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Departing Seniors Screens During CIFF 2023 At Music Box Theater

Chicago native Clare Cooney directed her first feature film, Departing Seniors, from a script by first-time screenwriter Jose Nateras. It screened at the Music Box Theater in Chicago at 10 p.m. after the Opening Night film of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival. The comedy/horror mash-up involves Javier’s ability to “see” events, past and present, by touching an object: psychometry. Throughout the film, Javier is trying to prevent more of the “suicides” that actually are murders, utilizing his “visions.” Javier is a young, gay Mexican high school student bullied by the straight male members of his high school class. (Think the Niedermeyers of “Animal House.”)

Chicago International Film Festival Screens Departing Seniors

Clare Cooney

Writer/Director/Actress Clare Cooney being interviewed on Opening Night of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival, outside the Music Box Theater.

I first became aware of Clare Cooney’s talent when I saw her short film “Runner” at the Windy City Film Festival, where I had a script in contention. “Runner” was excellent; I vowed to keep up with this promising newcomer. The next time I reviewed a Chicago film directed by Michael Smith, “Relative,” Clare was acting in it. She is tall and lovely. She can do it all; her expert handling of this film proves it. As she said, “It’s my first feature, and it’s a really ambitious one to do.” She went on to describe the making of the film as being “like making 5 shorts in a row.”

The others in this comic horror movie also turned in fine performances, especially Ignacio Diaz-Silverio as Javier, Ireon Roach as Bianca, and Maisie Merlock as Ginny. Ginny is straight out of “Election” with the young Reese Witherspoon as the know-it-all class valedictorian we love to hate. Ireon Roach portrayed Bianca, Javier’s best friend, a Black Lesbian female. She got most of the funny lines and also got to punch out some of the guys. Ireon has 9 previous credits  including “Chicago P.D.” and “Candyman.”  Cameron Scott Roberts portrayed Trevor.  Cameron appeared in “Ben Is Back,” “The Walking Dead” and “Relative,” (with Clare Cooney).

Clare Cooney Directed Her First Feature

Clare Cooney

Departing Seniors premiere on october 11, 2023 in Chicago. Director Clare Cooney outside the Music Box Theater in Chicago on October 11, 2023 for Opening Night of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival.

It’s Chicago cast in Chicago locations on the Opening Night of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival. All present were in agreement that this was an enjoyable, fun, romp—an homage to horror movies with comic dialogue. A well-done first effort from Writer/Director/Actress Clare Cooney and her talented cast. Thirty-five cast members shot the film in 16 days in August during Covid. Cooney described the experience of having her first feature film premiere at The Music Box in Chicago as “overwhelming and surreal.”  This was a great start.  It reminded me of (Scott) Beck and (Bryan) Woods of the Quad Cities of Illinois/Iowa (Bettendorf, Iowa) who broke through to the Big Time with “A Quiet Place.” They have also directed lower-budget horror genre films.

Seems likely to happen for Clare Cooney, but difficult to predict if it will be as a writer/director/producer or actress. Perhaps all four!

cast of Departing Seniors

(L to R) Producer, Ireon Roach (Bianca), Yani Gellman (Mr. Arda), and Ignacio Diaz-Silverio as Javier in “Departing Seniors” Q&A on October 11, 2023.

Departing Seniors screened at the Chicago International Film Festival.

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