It’s been a bit now since the Chicago International Film Festival closed up after another great year. And with any festival’s conclusion comes the inevitable wrap-up.
On the 24th, the festival announced the winners of their annual audience awards.
The award for Best Narrative Feature went to two films this year. They were Michel Hazanavicius’ acclaimed The Artist, and the lesser known but just as loved Almanya: Welcome to Germany. For the documentary section, the prize went to Undefeated.
Do you agree with the choices, or do you think there were some stronger contenders in the bunch? Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say as I was unable to see these films. Truthfully, I wish I could see every film that plays, but alas schedules don’t really allow for that. But I did get to see a nice number of films this year, and from those I give you:
My top five picks
First-time helmer Karan Gour comes out swinging with this cheaply made but largely intricate dramatic thriller from India. Carried by a stellar performance from lead actress Rasika Dugal, and with a story that dares to dive into the world of obsession, Kshay is dark and affecting, and proof that passion and perseverance can often trump budget and razzle dazzle.
No narrative feature got to me quite as much as Tyrannosaur did. It’s so honest in its brutality, and the performances make it all feel so real, that it’s hard to walk away from it feeling unscathed. But that’s the point of it, and it’s so well done that it’s well worth experiencing that downtrodden feeling. Paddy Considine has had a good career as an actor, and judging by Tyrannosaur, he’s going to have a hell of a good one as a director, too.
3. We Need to Talk About Kevin
I didn’t get to write a full review for this, because at the moment I’m not allowed to, so this is going to be brief. But this fantastic write-up sums up my feelings for it quite well.
2. Into the Abyss
Polarizing and infuriating, Werner Herzog does what he does best and paints us a portrait using real life. He reminds us that those in our prison system are still men, but then makes us ask if that’s enough to save them from death row. It makes you question your own convictions, and near the end you might not even be settled on where you stand. But that’s what some of the best documentaries do.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that got under my skin quite like Melancholia did. It offers so much and gives no clear-cut answers, and does so in a way that only Lars Von Trier can pull off. It expertly blends the unreal with the all too real, and both of these elements work off one another to invoke…whatever it may be that this film invokes. Not everybody is going to like it, as it is a clouding and confusing piece of cinema, but everybody is going to have a reaction to it. And it might take more than one viewing to figure out just what that reaction means.
And with that, the Chicago Film Festival ends. It was a strong line-up, and as usual it leaves any die-hard film fan hungry for what they can conjure up next year. I, for one, will be waiting in anticipation for the next announcements that may come. But until then, it’s back to normal.
– William Bitterman