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Chicago Film Festival announce Select Films; ‘Stone’ will open the fest; Other films that might play

If you are a cinema lover and you live in Chicago you need to pay a visit to the 46th annual Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF).  CIFF, from October 7th to the 21st,  is one of the best film festivals in the US, offering plenty of different options for all film buffs.  They just announced the first batch of films that will play this year including their opening night film Stone starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, and Milla Jovovich.  Norton and writer/director John Curran (The Painted Veil) will be on hand for the premiere.  In fact, tickets have just gone on sale and they are quite reasonably priced.

Here are the films that have been announced so far along with the respective categories that they are in:

International Feature Film Competition

Past Selections: Wendy and Lucy, Fish Tank, Vincere

Chad/France | Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

Civil war rages in Chad, but pool attendant Adam cares only for his job and his son. When he loses his job, Adam finds himself contemplating a shocking act of betrayal in this Cannes Jury Prize–winner. Arabic, French with subtitles.

Thailand | Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Winner of the top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this visionary yet playful film is an enchanting blend of heady spiritual imagery and tender human drama that confronts the largest of questions—what happens to us after we die? Thai, French with subtitles.

Mexico | Director: Michael Rowe

Laura leads a meager life in her dingy apartment, doing little more than searching for the latest in a string of emotionless one night stands. Her routine changes when grim, intense Arturo enters her life. Spanish with subtitles.

South Korea | Director: Im Sang-soo

Im Sang-soo reimagines a classic of Korean cinema with this erotic thriller centering on the illicit affair between a wealthy, married pianist and his housekeeper. The resulting pregnancy ignites a powder keg of scheming and intrigue. Korean with subtitles.

Those are really interesting selections, most of them have played at Cannes.  In fact Joe’s new film Uncle Boonmee won the top prize at Cannes this year.


Past Selections:  Cropsey

UK/Brazil | Director: Lucy Walker

One of the most inspiring and award-winning docs of the year follows Brazilian artist Vik Muniz deep into the world’s largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio as he transforms the lives of its residents through a large-scale art project. English, Portuguese with subtitles.

I have heard a lot of great things about Waste Land


Past Selections: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, A Christmas Tale, Mammoth, Two Lovers, Lars and the Real Girl

France | Director: Bertrand Tavernier

Chicago favorite Bertrand Tavernier (’Round Midnight) directs this lush, unsentimental take on the historical romance. A young, beautiful noblewoman in 16th-century France inspires passion, violence, and power struggles among the men around her as civil war tears the country apart. French with subtitles.

Germany | Director: Dennis Todorovic

Sasha harbors a crush on his piano teacher Gebhard, but he struggles with coming out to his conservative family. When Gebhard’s impending departure abroad forces Sasha to act, they both face dire consequences.German, Serbian, Croatian with subtitles.

Argentina | Director: Daniel Burman

Acclaimed director Daniel Burman (Lost Embrace) helms this graceful portrait of two idiosyncratic siblings who, after their elderly mother’s death, find themselves forced to confront the fissures in their relationship, with amusing and touching results. Spanish with subtitles.

Ukraine/Germany | Director: Sergei Loznitsa

Russia’s open road is the setting for this striking, noirish directorial debut, in which a truck driver contends with the dangers of trackless back roads and hostile locals during what should be a routine delivery. Russian with subtitles.

The Taverneir film played in Cannes this year to a lot of acclaim.  It is one I am definitely looking forward to, especially since he is coming off a film that just went direct to DVD (In the Electric Mist).  I have also heard about Sasha, a film that has gotten some buzz on the festival circuit.  These films are usually a mix between international and American films.


Past Selections: An Education, Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, The Messenger, Red Cliff, The Fountain, Gone Baby Gone

UK | Director: Stephen Frears

When former ugly duckling Tamara Drewe sashays back into her hometown, life for her neighbors is thrown upside down. Now a devastating beauty, Tamara sets a contemporary comedy of manners into play using the oldest magic in the book: sex appeal.

