“…extraordinary…” – David Bordwell
“I know where I’m going Wednesday.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“…the best kind of repertory programming” – Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader
“…on the sweet side of awesome.” – Rob Christopher, Chicagoist
The Northwest Chicago Film Society is a 501(c)3 tax exempt nonprofit organization founded in January 2011 by Becca Hall, Julian Antos, and Kyle Westphal, three projectionists and programmers of the late Bank of America Cinema and Chicago projectionists and film enthusiasts. We screen movies every Wednesday and some Mondays at the Portage Theater and host special screenings at Cinema Borealis on an irregular basis.
W H A T W E A R E A B O U T
The Northwest Chicago Film Society exists to promote the preservation of film in context. Films capture the past uniquely. They hold the stories told by feature films, but also the stories of the industries that produced them, the places where they were exhibited, and the people who watched them. We believe that all of this history–not just of film, but of 20th century industry, labor, recreation, and culture–is more intelligible when it’s grounded in unsimulated experience: seeing a film in a theater, with an audience, and projected from film stock.
More than art, cinema marks time and space. It gives them dignity and form. It teaches us how to interact with the world around us, how to dissect it and find order in it.
Our own experience of cinema can be ferociously private or exuberantly public. Often, it straddles the two. We rarely know the names of the comrades in the next row, but our hearts race when a familiar face is absent. We remember actors and dialogue, but also two hours exposure to the scent of wet carpet in a wintery auditorium. We don’t recall titles of movies we saw last year, but we know the creak of the seats, the smile of the concession stand girl, the ripped ridges of a ticket, the way that danged light in the balcony is always out, and the music of a familiar trailer by heart.
For us projectionists, cinema is a gloriously material thing in a different way. We love the rattle of the gears, the infinitely delicate and complex grain of the picture, the surreptitious thrill of a perfect changeover. We wax over great prints–those unaccountable congruences of fine cinematography, respectful maintenance of original materials, conscientious lab craft, expert handling at every last step, and providential, damn fool luck. They’re unique objects with extraordinary physical histories.
We don’t find the same magnificence in video projection. Going to the movies should mean more than watching a consumer product violently cajoled into filling a theater screen. Not all prints are created equal, but their inequality is frequently lively, warm, and moving. We believe that it is an experience–aesthetic, material, social, and moral–worth preserving.
W H O W E A R E
Julian Antos, President
JULIAN ANTOS grew up less than two miles from NWCFS’s home at the Portage Theater and saw his very first movie just down the road at the Patio Theater. He began collecting 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm film when he was 16, and soon put his passion to use as a projectionist and programmer at the University of Chicago’s Doc Films (where he booked films and programmed a ten-week series called “Always Crashing in the Same Car: British Cinema After the New Wave”) and at Portage Park’s Bank of America Cinema.
A co-founder of the Northwest Chicago Film Society, Julian currently serves as co-programmer, secretary, chief projectionist, shipping coordinator, and liaison to studios, archives, and film collectors. When he’s not on the phone with the Library of Congress or lugging 50 lb. boxes to FedEx, he likes to inspect, catalog, watch, and acquire films for his ever-growing film collection (known in our program notes as the Radio Cinema Film Archive). You can also wave to him up in the booth at the Music Box or the Patio Theater.
Contact Julian: julian AT northwestchicagofilmsociety DOT org
Rebecca Hall, Executive Director
REBECCA HALL hails from New Haven, Connecticut. She first comprehended the special materiality of the movies in the summer of 2003, at a silent film series presented in Bucksport, Maine by Northeast Historic Film, where a scholar introducing one of the programs recounted the 1978 unearthing of hundreds of reels of nitrate film from a paved-over swimming pool in Dawson City, Yukon Territory.
“The idea that it was possible to find – in the ground! – not just shards of pottery or old medicine bottles but actual photographic evidence of the lives led and stories told by people born 100 years before me was stunning. The idea that physical film could have a life that long, and that there were still machines that could read this information…. It was like finding out that bodily resurrection was possible.”
Since then, Rebecca’s worked as a projectionist for several venerable Chicago institutions, including the Bank of America Cinema, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the University of Chicago Film Studies Center, and Doc Films. Rebecca also managed Open Produce, Hyde Park’s favorite late night grocery destination. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Since co-founding the Northwest Chicago Film Society in 2011, Rebecca has acted as our house manager, designer (print and online), press liaison, and treasurer. She also introduces our screenings.
Contact Rebecca: becca AT northwestchicagofilmsociety DOT org
Kyle Westphal, Vice President
KYLE WESTPHAL spent his adolescence in Sacramento, California and learned about movies at the Crest and Tower Theatres. (A screening of Apocalypse Now Redux in a latter-day Technicolor dye transfer 35mm print at the Crest taught him about the emotional importance of print quality in ways that a teenager had no hope of articulating.) For four years Kyle served variously as treasurer, projectionist, historian, and ultimately programming chair for Doc Films at the University of Chicago. He has also interned or worked at the Bank of America Cinema, the University of Chicago Film Studies Center, the Little Theatre, Monaco Digital Film Lab, UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Pacific Film Archive, and the George Eastman House. His program notes are featured on Kino’s “Avant-Garde 3″ DVD box set, which recently won a Film Heritage Award from the National Society of Film Critics. He is a 2009 graduate of the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation.
At the Northwest Chicago Film Society, Kyle serves as co-programmer and writes our blog. He’s interested in avant-garde cinema, early talkies, the history of non-theatrical distribution and exhibition, and everything else. He is working on a book or two.
Contact Kyle: kyle AT northwestchicagofilmsociety DOT org
L E A R N M O R E