CIMMFest mixes music and film to create an eclectic weekend
‘Movies. Music. Inseparable.” That is the platform of the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival (CIMMFest), now in its sixth year, which aims to show the intersection of both art forms in a jam-packed, four-day program that kicks off Thursday. From special events like the symphonic Italian band Goblin performing a live score to Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” to a series of documentaries such as “Led Zeppelin Played Here,” about that time in 1969 when the rock band played a Maryland youth center, there’s no shortage of material to back up the claim that the two are inseparable.
“It’s an ongoing evolution,” CIMMFest founder Josh Chicoine says. “Because of increasing technology, there’s been the ability for artists and directors and musicians to collaborate like never before.” Such was the case in 2009 when Chicoine (a local musician formerly of the M’s and now in Sabers) and his filmmaker neighbor Ilko Davidov (working on the upcoming documentary “Nelson Algren: The End Is Nothing, The Road Is All”) started collaborating on their passion project. This year, more than 70 films, 50 bands, 99 events and a conference (more than 50 percent with a local focus) will converge at 16 venues along a stretch of Milwaukee from Logan Square to Wicker Park.
“It was the [reopening of] the Logan Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue,” Chicoine says of the turning point in 2012. In years prior, the fest was scattered across theaters and venues throughout the city. A dedicated screening space in the Logan Theatre (not to mention a nearby smattering of music venues like Double Door and Concord Music Hall) allowed CIMMFest to become, for the first time, a walkable festival, promoting programming that is easily accessible for patrons.
Expanding the music lineup — this year’s highlights include Yo La Tengo, Booker T. and Murder By Death — also has helped increase CIMMFest’s exposure. “We wanted to tentpole the festival with some big national acts that could draw in more people,” Chicoine says. “It still remains true to our brand, I think, because a lot of the bands have a strong visual component in their stage presence or with collaborations they’ve done in the past.”
With a team of five dedicated to the project full time, and an additional team of 25 marketing volunteers, Chicoine says it’s a daunting task to pull it all together every year. “I start working on the new program pretty much the day the current festival ends,” he says. Yet it’s been worth it to see the fruits of his labors, including recent partnerships with the City of Chicago to bring the new Film Summit and one-off events in New York and Los Angeles.
“It’s almost impossible to pull off, which is why more people don’t do stuff like this,” Chicoine says, laughing. “Only impassioned people can stick with this kind of stuff.” Such people include Louis Black, the co-founder of the Austin Chronicle and the South by Southwest Festival, who will receive CIMMFest’s Distinguished Baadasssss Award this year as well as giving the keynote address. Black met Chicoine when the M’s played SXSW several years ago, and since then Black has been to CIMMFest to present a number of films.
“The whole energy reminds me of the earliest days of SXSW, when it was intimate and there was an excitement of a nascent community coming together to discover each other. I love that vibe,” says Black, who is not blind to the chatter surrounding CIMMFest becoming Chicago’s version of SXSW.
“What I like about CIMMFest and what I would recommend is for it not to try to be SXSW, but to try to be a movie and music festival for Chicago. The city has just an incredible music and film scene, so all the ingredients are there,” Black says. “The more connected the community is and the more they work together, the more things can be created.”