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Chit Chat

Chit Chat: Art of storytelling | Geneva Film Festival continues to celebrate independent cinema

GENEVA – After 25 years as a journalist, investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith got laid off from her job in the newspaper industry. In order to continue utilizing her passion for investigative storytelling, the Portland resident turned to documentary filmmaking. 

After a yearlong production process, Goldsmith submitted an 87-minute documentary called “The Syndrome” to the Geneva Film Festival. Those involved with the film hope to expose a “questionable science” being used in cases going through the criminal justice system.

“There’s a lot of stuff happening in our courts that is passing as science that’s not really scientific, [which is] contributing to wrongful conviction,” said Goldsmith, who is the researcher, co-editor and producer of the documentary.

“The Syndrome,” which has been described as “thought-provoking” and “riveting” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michelle Roberts, looks at shaken baby syndrome. In the film, a team of doctors is followed as they defend and free those being prosecuted and convicted for cases involving shaken baby syndrome, which is commonly defined as abuse involving head trauma, that results from shaking a baby.

The documentary feature was one of 33 films selected to screen at the eighth annual Geneva Film Festival, running from Thursday, March 12, through Saturday, March 14, at Shodeen’s Dodson Place, 416 S. 2nd St., Geneva. Film screenings will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 13, and will run from 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday. “The Syndrome” will screen at 9 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m. Saturday.

The selected documentary features and narrative features for this year’s film festival are “really strong,” said festival executive director Scott Rolf, who received 100 submissions by filmmakers representing 22 countries. 

“We try to keep the vision true. [The festival] is about the films and having high-quality films, and exposing the people who come see the films to independent cinema,” Rolf said.

New this year is a third viewing screen, which will allow every film to be shown twice. The festival will feature full-length documentaries and narrative features, documentary and narrative shorts, animated shorts and student films.

“This year’s festival is kind of a growth from previous festivals,” Rolf said, adding that last year’s attendance doubled from the previous year’s event. “We’re not the size of festivals around here – Scarecrow Fest, Swedish Days and even Festival of the Vine has been going on for years. Those are kind of staples … and we’re hoping to get to that level.”

The festival has attracted submissions from all over the world, such as India, Australia, Europe and St. Charles.

Representing Kane County is St. Charles singer/songwriter Anthony Lipira, who teamed with suburban videographer Eric White to create “Train of BS,” a narrative short about a middle-aged musician struggling with life’s challenges. In the film, which centers around a song, Lipira plays the guitar, while “Bob” the mannequin stars as the main character.

“The song is really about just reacting to a bad day, and we’re making fun of some of the inconveniences of life and how to deal with it,” said Lipira, who wrote the song. “I hope people find humor in it, and hopefully people will enjoy the music, as well.

White whittled down eight hours of footage to nearly four minutes, in a process that took about 24 hours from start to finish, Lipira said.

“As artists, you should always start locally and take advantage of whatever opportunities are out there,” Lipira said, adding that he entered the festival to get exposure for his music. “I am definitely honored to be a part of the festival, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Tickets cost $7 for specific blocks of films, $10 for an evening pass or $20 for a three-day festival pass. To purchase tickets or view the list of films and showtimes, visit


Student Night is Thursday, March 12. Those who attend the Geneva Film Festival with student IDs can purchase an evening pass for $5 or an all-festival pass for $10, and they will receive a free festival T-shirt (while supplies last).

• Festival-goers will be able to rub elbows with filmmakers during a VIP “Taste of Geneva” party from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 13, at 25N Coworking, 25 N. Third St., Geneva. Mayor Kevin Burns will be in attendance, and the event also will include food and beverages courtesy of Stockholm’s, Preservation Bread and Wine, Old Towne Pub and Eatery, Blue Goose Market, Aurelio’s Pizza, Fresh Ground, The Sugar Path, Early Light Cafe, Geneva Wine Cellars and Tasting Room, and Sergios. Refreshments will be provided by Penrose Brewing Co. Tickets cost $40 a ticket or $75 a couple and include an all-festival pass and entrance to the Filmmaker’s Roundtable on Saturday, March 15.

The Filmmakers’ Roundtable and continental breakfast will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at Dodson Place in Geneva. Attendees will hear filmmakers discuss the trials and tribulations of filmmaking and how to bring a film to the silver screen. Entrance to the roundtable costs $5 at the door.

• The 2015 festival winners will be announced with a champagne toast at 5 p.m. Saturday before the evening screenings.

• All festival-attendees are invited to an “It’s A Wrap Party,” which will take place at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Wildwood restaurant, 477 S. Third St., Geneva.

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