Stephen Frears is an incredible director and has been here before with The QueenTamara Drewe premiered at Cannes and got good reviews but it was largely thought of as an entertainment.  I would expect for Frears to be on hand afterwords for a Q&A session.


Japan | Director: Takao Nakano

A raucous crowd-pleaser that is definitely not for the whole family, this 3-D spectacle pits brassy strippers against a mob of the undead, which the ladies unwittingly revive by reading aloud from an ancient tome.Japanese with subtitles.

USA | Director: Qasim Basir

Pulled between his strict Muslim upbringing and the normal social life he’s never had, Tariq enters college questioning his faith, values, and identity. He searches for answers with the help of friends and mentors, but the sudden cataclysm of 9/11 changes everything.

USA | Director: Greg Jacobs, Jon Siskel

Who ever said poetry was boring? In this award-winning documentary, four supremely talented Chicago high school poetry teams harness the ecstatic power of words as they prepare to compete in the world’s largest youth poetry slam.

Hungary | Director: Márta Mészáros

Behind the Iron Curtain in Hungary, the secret police task a critic-turned-informant with convincing Anna Kéthly, a fiery exiled politician, to return to her homeland to face her accusers. From venerable, award-winning auteur Márta Mészáros. Hungarian with subtitles.

USA | Director: Carmen Marron

In this coming-of-age tale from Chicago filmmakers, feisty teen Carmen faces the prospect of leaving her urban community when a teacher challenges her to use her talent and passion for dancing as a ticket to a brighter future.


USA | Director: David Schwimmer

After carefree teenager Anna has her life shattered by an online sexual predator, her parents (Clive Owen, Catherine Keener) must find a way to cope with their own grief and anger while helping Anna to pick up the pieces. Chicago’s own David Schwimmer directs this powerful tale of familial devastation.


Highlights of this year’s program include animated shorts A FAMILY PORTRAIT and A LOST AND FOUND BOX OF HUMAN SENSATION (featuring the voice of Joseph Fiennes), as well as multiple-award-winning documentary WHITE LINES AND THE FEVER: THE DEATH OF DJ JUNEBUG.

Here are some films that I expect to be added in the coming weeks.

In Competition:

Meek’s Cutoff – For the past two years, a Michelle Williams film has played at the fest.  In 2008, she had both Synecdoche, New York and Wendy and Lucy; in 2009 she had Mammoth.  I think CIFF really likes her and I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the next five years, she got a career achievement award of some kind.  This film re-teams Williams with her Wendy and Lucy director Kelly Reichardt.  I think CIFF also really likes Reichardt, who has been making a name for herself as one of the most promising independent filmmakers working today.

Kaboom – It’s a Greg Arraki film and one that has gotten a lot of buzz.  They usually like to get one big film into the competition section and I think this one is it.

Of God’s and Men – This film from Xavier Beauvois has gotten quite a bit of attention on the festival circuit.  They love French films and this film about monks who stand up for their beliefs seems like a good bet.

Tuesday After Christmas/Aurora – If CIFF loves anything, it is their Romanian films.  4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days and Police, Adjective both played here in competition.  Expect, at the very least, one of these two films to grab a spot in competition.

Look, Stranger – An American film dealing with the harrowing journey of a female soldier (Anamaria Marinca) trying to get back home.

Night Catches Us – Acclaimed film that premiered at Sundance starring Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington.
Black Swan – It opens in December and they love Darren Aronofsky.  His last two films (The Fountain and The Wrestler) both screened here as Gala Presentations with Aronofsky on hand for a Q&A.  This is pretty much guaranteed.

127 Hours – They love Danny Boyle as well.  The film opens on November 5th so expect a screening here with Boyle in attendance.

Blue Valentine – They love Michelle Williams.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Chicago area distributor Music Box Films is putting out the film so it makes perfect sense that you get a sneak peek here.

Another Year – They have a history of going with Mike Lee (Happy Go Lucky, Secrets & Lies, All or Nothing).