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Film festivals light up screens in suburban Woodstock, Naperville and Geneva

January 18, 2011

From this week's Business of Life

Film festivals light up screens in suburban Woodstock, Naperville and Geneva

By: H. Lee Murphy January 17, 2011

Northwest suburban Woodstock hosts an annual “Groundhog Day” celebration with free screenings of the 1993 Bill Murray comedy, which was filmed around the town's square. Starting Friday, however, residents will be confronted with more serious fare in the ninth year of the Woodstock International Film Festival, featuring movies in German, Arabic and even Corsican.

Chicago's suburbs are largely “Tron” and “Narnia” country, but film festivals have proliferated in towns looking to embellish their cultural image. The Naperville Independent Film Festival showed 75 films over eight days in September, drawing nearly 2,500 movie lovers, up from 400 in its first year, 2008.

“It's been an education process, but local people are steadily gaining an appreciation for independent films,” says Glessna Coisson, a co-founder of the event. The European Independent Film Festival has agreed to show all the winning entries from Naperville in Paris. “That's a huge feather in our cap,” Ms. Coisson says.

Richard Ferguson, a Hyde Park public health specialist, had his documentary, “Birth of a New Consciousness,” about midwives and childbirth in Mexico, shown at Naperville last year. It drew an audience of 30; he was elated.

“I hope to submit the film to more festivals later this year,” Mr. Ferguson, 59, says. “I can't believe how many there are—hundreds and hundreds to choose from.”

The western suburb of Geneva, population 23,000, plans its fourth Geneva Film Festival for April, with 28 films screened over three days. Geneva has no movie theater, so films are shown in banquet halls on improvised screens.

“People don't mind,” says Scott Rolf, festival president. “They come out anyway.”

© 2011 by Crain Communications Inc.

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