Indies, documentaries, classic films and festivals are the lifeblood of the art house scene, where smaller films are given the big-screen treatment. Often these screenings provide the rare opportunity to meet filmmakers themselves in person, or hear them talk about the behind-the-scenes details that shaped their movies.
With that in mind, here is a quick look at some highlights coming up this fall that you won't find at the multiplex.
Cities in Cinema series: Film scholar Fred Camper will focus on movies in which the urban landscape is more than a just backdrop in but a character all its own in this lecture series at the Siskel Film Center. It begins Tuesday with the 1929 silent "Man with a Movie Camera," an experimental documentary capturing city life in the early Soviet era by creating a composite "city" out of three locales: Moscow, Kiev and Odessa. Other films on the lineup include the 1927 sci-fi "Metropolis" and the 1933 Spencer Tracy-Loretta Young comic melodrama "Man's Castle." Tuesday-Dec. 15; siskelfilmcenter.org
Asian Pop-Up Cinema: Launching this fall, the bi-weekly film series from Sophia Wong Boccio (former managing director of the Chicago International Film Festival) will focus on contemporary Asian-language films. First up is "Women Who Flirt," a 2014 campy romantic comedy from China about a serious-minded woman who is given a bimbo makeover in the hopes of snagging her longtime crush. Most screenings will include a post-show discussions led by Columbia College film professor Ron Falzone. Screenings will take place at AMC River East and the Wilmette Theatre. Sept. 16-Dec. 4; asianpopupcinema.org
Reeling: Chicago's LGBTQ film festival includes a preview screening of "Freeheld," a film likely to get plenty of attention this awards season, starring Julianne Moore as a police officer with terminal cancer who fights to ensure that her domestic partner, played by Ellen Page, is the recipient of her police benefits when she dies (the film opens in theaters Oct. 2). Sept. 17-24; reelingfilmfestival.org
The Irish American Movie Hooley: This celebration of Irish and Irish-American films includes the documentary "Name Your Poison," about an idiotic, mafia-led Depression-era insurance scheme and murder plot against an Irish immigrant named Mike Malloy that became a comedy of errors as Malloy survived through it all. Filmmaker Paddy Hayes is set to attend the Sept. 25 screening at the Siskel Center. Sept. 25-27; siskelfilmcenter.org
Classic films from the Northwest Chicago Film Society: This group of programmers has a knack for digging up obscure and rarely screened titles from the '30s, '40s, '50s and '60s. Newly based out of Northeastern Illinois University, the Film Society will screen the 1951 MGM Western "Westward the Women" (Wednesday) about a group of single women in the mid-19th century that uproots from Chicago and makes its way in the vast unsettled West. Programming assistant Julia Reinitz describes the film's premise as an "1851 equivalent of a mail-order bride scheme (that) becomes a vehicle for gathering a variety of female characters together to face the struggles of overland travel." Wednesdays; northwestchicagofilmsociety.org
"Prophet's Prey": A documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg delves into the sexual abuses and financial corruption meted out by Warren Jeffs, the former polygamist head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. (Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in prison.) The film is based on the nonfiction 2011 book of the same name by Utah-based private investigator Sam Brower, who laid out a case accusing the church operates much like a criminal organization, trafficking in child brides and child labor. Oct. 2-8; facets.org
"Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery": The true story of German art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi is at the center of this documentary, which delves into the personality behind a con man with major talent — successfully creating "undiscovered" work of early and mid-20th century artists — but not many moral compunctions, and suggests that the shady economics of the art world itself enabled his crimes. The filmmaker is the son of a lawyer who represented Beltracchi, who until recently was serving a prison sentence. Oct. 9-15; facets.org
"(T)ERROR": According to co-directors Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, this documentary marks the first time any filmmakers have had "active access to a real-time domestic terrorism investigation." The film debuted earlier this year at Sundance and follows the efforts of a FBI counterterrorism informant (and former Black Panther) who was Cabral's neighbor. Styled as a psychological thriller, the film offers a portrait of the FBI's tactics and their use of informants. Director Cabral will be at a screening at Block Cinema on Northwestern University's Evanston campus. Oct. 8; blockmuseum.northwestern.edu
2015 Kickstarter Film Festival: Thousands of films seek funding on Kickstarter each year, but few ever make it to the big screen. The lineup at the Music Box Theatre includes "What We Do in the Shadows," starring Jemaine Clement (of "Flight of the Conchords" fame) in a horror comedy from New Zealand that the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes has deemed "smarter, fresher and funner than a modern vampire movie has any right to be." Also featured: The documentary "T-Rex," about the youngest woman to box in the Olympic games in 2012. Oct. 15; musicboxtheatre.com
The Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation: With a focus on abstract animation and films with unconventional characters, the visuals on display run the gamut from the surreal to those seen in alternative comics and spotlight a variety of techniques: stop-motion, computer animation and hand-drawn work. This year includes films from Chicago native Takeshi Murata, whose work "bridges the traditions of abstract psychedelic cinema with contemporary computer animation," per the Block Cinema description. His 2014 animated sculpture "Melter 3-D" features a metal orb that appears to be in a constant state of melting. Murata will host a post-screening Q&A. Nov. 5-7; blockmuseum.northwestern.edu