Festival gives voice to Oak Park filmmakers
Ed Pitts of Oak Park watches a film screening during the Oak Park International Film Festival Sept. 15 at the Oak Park Public Library. A variety of films were screened. | J.Geil~For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: October 21, 2012 1:16PM
OAK PARK — The 8th annual Oak Park International Film Festival returned Saturday to the Oak Park Public Library.
Event creator and organizer Stan West said each film must have an Oak Park connection.
“Whether it’s the subject matter, actors or actresses, extras, producers or the location, there must be a tie to Oak Park,” West said
The theme this year was “Arts and Activism.” A variety of films were screened, including full lengths, shorts, cartoons, commercials and more.
“What I find unique about this festival is that it is free to the public and that the films must have a very local connection,” Oak Park resident and actress Renee Domenz said.
This year’s theme focuses on filmmaker contributions to ongoing human rights, identity and spiritual struggles, Domenz believes.
“Hopefully, these films will cause us all to think about these issues in our daily lives,” she said.
Domenz has acted for many years and was involved with three different festival films this year. “Vacant,” by writer and director Brian McQuery, showcased her acting skills. Domenz previously won Best Supporting Actress for her role at another film festival.
She also helped produce the film.
“Renee has diverse ideas, style, tone and content,” West said.
Domenz also had the lead in “Charity” by Chicago’s Joe Caballero, and written by Shelli Wright. Her character learned an important lesson in humanity.
“The Depression of Detective Downs - On Depression’s Edge” showed off Domenz’s voice-over skills in a cartoon production. She spoke as Detective Downs’ partner, Sheila.
Oak Park resident Joyce Porter has also been a major part of the festival since the beginning. She makes her return with a role in the short film, “Knives,” directed by Jason Madeja.
West began the festival to highlight Oak Park voices through film.
“We strive to give voice to the voiceless,” West said.
He believes Oak Park is known for its writers, and not filmmakers.
“We want to give filmmakers an audience,” he said.
West is a Columbia College professor, documentarian, filmmaker and writer. Students participated in the festival by showcasing their student films, including a 30-second commercial, “Linda’s Place: The Blues Truth,” highlighting Chicago’s only black female blues club owner and two decades of success.
Many films also dealt with controversial issues.
“Broken and Beautiful,” directed by Erin Dalian, was a provocative character study into the personal, sexual and religious dramas of churchgoers. The film was shot in Oak Park.
“We are an open forum and thrive on variety,” West said.