls, is the story of a musician who suspects that his past is being erased. And the short doc Koentopp, making its US Premiere, chronicles the process of a Chicago custom guitar maker. Synopses of all 2014 films are below.


The silent Russian cinema classic Battleship Potemkin will enjoy a special screening as Chicago rock vets Scott Lucas (Local H), Jimmy Chamberlin (The Smashing Pumpkins) and Matt Ulery (Loom) come together under the name Mary Shelley to collaborate on a live scoring event.

Feature Fiction                                                    

  • Aayna Ka Bayna (Delinquent Dancers) (Samit Kakkad, India, 2012, 94min).  Chicago Premiere

It’s Bollywood by way of Slumdog Millionaire in this tale of nine youthful offenders in a harsh correctional facility who learn to dance as a form of art therapy. When the brutal warden refuses to let them take part in a national dance competition, they escape, using their street smarts to stay ahead of the cops, tie up loose ends from their various backstories and prepare for the big show. Kinetic camerawork and editing, electrifying dance numbers and the gritty reality of poverty combine in a one-of-a-kind experience.

  • Falastine Stereo (Palastine Stereo) (Rashid Masharawi, Palestine/Tunisia/France/Norway/UAE/Switzerland/Italy, 2013, 90min).  Chicago Premiere

Palestinian director Rashid Mashawari (Laila’s Birthday) helms this compelling and ironic drama about two brothers – Samy (a deaf sound technician) and Stereo (a wedding singer) — on the West Bank who, rendered homeless by an Israeli air strike, hustle odd jobs to raise enough money to emigrate to Canada.

  • Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya (The World of Goopi and Bagha) (Shilpa Ranade, India, 2012, animated, 78min). US Premiere

In a reboot of a story first filmed by Satyajit Ray in 1969, two bumbling musicians banished from their hometowns for annoying the neighbors gain the magical ability to enchant people with their music. This leads to a cushy gig as court musicians, but when the kingdom is threatened, they vow to save the day in exchange for wedded bliss with two beautiful princesses. The appealing marionette-like 2D animation is a far cry from either Disney or anime, and the charming story and amusing songs will captivate audiences of all ages.

  • Honeydripper (John Sayles, USA, 2007, 124min).

SXSW cofounder Louis Black will introduce and discuss John Sayles’ criminally underseen allegory of the birth of rock ’n’ roll in the hotbed of the American South under Jim Crow. Sayles’ canny, lyrical film posits rock as an all-inclusive cultural force – there’s room for everyone in this new music, for strutting youngsters with cobbled-together guitars, for old-timey ivory-ticklers and grizzled sax players, for big-tent revivalists, and for blues belters. Danny Glover, Keb Mo and Charles S. Dutton star.

When her metal-loving older brother dies in a tragic accident, teenage Hera takes refuge in the darkness and rebelliousness of heavy metal. Rebellious, misunderstood and encased in black leather and death’s-head facepaint, she dreams of becoming a rock star and escaping the dreary life that seems to be her destiny. The arrival of a cool young priest who also worships Judas Priest seems to offer her a lifeline, but to paraphrase the immortal Rob Halford, she’s got another thing comin’.

John Doe plays the lead singer of a disbanded punk band who, with his producer (Aimee Mann) turns to the Classifieds and Craigslist in a desperate attempt to assemble a band for a one-day gig. The motley crew comprises an eccentric, elderly Theremin player (Loudon Wainwright), a muse-worthy but abused punk rock bassist, a Christian guitarist who sings like an angel, a butch, hardened, but happy-to-be-here drummer, a former lounge singer turned real estate agent singer, and an almost-past-his-prime electric violinist with anger management issues.  Pleased to Meet Me is a funny, unexpected look into the unrealized dreams and possibilities of artists.

