“Haven is no longer a storefront theater company, more like a storefront multidisciplinary production company,” says Haven Chicago’s artistic director Ian Damont. Pandemic lockdowns and theater closures meant that the theater company, like many others, was suddenly cornered, constricted by new hurdles that effectively paused live performances. With no option to resume in-person work, Haven’s attention pivoted to the screen.
Haven’s inaugural Festival au Cinéma is the theater company’s flagship venture into media arts. Featuring more than 20 short films, this micro film festival aims to showcase the top visionary and innovative filmmakers worldwide. The Festival au Cinéma is framed by breaking conventions. Martin and the rest of the Haven team handpicked films that bend traditional genres and embrace an unorthodox new era of film.
“The pause of live performance in the onset of the pandemic, plus the consequent heightened adaptation of media arts, provided the perfect opportunity for us to take these first steps towards the aspiration articulated in our mission,” Martin said. “We wanted to be a part of the conversation, to platform some of the incredible work we were discovering on our screens from multidisciplinary artists of every ilk.
“We wanted to cultivate community in the space between Chicago’s burgeoning filmmaking scene and the Chicago theatre community. We wanted to make a movie. And now we’re doing those things.”
During the festival, films will premiere individually or in curated genre-based or theme-based blocks. The four film blocks include the Quarantine Shorts, Chicago Shorts, Documentary Block, and Wxmen Direct!
Over the course of the weekend, the festival will host four solo film screenings for the “META-mockumentary” Marathon Mindset (directed by Christopher Michael Carney); the horror Even Saints Bleed (directed by Ricardo Bouyett); the drama The Falling World (directed by Jaclyn Bethany); and Folded Map™ Project—The Movie (directed by Tonika Lewis Johnson).
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“I really want people to contend with the immediate future of filmmaking, media, and digital storytelling,” Martin said. “We are in a modern golden age of film and television with the advent of streaming platforms and overall increased access to art through digital media. And the tech is getting more advanced (and hopefully more accessible) every year. I think because of that, we’re going to see some really big changes, exciting new developments, and some really exciting new voices in the field.”
Festival au CinémaAugust 26-28The Den Theatre, 1331 N. MilwaukeeSingle day tickets $16, weekend pass $30, Silver Package $150, Gold Package $250Full schedule and ticketing information at havenchi.org/festival-au-cinema
The micro film festival is setting the stage for an impressive cast of local filmmakers. Martin emphasized that he is most thrilled to see the Chicago Shorts screenings, a selection that gives guests a glimpse of the visionary work being produced across Chicago. Martin also revealed his other top picks including Marathon Mindset and I Used to Write With My Left Hand (directed by Luzzo)—a film that exposes how shame and violence harm the queer members of a Chicago south-side Irish Catholic family.
The Festival au Cinéma will take place from August 26 to 28 at Haven’s resident home, the Den Theatre. The festival is three days and three nights, featuring a full schedule of events such as cocktail mixers, a boozy brunch, and an award ceremony on Saturday, August 27. All films will be eligible for Haven’s filmmaker awards, including Best Work, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Performance, Best Technical Art, and Best Friend (or Audience Favorite).
The film festival will give Chicagoans a chance to engage with the future of filmmaking. The Welcome Mixer on Friday night at 6 PM will allow the audience to immerse themselves in the filmmaking process and mingle with filmmakers, directors, and writers.
Coinciding with the festival, Haven will host its second annual Made in Chicago Gala on August 28 from 6 PM to 10 PM. The fundraising event is Haven’s biggest event of the year, supporting the company’s projects year-round. Serving mouthwatering barbecue from Smoke Daddy BBQ and specialty cocktails, Haven will unveil a sneak peek of its inaugural film project––associate-produced by I Used to Write With My Left Hand director, Luzzo. (Also, guests will be given a free shot of Malört!)
For those looking for a boozy brunch, Haven will host a screening of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Saturday morning from 10 AM to 12:30 PM. For $40, guests will get Bloody Marys, bottomless mimosas, brunch from Uvae Chicago, a drag show, and the film screening.
“We are so pleased and humbled by the interest in Haven’s inaugural Festival au Cinéma. We welcomed over 50 submissions from seven different countries and will be screening over 20 of the finest examples of the future of filmmaking,” Martin said. “Local filmmakers, first-time filmmakers, experimental filmmakers, and so much more will be descending on Haven for a festival of innovative, transformative filmmaking. We’ll see you at the cinema.”