Soon the spotlight of world cinema will be cast upon the mighty Windy City as thousands of film enthusiasts will flock to the 45th Chicago International Film Festival from October 8th to the 22nd. They'll be among the first to view a wide variety of cinema offerings from around the globe at an event that has a storied history. It is the oldest competitive international film festival in North America: the first competition in October 1965 was held at the Carnegie Theater, and King Vidor, Stanley Kramer, and Bette Davis were honored for their impact on American cinema. Throughout the years the Chicago International Film Festival has placed a great emphasis on "fostering better understanding between cultures" and "making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image" (according to their website).
It is at the Chicago International Film Festival that many movies gather a huge part of the momentum that turns them into strong Golden Globe and Oscar Award contenders. Just last year, films such as The Wrestler, Happy-Go-Lucky, Slumdog Millionaire (Chicago International Film Festival Audience Choice Award winner), and Gomorrah (Chicago International Film Festival Silver Hugo winner for Best Screenplay) were praised by festival-goers and went on to become multiple-time nominees (and for Slumdog Millionaire, major winners) during the Award season. Many people also got their first peek at my favorite vampire film ever made, Let the Right One In, at last year's festival.
Another excellent factor of the Chicago International Film Festival is the involvement of those who have helped create the films. This year it is possible to see director John Woo, actress Uma Thurman, and actors Martin Landau, Willem DaFoe, and Ben Foster, among others, talk about their pictures after a screening of them. Granted, the ticket price is usually higher when they will speak afterwards, but how often do you get a chance to watch a flick with Willem DaFoe?
Now, for as much as I love film and the city of Chicago, I've never attended the Chicago International Film Festival. Other plans always seem to come up or the festival arrives and ends before I realize it. This year, I am determined to get downtown for at least one flick. There a few I'd like to target: Red Cliff (directed by John Woo) depicting war, romance, and espionage on an epic scale at the end of the Han dynasty in 3rd century AD China; Berlin '36 where Jewish athletes combat hatred and racism as Germany unwillingly allows them to compete in the Olympics to avoid a boycott by other nations; Hipsters in which rock and roll and other blatantly American trends permeate young men and women in 1955 Moscow, making the authorities none too happy (many predict this film will become as popular as Slumdog Millionaire was last year); and Spy(ies) showing an airport worker being thrust into a world of fear, secret agents, and intrigue just by picking up the wrong bag.
Tickets for films at the festival are available through the website, but don't delay as they sell out pretty quickly. As a parting thought, consider what actress Jodie Foster has to say about this great Chicago tradition,"The Chicago International Film Festival reminds us that movies are truly beautiful.” Come downtown for a fresh cinematic perspective!