Shakespeare’s most popular play has seemingly been played every which way, but never like this – a Kiwi rock opera that sets the Bard’s timeless words to modern pop, rock and hip hop and transfers the feuding Montagues and Capulets from Renaissance Verona to a seaside trailer park. Baz Luhrmann meets Carmen: A Hip Hopera in Tim Van Dammen’s radical reimagining of the fearful passage of Romeo and Juliet’s death-mark’d love. It’s Shakespeare as you’ve never heard him before.

A musician who is struggling to cope with his split from his lover and muse begins to suspect that his past is being erased in this unnerving film starring members of Chicago band Paper Thick Walls with a score by Luke Ramus. As songs that Liam (Eric Michaels) and Lauren (Kate Schell) recorded together disappear from tapes and mutual friends deny that they know him, Liam hits the road on a desperate journey to prove to himself and everyone else that he’s not insane—that the life that they built together, and that he threw away, was real.


Feature Documentary

Fresh from its premiere at Sundance 2014, where it was awarded the directing and editing awards, this unique blend of documentary essay and cinematic fiction features Nick Cave as both subject and coconspirator, intimately documenting his artistic process and combining it with a fictional staged narrative of his 20,000th day on Earth.

  • Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (Margaret Brown, USA, 2004, 99min).

SXSW cofounder Louis Black served as executive producer of this documentary about the late Austin singer-songwriter. Instead of offering a by-the-numbers chronology of his life, the film paints an impressionistic portrait, allowing his songs, his friends (including Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett), and beautiful shots of his Texas to fill in what details they can without telling us what to think about the man who said “I think my life will run out before my work does. I think I’ve designed it that way.”

  • Brasslands (Meerkat Media Collective, USA, 2013, 84min).  Chicago Premiere

As half a million trumpet fans descend on the tiny village of Guča, Serbia, for the world’s largest trumpet competition, historical and ethnic tensions still smolder beneath the surface of the small Balkan country. Brasslands follows three musical groups who seek the crown. The reigning champions represent generations of acclaimed Serbian musicians; a Romani group struggles against racism for the right to make a living from their music; and an unlikely American band must win over an audience that still resents America’s role in the NATO bombings of two decades ago.

Abbie Evans grew up in hospitals, cared for by her protective mother and father. She then came into her own in honkytonks, selling merchandise for her dad’s band. An intimate portrait of what it’s like to be a seemingly typical teenage girl with a rare life-threatening skin disease, directed by TV news veteran Cary Bell.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk was more than a blind musician who could play three horns at once, more than the most exciting sax player who ever lived. He was also a warrior against racial injustice and a tireless campaigner for wider appreciation of jazz in American society. Packed with electrifying archival footage of Kirk and his music, Adam Kahan’s film is an absorbing look at the man who wouldn’t even let partial paralysis keep him from pursuing what he called “the religion of dreams.”

The orphans of Angola’s four decades of war have seen the absolute worst that humanity is capable of. In one orphanage, they’re learning to deal with their emotional scars through an unusual therapy—death metal, which one musician calls “a scream in revolt against what happened in our past that helps us remove the debris and suffering of war.” Against the stark backdrop of their ravaged city, the death-metal orphans struggle to realize an impossible dream—the first national rock concert in Angola’s history.

Gorman Bechard’s followup to 2011’s Color Me Obsessed presents the co-founder and drummer of Hüsker Dü coming to terms with his career and himself. In a series of frank conversations, he covers topics ranging from the destruction of the band that made him famous to his second career as a visual artist, fatherhood, addiction and the glories of the Studebaker. The film captures Hart as he creates what is arguably the most ambitious album of his career, The Argument, inspired equally by John Milton and William S. Burroughs.

Join Christmas music junkie Mitchell Kezin as he tracks down the stories behind 12 of his favorite holiday tunes. There’s no tired shopping-mall muzak here: instead, Kezin unearths songs that, like rock ’n’ roll itself, are barometers of their times, addressing racial inequality, religious freedom, nuclear war, and being alone. From Schoolhouse Rock creator Bob Dorough to Miles Davis to Chicago’s beloved Sound Opinions crew, Jingle Bell Rocks! guarantees you’ll never listen to Christmas music the same way again.

