WATCH: Mission of cinema: Repertory film center creates a lineup beyond Marvel blockbusters during 59th Chicago International Film Festival

Gene Siskel Film Center displays theatrical schedule during 59th Chicago International Film Festival. (Yiqing Wang/MEDILL)

By Yiqing Wang
Medill Reports

The Gene Siskel Film Center partnered with the 59th Chicago International Film Festival to present a list of best films in October. Specializing in showing classic and notable older films, the film center strives to deliver top-tier cinematic experiences and foster a strong bond with its audience.





Yiqing Wang: When the Chicago International Film Festival happened in town, it was like the only game for film lovers. At Gene Siskel Film Center, this game turned into a special feast.

Rebecca Fons: We strive to present the best in cinema, whether that’s new-release films or classic films or experimental work or documentary.

Wang: Here the diverse film selection is based on a tight connection with the audience.

Fons: We’re always thinking about the audience all the time. We’re not just like showing a Marvel movie on five screens. Every single screen is kind of a little bit different — every single night, everything changes a little bit. It makes it kind of harder because we aren’t just like showing a Marvel movie. But it’s so much more fun and so much more rewarding because we’re meeting our mission to be an arthouse cinema and bring the best of cinema to Chicago.

Wang: Their mission has led to a partnership with the 59th Chicago International Film Festival starting Oct. 11. Gene Siskel Film Center brought the whole new list of best films this year.

Fons: In 2022, they used one of our screens for one week. And now this year they’re using both of our screens for the duration of the festival. So they’re sort of taking over the Gene Siskel Film Center, which is wonderful. It brings a new audience to our screens. It also brings a lot of our regular audience members here.

Wang: With increasing audiences brought by the International Film Festival, challenges in programing also occurred in daily film shows.

Fons: Our programing kind of layout is really dictated by a lot of partnerships that we have. So there’s some programing that only I do. But we also work with a lot of partners, and that’s a part of curation as well. So it’s sort of our programing, I always kind of think of it as a puzzle, and I know the border of the puzzle. I know we have two screens, we have 365 days of the year, but everything else sort of comes into focus, and the picture of the puzzle kind of comes into focus each two months, three months at a time.

Wang: For the audience, seeing a combination of independent film center with the International Film Festival is something exciting.

Jalen Adams: The know what types of films they want to see, and in terms of the execution of the programming, the venues and the audience interaction, everything seems to be very well-executed, which makes sense as the 59th, right? The 59th year compared to some other independent and smaller film festivals survive experience.

Wang: At Gene Siskel Film Center, watching films is not simply a joy but also an unusual adventure of experiencing different art and culture. Yiqing Wang for Medill Reports.


Yiqing Wang is an investigative graduate student at Medill. You can connect her on Linkedin.