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Naperville Film Fest focuses on families for a day
By Marco Santana | Daily Herald Staff

Naperville resident Peter Knusel, right, portrays the captain of the Titanic in a staging of the movie's sinking scene during Family Day at the Naperville Independent Film Festival at Holiday Inn Select on Sunday in Naperville. It was the second year for the film festival.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Volunteer Katherine Hart, right, of Naperville, films a re-enactment of a scene from "Titanic" during Family Day at the Naperville Independent Film Festival at Holiday Inn Select Sunday in Naperville.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

A crowd watches as Asylum Stunts Lead Instructor Laurie McNeilly, left, and Co-Director Jeffrey Kehoe spar with swords during Naperville Family Day at the Naperville Independent Film Festival at Holiday Inn Select on Sunday in Naperville.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/21/2009 12:29 AM

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A man with a crowbar and a woman with a monkey wrench fought in a Naperville parking lot Sunday, not long after a sword duel between two men ended with no injuries.

Oh, and Snow White just happened to walk by the combatants on her way to see a man with a huge shard of glass sticking out of his arm.

The scenes straight out of the movies were just that, except played out in front of an audience on Family Day at Naperville's second Independent Film Festival at the Holiday Inn Express, 1801 N. Naper Road. Stuntpeople, makeup artists and costumed performers - as well as a High School Musical performance by Naperville Central students - made Family Day seem to emphasize the festival side more than the independent film side of things. It runs through Saturday, when film critic Roger Ebert will present an award for best student-made film.

Organizers hoped to emphasize education in and appreciations for the arts. After just two question-and-answer sessions last year, this year there were more than 50 scheduled.

"We've got their attention," co-founder Glessna Coisson said of the filmmakers and other movie professionals who were on hand to help.

Acting workshops helped children learn what it's like to be in a scene, and stunt workshops run by the Chicago company involved in the summer blockbuster "Public Enemies" showed the physical, usually unseen side of film.

For 12-year-old La Grange resident Eric Kopicki, the festival gave an opportunity to perform in front of an audience as well as to learn about moviemaking.

Kopicki rehearsed in the morning before watching the "High School Musical" performance. In the afternoon, he performed in a scene from "The King and I," along with other members of his summer workshop at North Central College.

"It's another way to express yourself," he said of performing. "It's exciting that we're all here getting to do all of this stuff."

He said he liked the idea of the Q-&-A sessions because it gave a glimpse into the world of Hollywood. Naperville resident Sheri Ciliak said the event helps showcase an already-strong arts community in the city.

"I think it's great," said Ciliak, whose son Nick was part of the "High School Musical" performance. "I think it's important because there's more to life than just going to school and doing the basic reading, writing, arithmetic."

Filmmakers from 19 countries submitted 136 films for the festival. Roughly 30 percent of those are foreign films, which is a distinction co-founder Daniel Nigg said shows that the early results have been positive for the festival.

Coisson, who first began the festival with the help of Arthur Ray Foundation President Gary Pradel, said the ultimate goal is to draw enough interest to start a film school in the city.

Family Day coordinator Lynn Hodak wrote the "High School Musical" piece and said she was pleased with the turnout and response that the performance received.

"I love kids and I love the arts and putting them together is really cool," she said.