Sisters Biliana and Marina Grozdanova co-direct this Kickstarter-funded doc following the five young guns of Chicago band HËSSLER as they journey west and conquer audiences across America. Both on and off the stage, the band members are bonded by their passion for music-making and by their allegiance to the legacy of heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll.

On the night of Richard Nixon’s inauguration in January 1969, in the middle of their first US tour, Led Zeppelin played in the gym of a Maryland youth center to a crowd of about 50 people… or did they? Jeff Krulik (Heavy Metal Parking Lot) investigates this urban legend, in the process illuminating the vagaries of human memory and the difficulty of documenting the disreputable history of rock ’n’ roll in the years before Woodstock and rock docs.

Joe Meek was a brilliant pop craftsman, a veritable magician in the studio and one of the most important record producers of all time. He was also a paranoiac, a drug addict and a closeted homosexual who died by his own hand at the age of 37. A Life in the Death of Joe Meek explores the enigma of the musical genius who couldn’t play an instrument, the producer who discovered Jimmy Page but passed on the Beatles (“just another bunch of noise”), and the DIY pioneer who invented the modern recording studio.

Danny Garcia (The Rise and Fall of The Clash) directs the definitive documentary on legendary guitar player Johnny Thunders, from his beginning in the early ’70s as a founding member of the highly influential New York Dolls to his demise in New Orleans, where he died under mysterious circumstances in 1991.

Millions of people have imitated his moves, but few know his name: Vincent Paterson, the choreographer to the stars. Paterson is responsible for some of the modern era’s most famous dances, including Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour and the large-scale dances in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. From the heights of stardom to the depths of despair, director Kersti Grunditz brings us along as Paterson tackles his biggest challenge yet, a massive Elvis-themed Cirque du Soleil show that will define – or end – his career.

In the macho world of mariachi, female musicians are rare. Against the backdrop of Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebration, Que Caramba es la Vida accompanies several women to their performances and throughout their daily lives, their unique outlooks providing a different perspective to the traditional songs about death, love and poverty.

Political provocateurs. Social agitators. Punk’s reigning contrarians. The Mekons have been called all this and more. Revenge of the Mekons chronicles the unlikely story of a group of radical British art students who formed in the first blast of punk rock in 1977. Against all odds—and despite a career consigned to the margins—the Mekons continue to tour and make adventurous and challenging albums, despite the fact that its eight members are separated by thousands of miles across two continents. A rich and illuminating account of a fascinating, criminally under-recognized band, with killer music, to boot.

Rova Channeling Coltrane is a duet of films on the Rova Saxophone Quartet‘s reincarnation of John Coltrane’s Ascension, called “the most vexatious work in jazz history.” First, in Cleaning the Mirror, we learn the history of the project and hear from the musicians – including Nels Cline, Hamid Drake and Rova leader Larry Ochs – about their approach to the music. Then, Electric Ascension documents in its entirety a performance of the re-imagined album, giving audience members the rare opportunity to see and hear the work performed live.

  • The Sweet Sisters of Zion (Regina Rene Davis, USA, 2013, 114 min.)

The story of the greatest trio of singers in Gospel music is told through commentary from family, friends, Gospel music historians and the sisters themselves. Delois Barrett Campbell and her sisters Billie Barrett GreenBey and Rodessa Barrett Porter formed the second generation pioneering Gospel group Delois Barrett Campbell and The Barrett Sisters of Chicago. Their story is woven together with one of the best compilations of Gospel music spanning more than 60 years. A performance by The Barrett Sisters follows.

The story of the renegade sound and video collective known as The Residents spans 40 years and is clouded in mystery. Many details surrounding the group are secret, including the identities of its members who always perform wearing masks and costumes. With unprecedented access to the group’s vast archives and 40th anniversary tour, Theory of Obscurity tells the story of a group that has always played by its own set of rules, through fly on the wall observations and candid interviews with the Residents and members of Devo, Primus, Ween, Talking Heads and Pinback.

