Since 2008, Chicago has been home to CIMMfest, an international music and movie festival that showcases filmmakers, musicians and other media artists from around the world over the span of five eventful days. Quickly becoming synonymous to springtime in the Windy City, CIMMfest has grown from what was essentially an arts-centric block party in Wicker Park to the unofficial kickoff event of Chicago festival season, with its reach spanning several neighborhoods from Logan Square to Hyde Park. Festival cofounder Josh Chicoine had no qualms about telling CUSP Magazine how much he didn’t know about being the founder of a film festival when he and Ilko Davidov began all this eight years ago.

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“I still have a PDF on my computer called ‘How To Start A Film Festival,’” Chicoine said. “I was really terrible at it, I’ll say that for sure. But at the end of it, it was really inspirational. We showed films from about 20 countries … and it was a really fun party. It brought all these people together.”


What he lacked in experience as an organizer, however, he more than made up for as a musician who was no stranger to the local scene. Years of touring and performing as a member of The M’s gave Chicoine firsthand insight on how to expand the music component of CIMMfest.


“The film component has allowed us a really wide breadth in terms of programming,” Chicoine said of the new ways music has been introduced to the festival. “We’re able to bring in Himalayan soundscape music, brass bands from the Ukraine, heavy metal from Nepal. The film aspect allowed us to book bands that no one was touching and make events that helped develop the brand even more.”


In the past, CIMMfest has boasted such names as Spike Lee, who presented his film Chiraq and a panel discussion last year, and Robert Trujillo of Metallica. These are just two of the countless creators who represent the wide array of talent and genres in both the music and film aspects of the festival. For its eighth annual installment, CIMMfest continues to diversify its reach in content as well as location with musical performances from Local H and Monobody in addition to films that highlight Scottish post-punk music and The Smart Studios Story. This year will include the recently conceived conference component CIMMcon, a two day affair that will include media arts tech companies showcasing their talent through panel discussions, social events and live DJ sets.


When asked what makes CIMMfest unique from other arts festivals in Chicago, Chicoine cites the utilization of the city’s many vibrant neighborhoods and venues as key to their identity. Instead of being contained to one park or venue, the festival encourages attendees to discover the city by hosting various events in different parts of town.

“Chicago embraced us really quickly,” Chicoine noted when discussing the benefits of being based in the city. “From the consulates to bigger promotions companies … everybody really loved the idea and [wanted] to be involved. CIMMfest embodies and utilizes the creative energy based in Chicago.”



There is no doubt that CIMMfest is on the radar of every aspect of the creative industries in the city. From newly formed collaborations with local media arts incubators to a generous grant from the MacArthur Foundation that allowed a partnership between CIMMfest and POP Montreal, the festival is contributing to the creative boom slowly unfolding in the midwest. According to Chicoine, collaboration between all communities is what keeps everything running smoothly.


“The point is to connect with other people and create,” Chicoine said with a note of excitement in his tone as he expanded on these new partnerships. “You don’t just come for your thing. If you do, you miss the point.”


As for creative entities he believes are making a mark on the local creative industry, Chicoine gives a nod to Stage 18, a film and media incubator that was created from local film studio Cinespace and Creative Cypher, an organization that brings creative minds together in film and TV to create content.


“We’re definitely on the same page as far as building Chicago’s infrastructure,” Chicoine said of these partnerships.
CIMMfest will run April 13-17 in various venues around Chicago this year. To stay up to date with the emerging lineup and events, visit the website and follow CIMMfest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Stay tuned for CUSP Magazine’s coverage of #CIMMfest 2016!


Mooni Salam