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Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006 10:34 pm

Taking action

Local film buff fills the indie niche with a festival

Junebug, 2005
Molly Schlich frequently travels from her home in Springfield to theaters in Champaign, Decatur, and St. Louis to see independent films. But for the next few months Schlich will be able to sink into a seat at a hometown theater for a series of under-the-radar films at a festival she began hosting 15 years ago. Springfield’s Film Festival, which started as a purely cultural endeavor, has blossomed into a viable fundraiser for the Michael Victor II Art Library of the Springfield Art Association and Springfield Area Arts Council. The festival features films ranging from Turtles Can Fly, the first film made in Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s ouster, to Duma, a story of the bond between a child and his unconventional pet. “It’s funny. Picking films to please people is very difficult,” says Schlich, who serves as the festival’s chairwoman in addition to being its founder. She attributes the difficulty to the wide-ranging interests of the audience — a picture that satisfies a film aficionado tends to be different from one chosen for the traditional fan looking for a happy ending. Luckily, she doesn’t have to make the choices alone. Schlich has assembled a selection committee of representatives from the State Journal-Register, Illinois Times, SAA, the SAAC, and Lincoln Library to narrow down the choices from her initial list of 15 to the final six. Before the members of the panel get their hands on her list, Schlich must present it to representatives of Springfield-based Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres so that they may pluck from the list any titles they want to show in their own theaters. This year, Schlich says, Kerasotes eliminated just three titles. Schlich started hosting the festival at the Kerasotes-owned White Oaks Cinema when she wanted to move from the dark 16mm reels shown at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine amphitheatre, where the festival originated, to a more professional 35mm. Schlich’s labor of love has has turned out to be a profitable fundraiser. Each title costs the festival between $400 and $700, and an estimated 1,200 people attended the festival last year. As for the film selections, Schlich says that she likes them all, but she particularly enjoyed the six-hour Italian TV miniseries The Best of Youth, which she saw at a theater in St. Louis. “When I got to the Arch, I was still choked up [by the film],” Schlich says. Here are this year’s festival offerings:

Jan. 15 & 17
Junebug [2005; R] A bittersweet comedy about family and a Chicago transplant’s return to North Carolina with his worldly wife in tow. Phil Morrison directs.
Jan. 29 & 31
Duma [2005; PG] An smart film about the bond between a child and his pet, a cheetah. The strong connection takes the boy through the beautiful landscape of South Africa as he tries to find a habitat fit for both a young boy and a nearly full-grown predator. Carroll Ballard directs.
Feb. 12 & 14 (part 1) Feb. 19 & 21 (part 2)
The Best of Youth [2003; R] An epic that chronicles the life and times of two Italian brothers and the colorful characters they encounter during 40 years of their lives. Marco Tullio Giordana directs. Italian with English subtitles.
Feb. 26 & 28
Paradise Now [2005; PG-13] A gripping tale of the last 48 hours of two Palestinians before they are scheduled to strike Tel Aviv as suicide bombers. The two best friends, determined to perish together, are separated at the Israeli border. Hany Abu-Assad directs. Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.
March 12 & 14
Look at Me [2004; PG-13] The story of a young girl, Lolita, trying desperately to attract the attention of her self-absorbed book-publisher father. The film pokes fun at the literary world, but with a subtlety that makes the character’s flaws touching. Agnès Jaoui directs. French with English subtitles.
March 26 & 28
Turtles Can Fly [2004; not rated] The wrenching tale of a Kurdish refugee camp on the night before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bahman Ghobadi directs. Kurdish with English subtitles.
Films are shown at 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Tuesday, with the exception of the two parts of The Best of Youth, which will be shown only at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $7 for a single film ($4 with student ID) or $35 for all six feature films. To purchase tickets, call SAA at 217-523-2631 or the SAAC at 217-753-3519. For more info on the festival, visit
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