There is a stream that courses through American roots music; its source is in Maces Springs, Virginia in the Appalachian foothills. It was here that A.P. Carter, his wife Sara and his sister-in-law Maybelle began their careers as three of the earliest stars of country music. From their earliest days as Victor recording artists to their international success via the phenomenon of Border Radio, the Original Carter Family made their mark on the history of American recorded music..The Winding Stream illuminates the foundation–forming history of this multi–generational musical family through narrator–less interviews, punctuated with studio performances by Johnny and June Carter Cash, George Jones, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson and others.


Short Documentary

  • Box of Sound (Chuck Przybyl, USA, 2014, 12min). North American Premiere

Chicago-based circuit bender and musician Antoine Kattar turns a cigar box into a synthesizer in this film that lovingly documents every step of the process, from concept to music.

  • Derby & Groma (Kara Blake, Canada/Argentina, 2013, 17min). Chicago Premiere

Kara Blake pieces together the story of a vaudeville couple in Jazz Age Buenos Aires using photographs found in the street, archival footage, performance, interviews and animation.

This portrait of a Bronx warehouse cluttered with pianos and the eccentric characters who restore them presents the decline of a once-majestic instrument and the high craft of piano restoration.

  • Hidden Wounds (Tomas Kaan, Netherlands/UK/Belgium/USA, 2013, 6min). North American Premiere

Pioneering Belgian rockers dEUS explore the horrors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through the personal stories of 20 veterans of wars around the world.

  • Koentopp (Paul Hamilton and Caleb Vinson, USA, 2013, 45min). US Premiere

A documentary on Chicago guitar builder Dan Koentopp and his development of a custom Chicagoan Oval Hole Archtop guitar, the most elaborate instrument he’s created to date.

  • Like a Breath (Comme une respiration) (Jaelle Marquis-Gobeille, Canada, 2012, 5min). Chicago Premiere

A wordless portrait of Amelie, a contemporary dancer preparing for her first professional dance show while dealing with the everyday struggles of living with cystic fibrosis and diabetes.

  • Ma boîte noire  (My Black Box) (Nicolas-Alexandre Tremblay, Canada, 2012, 12min). Chicago Premiere

At the age of four, rapper Dramatik was treated for aggression. The treatment left him with a stutter; freestyling provided him with a cure.

In a country where public performances by women are forbidden, the internationally acclaimed Iranian vocalist Mahsa Vahdat struggles to make her voice heard.

  • Salarymen (H. Paul Moon, USA, 2013, 5min). World Premiere

The Salarymen do spontaneous performances of sound art, mixing small objects with the noises of Washington, DC to make a different kind of urban music.

Cameras follow street artist Shepard Fairey (renowned for his 2008 Barack Obama “Hope” poster) through Asbury Park, New Jersey, as he creates art for the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival.

  • Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film (Steven Kochones, USA, 2012, 37min). Chicago Premiere

Through conversations with photographers and musicians, Who Shot Rock & Roll explores the stories behind the most enduring photos in rock history.

Will Play for Beer is a documentary about Seattle’s independent music and arts scene. The film focuses on the uniqueness of the scene, and the passion that the artists have for creating original and exciting work amidst an ever-changing music industry.


Short Fiction

Eight years after a tragedy drove him into retirement, the last great jazz star on a manmade planet plays a farewell performance that forces him to relive it.

  • La Donna (Nicolás Dolensky, Argentina, 2013, 15min).  Chicago Premiere

On a night that could be any night, anywhere, two men and a woman, plenty of alcohol, hot music and sexual tension combine in unexpected ways.

  • Lomax (Jesse Kreitzer, USA, 2013, 12min).  Chicago Premiere

Folklorist Alan Lomax travels the Mississippi Delta equipped with 500 pounds of recording equipment powered by his car battery, on a quest to document the most beautiful and harrowing songs ever sung.

Shooter Jennings says goodbye to his family and hits the road on a supernatural journey inspired by Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, and his own past.

