cimmfest logo

The Chicago International Music and Movies festival grows more massive and more expansive every spring. However, the 2015 programming proves that it's not missing out on any amount of quality for the sake of quantity. The city-wide, multiple venue fest is unique in that it not only showcases many fine musicians and filmmakers but it also highlights the longstanding relationship and reliance that the two mediums share. 

With more than 200 events happening this Thursday through Sunday (April 16-19), we're in no way claiming this brief list of recommended events covers all of the fantastic CIMMfest happenings. We're simply getting your plans rolling. 


The blues have played a big roll in Chicago's history so it's no surprise to see one of the greats getting his dues at CIMMfest this year. Sam Lay in Bluesland, directed by the Grammy-nominated and Emmy-winning John Anderson, explores the life of Lay, often referred to as "the greatest drummer of all time." Lay has shared the stage with Bob Dylan, collaborated with the likes of Muddy Waters and earned the respect of artists like  Iggy Pop. He's built a legendary career and this documentary explores all 60 years of it. The film's world premiere is happening on Saturday, April 18, at the Logan Theatre beginning at 7 p.m. Buy tickets here. 


As part of the festival's Sub-Saharan Cinema series, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars' amazing story will receive representation on both the film and musical end of things. First, catch a documentary on the band following them from their origins in West African refugee camps to their current international acclaim. Sierra Leone's Refugree All Stars screens at the Logan Theatre on Friday, April 17, at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $12. The band plays later that evening at Martyrs, starting at 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $17.


The Sound of Silent Film

Live scores seem like an obvious event to hold during CIMMfest but this year but silent films wouldn't likely be the first subject to come to mind for such an event. "The Sound of Silent Film" will feature live performances of newly composed scores in conjunction will modern international silent film screenings at the Music Box Theatre on Sunday, April 19, at 7:30 p.m. Check the event page for a full list of films and performances. Buy tickets in advance for $12. 


When it comes to star power at this year's CIMMfest, Spike Lee's name definitely ranks towards the top of the list. The widely hailed director will appear at City Winery for a discussion of some of his favorite scenes and a sneak peek of his upcoming Joint, Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus. He's also reported to have a film focused on Chicago in the works, so hopefully he'll share a few words on that as well. Tickets are $110 and include six wine pairings and a special musical performance following the conversation with Lee. 


The Chicago premiere of 808 happens on Friday, April 17, at 9 p.m. In 1980, The Roland TR-808 was invented by a Japanese manufacturer and the music world would never be the same. The drum machine was used to revolutionize genres as far and wide as electronic dance, hip hop, pop and R&B. This film documents the influence the 808 has played and features interviews with Afrika Bambaataa, Fatboy Slim, the Beastie Boys, Phil Collins, Diplo and many others. Buy tickets for the Logan Theatre screening for $12. 


In conjunction with Record Store Day and Chicago's Reckless Records, storied bass master Jaco Pastorius is reborn through new new documentary detailing his life. Executive produced by Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, Jaco! recounts Pastorius's life, career and virtuosic talent, all of which met an end more than 25 years ago with his untimely and violent death. In his 35 years, Pastorius caught the attention of Flea, Bootsy Collins, Carlos Santana, Sting and more-all of whom appear in the film. Jaco! holds its Chicago premiere during CIMMfest at the Logan Theatre on Saturday, April 18, at 6:15 p.m. Tickets are $12 and include a Q&A with Trujillo and director Paul marchand. 


The life of a young touring musician is full of stories, some of which too hard to believe if you weren't there. Most of us won't ever spend our lives on the road but now you can live it through Chicago siblings Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White who make up the core of White Mystery. Five filmmakers followed the Whites and their band on a three-month tour. The resulting footage, titled That Was Awesome, premieres at the Logan Theatre next Monday, April 20, at 7 p.m. Buy tickets in advance for $12. 


House music was born in Chicago. It's a widely known fact. Names like Frankie Knuckles and Derrick Carter are recognized around the world. When retelling the story of house's origin, certain elements seem to always pop up and others are often overlooked. Among the later is the role that female DJs played in the rise of the genre. On Saturday, April 18, "In The Mix: The History of Chicago's Female House DJs" will welcome guests DJ First Lady, Vonzell Agosto, DJ Celeste Alexander and Teri Bristol and explore the roles that these women played. This free event will take place at the Chicago Distilling Company at 2 p.m.