Newswise — EVANSTON - Northwestern University’s film prowess will be on display at the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival as two documentaries and two feature films are screened.

Three faculty members and one alumna from the Department of Radio/TV/Film (RTF) of Northwestern University’s School of Communication are behind those films. 

"The four films cross genres — from documentary to independent feature to more experimental narrative,” said David Tolchinsky, chair of the Department of Radio/TV/Film at Northwestern’s School of Communication.

“The theme is experimentation and personal voice,” he said.

The School of Communication includes faculty who have won Guggenheim, Pen America and Horton Foote honors. The school’s strengths shine in writing, comedy and documentary media, to name a few. 

“Our RTF alumni include Sarah Gubbins [co-creator of Amazon’s 'I Love Dick'], Jen Spyra [writer on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert'] and Jenny Hagel [writer on 'Late Night with Seth Meyers'],” Tolchinsky said.

Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, among many others, also graduated from the School of Communication.

The RTF Department was listed as number 12 on The Wrap’s top 50 film programs. RTF Associate Director and MFA Documentary Media Director Debra Tolchinsky and RTF Chair and MFA Writing for Screen+Stage Director David Tolchinsky were listed as No. 7 this year on New City’s Film 50 recognizing the value RTF adds to film, TV and comedy.

Films showing at CIFF

"Rogers Park"

Directed by Kyle Henry, the feature length film is set in the diverse Chicago neighborhood of Rogers Park. At the focus of the story are two interracial couples struggling to keep their love alive amidst long-simmering secrets and resentments.

“We had race- and gender-blind casting. I told the casting agency that Roger’s Park is Chicago’s most diverse neighborhood, and I wanted casting to reflect that diversity,” said Kyle Henry, an associate professor at the Department of Radio/TV/Film. 

Henry will attend both screenings on Oct. 19 and 23.

"Princess Cyd"

Directed by Stephen Cone, the feature film follows 16-year-old Cyd as she visits her intellectual middle-aged aunt, Miranda. The two opposites strive to find common ground as they tackle issues like generational difference, sexual identity and spirituality.

Cone will be at the screenings on Oct. 17, 21 and 25 

"El Mar La Mar"

Co-directed by J.P. Sniadecki and Joshua Bonnetta, this documentary examines U.S.-Mexican border relations from a mythopoetic perspective. The film mixes sublime shots of forbidding landscapes, a soundtrack combining harrowing testimonies and the calls of the wild and striking images of things left behind in the sandscapes.

Screenings are scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25


Directed by Mina Fitzpatrick, an alumna of the MFA in Documentary Media program, the short documentary begins when the filmmakers arrive in the Texas desert to interview a man who had opened a home for children who had killed their parents, only to find him dead.

The 20-minute short will be screened as part of the Chicago Style: City and State category on Oct. 15, 18 and 25. Fitzpatrick will be attending the three screenings.

The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival takes place Oct. 12-26. Screenings are held at the AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois). Tickets are available by calling 312-332-FILM (3456), online at, at the Festival Box Office at AMC River East at 322 E. Illinois Street and at the Festival Pop-Up Box Office at 400 S. Dearborn.