For two days, Loyola students and Chicagoans will have the opportunity to experience independent international films on campus. The inaugural Chicago Independent Film (+TV) Festival (CIFF) is scheduled to make its debut April 28, with film screenings taking place at the New 400 Theatre (6746 N. Sheridan Road) and Loyola’s Damen Cinema in the Damen Student Center.
CIFF will showcase 38 films from around the world — two narrative features, seven documentary features, five television pilots and 24 short films. “The Know,” directed by Tom “Boomer” Galassi and his brother Adam, is one of the two narrative features, and it’s expected to run in Damen Cinema April 29.
The PHOENIX spoke with CIFF executive director Brent Kado and Tom Galassi about the film festival and “The Know.” The film has been showcased all around the world in countries from Russia to Uruguay and is being screened for the first time in Chicago at CIFF, according to Galassi.
Films being shown at CIFF have good chances of being picked up by Netflix and Amazon, according to Kado. Of films entered in the Chicago Comedy Film Festival — CIFF’s counterpart featuring international comedy films — the Finnish film “How Do I Take Care of Everything” was one of 10 nominees in the Best Short Film and Live Action category at the 2014 Academy Awards.
“What makes [CIFF] really unique and a really good selling point is we bring in distributors that buy these kinds of films and are able to take them and hopefully sell them to Netflix and Amazon or put them on all the platforms along with those,” Kado said. “We’re happy to help filmmakers that make really good stuff and have really good projects but might be a little more difficult for them to find screening opportunities.”
CIFF provides mostly everyone, film fanatics or not, the opportunity to experience culture and art through independent films created both locally and globally.
“It’s a way to branch out and see different art forms without having to leave campus or go too far from campus,” Kado said. “I know that being a student in Chicago, the opportunities to do things are limitless — there are so many different things to do but to have something right on campus, sponsored by the film and digital media department at Loyola, it’s a great thing to be able to experience even if it’s just one quick film on a Sunday afternoon.”
The Galassi brothers’ film, “The Know,” artistically examines the concept of how information is shared by taking a closer look at the effects of monopolizing media companies. Looking into the future, one company called The Know has a complete monopoly on the media. The film’s main character, portrayed by Chicago’s Blue Man Group’s Scott Bishop, senses this company is controlling the minds of the public and attempts to save humanity.
The Galassi brothers are both involved with Chicago’s Blue Man Group — Tom is one of the six rotating Blue Men, and Adam is a crew member. “The Know” features cast and crew members of the Blue Man Group, including box office managers, stage managers and cleaning crew.
“We decided to use people that we worked with because we’re around them all the time and can grab them before and after work,” Tom Galassi said. “The availability of people is one of the hard things when you’re making a movie. This movie isn’t sponsored by the Blue Man Group, we just all happen to work there.”
Independent films, such as “The Know,” aren’t often shown in major theaters and at film festivals since they can lack the traditional storylines of larger box-office movies, according to Kado. Kado said film majors and those who appreciate independent art forms would enjoy “The Know.”
“If you’re into traditional black-box theater shows, you might be able to relate to [“The Know”] more and be able to follow the story without a lot of the visual and story narrative cues that you find in a lot of traditional mainstream films,” Kado said. “[It’s] good for people who are into a wide-variety of art forms and who are into different approaches of art and storytelling.”
“The Know” draws inspiration from the events of the 2016 presidential election and the commencement of the era of “fake news” — false news stories written for political gain. Galassi said after doing some research, he realized there were a few companies controlling the information being released to the public — which could mean they’re controlling people’s thoughts and opinions.
Although it isn’t a political film, “The Know” straddles the line between politics and communication, shedding light on the problem of modern news distribution.
“I ended up canceling my cable,” Galassi said. “I would have it on in the front room, I would be in the kitchen, and I would hear this war-like news music and ‘This is breaking news.’ I’d run in to find out what was going on and one time, it was Justin Bieber was arrested for egging a house. I’m like, ‘That’s breaking news?’”
For college students transitioning from life in school to the real world, Galassi said “The Know” is especially important to see since it delivers an important life lesson.
“You have to keep asking questions, constantly be curious and be yourself. Don’t be afraid to go against the popular belief,” Galassi said.
Chicago Independent Film and TV Festival is scheduled to take place in the Damen Cinema and at New 400 Theatre April 28-29. Tickets are available for purchase online at www.chicagoindependentfilmfestival.com and ticket prices range from $10-$35. Tickets are free for Loyola students and staff by entering code “Loyola” at checkout or showing a Loyola ID at the door.