  • Stupify (Paul Thomas, USA, 2013, 7min). World Premiere

When rapper Stupify steps into the studio to record his new album, his biggest challenge is unexpected – a very precise producer.

  • Toca pra Diabo! (A Hell of a Player!) (João Helho, Brazil, 2013, 15min). World Premiere

After meeting a mysterious and talented stranger, guitar player Sig discovers that there are more things between hell and earth than a naive metalhead kid might suppose.

In this radical adaptation of Benjamin Britten’s opera about Noah’s Ark, the action is transported to a South African township, Noah is a woman, and the songs are sung in Xhosa.

Two strangers meet through a haze of smoke from a broken-down Volkswagen Beetle in this sweet tale of love, loss and … car trouble.

  • Woody (Stuart Bowen, Australia, 2013, 10min).  Chicago Premiere

Woody has always wanted to play the piano, but he has wooden paddles for hands. This, however, is no barrier to his daydreams of stardom.

A boat captain who loves Chinese ballads tries to collect a debt to save his fleet of boats, as remembered by his ten-year-old son.”


Complete 2014 festival schedule, to be announced in coming weeks, features more than 70 films, 50 bands and 99 additional special events. Keynote Speaker Louis Black kicks off the fest and receives the second annual BAADASSSS Award for his contributions to the film and music industries as a writer, producer and co-founder of SXSW. A complete schedule can be found at


Expanded this year is CIMMCon, the dynamic professional and entrepreneurial industry conference and expo, presented in association the Engineering and Recording Society of Chicago (EARS), Chicago data analytics startup Crowdnoize, and Chicago Actors in Film Meetup (CAFM), a professional networking and support organization. CIMMcon will offer compelling presentations from industry professionals, film icons, artist entrepreneurs, and music makers, including Keynote Speaker Louis Black, co-founder of South By Southwest.  In its sophomore year, the conference promises unparalleled access to the people – past, present and future – who create, market, and disrupt the business of making music and movies. CIMMcon events will offer essential insights into the business, the personalities and the profession of music, film, and technology as a global phenomenon at a crossroads.


“Music has the power like nothing else to bring people together, to communicate a shared humanity, the pain and joy of living on this planet and being alive and part of the human race,” says Dave Moore, co-executive director of CIMMfest. “Music is that universal language, that speaks what cannot be spoken, secrets that we hold in our heart, that we want nothing more than to scream from the mountaintops.”


“That’s what CIMMfest is about: screaming from the mountain, or perhaps a skyscraper, or down Milwaukee Avenue, or along the blue line tracks,” echoes co-executive director Lucia Palmarini. “We’re here, we’re loud and we want you to come out and sing with us, dance with us, be alive with us.”


Festival co-founder Josh Chicoine explains, “Using the mediums of film, live performance, panel discussions and innovative multimedia combinations of all of these, we present a unique experience for both festival-goers and special guests. We set the stage by bringing together visionaries and rabble-rousers, fans and creators, to raise their voices in wonder and praise of music’s ability to connect us all.”


Corporate and Community sponsors of CIMMfest No. 6 include Columbia College Chicago, Heineken, Ticketweb, Autobarn, Optimus, Acme Hotel, Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, do312, Fulcrum Point, Crowdnoize, JBTV and EARS.


A recent Driehaus Foundation Grant winner, CIMMfest is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. For information on how to get involved, visit



The mission of the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival (CIMMfest) is to highlight the inseparability of film and music through the production of an annual four-day, multi-venue festival.  CIMMfest is a convergence event that highlights the interconnectedness of all people shown through the lens of music and movies, on stage and on screen.  All participating films have music at their center: short and long form documentaries and narrative fiction; concert films; animation; music videos; performances; live concert events; art exhibits; and panel discussions, presented at both new and historic venues around Chicago.  CIMMfest is a platform for filmmakers and musicians, artists and producers, to present their vision and offer a connection point for people to come together for a celebration of movies, music, and good times in the greatest city on earth – Chicago!  For more information, visit



Other Dope Sh*t