DAY SIX: Podtalk, Heather Ross of ‘For Madmen Only’ at 56th Chicago International Film Fest

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CHICAGO – One of the prime Chicago-centric documentaries at the 56th Chicago International Film Festival is “For Madmen Only: Stories of Del Close.” Del Close was a legendary instructor in the Chicago comedy improv scene, and director Heather Ross created this multi-layered doc of his comic force.

This is the feature documentary debut for Ms. Ross as director, after working as a producer and creator of short documentaries. This lifeline of Del Close starts with his childhood in Kansas (and the legends therein), through his initial work as a performer in New York City and Chicago, to his status as an iconic instructor in Chicago-style improv at both The Second City and Improv Olympics (iO). His first generation of students included John Belushi, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, the second had Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Chris Farley, and subsequently it has been the continued instruction of his techniques that are taught in the city and elsewhere.

The 56th Chicago International Film Festival Celebrates DAY SIX of the movie extravaganza, with films available for 2020 virtually and online. Click here for a complete how-to guide on navigating the 2020 CIFF.

’For Madmen Only,’ directed by Heather Ross
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

In Part ONE of a Podtalk with Patrick McDonald of, Director Heather Ross of “For Madmen Only” talks about getting inside the hard-to-crack mind of the iconic Del Close.

In Part TWO, Ms. Ross explores issues of Close’s childhood and the performance of James Urbaniak as the notorious improv instructor.

APPEARANCES OF THE DAY: 8:00pm:MLK/FBI” … Livestream Q&A with director Sam Pollard. Suggested streaming start time, 6pm. 9:00pm: “Any Crybabies Around” … Livestream Q&A with directors Sato Takuma. Suggested Streaming Start Time, 7pm.

FILM OF THE DAY: “City So Real” – Bound to become a defining miniseries (in five parts) on the continuing mystery that is the City of Chicago, Director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) and Chicago’s Kartemquin Films explores the 2018-19 mayoral campaign during the upheaval of Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to seek another term. Exploring the nuance of the candidates involved – including eventual winner Lori Lightfoot – James puts his perceptive eye on not only the personalities, but the ongoing issues that define this strange and magical City on the Lake (click here).

“For Madmen Only” is available to stream at the Festival (click here). Featuring James Urbaniak as Del Close (recreations). Written by Heather Ross and Adam Samual Goldman. Directed by Heather Ross. The 56th Chicago International Film Festival takes place through October 25th, 2020. Click here for digital film schedules and ticket information. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

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© 2020 Patrick McDonald,

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