With 21 film and video programs, 8 video installations, and several other events, the 24th annual Women in the Director’s Chair festival is greatly expanded from last year and offers more cutting-edge work than previous editions. This year’s festival runs Wednesday through Sunday, March 16 through 20, at the Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington; events are free unless otherwise noted. Following are listings through Thursday, March 17; more information and a full festival schedule are available online at www.widc.org.

For the opening screening and reception, Miranda July, a multimedia artist with a growing reputation, will present an evening of her “audio, video, performance, and Web work”; Roger Ebert will introduce the program. Tickets are $30 and are available at www.widc.org. (Wed 3/16, reception 6 PM, screening 7 PM)

Both Thursday-evening programs include politically oriented work. The first, “Collective Memory,” features Mahri Holt’s The Listener (2004, 11 min.), a fantasy evoking a totalitarian future in which “listeners” serve as both therapists and spies. Coco Fusco’s AKA Mrs. George Gilbert (2004, 30 min.) focuses on 60s activist Angela Davis as a locus of white fantasy–the press fixated on her Afro, and an FBI agent pursuing her confesses he found her attractive. Shorts by Francien van Everdirgen, Jackie Goss, and Chicagoan Mary Billyon round out the 94-minute program. (Thu 3/17, 6 PM)

“What They Didn’t Tell Us,” the evening’s second program, includes Julia Meltzer and David Thorne’s It’s Not My Memory of It . . . (2003, 25 min.), an especially powerful meditation on secrecy and deception. Strips of shredded documents representing those reassembled by the Iranians who occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 lead to the exposure of other former secrets and to footage of a recent U.S. strike on Yemen, with the chilling suggestion that much more is being withheld. Also on the 98-minute program: You’ll Never Understand This by Austria’s Anja Salmonowitz, plus shorts by Barbara Klutinus, Shelly Silver, and Kate McCabe. (Thu 3/17, 8 PM)