46th Chicago Film Festival International Winners!

This year's Chicago Film Festival may prove to be the best one just yet. I've seen a really inspiring tale of children coming together from different backgrounds promoting change, a mind blowing documentary that puts a lot of things in perspective on global warming,  an interesting foreign film that had me laughing out of my seat and a powerful film that challenged what life really means. 

Here are some of the films that I will definitely never forget - and encourage everyone to checkout:

Circus Kids

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Directed by Alexandra Lipsitz (Air Guitar Nation), this story follows the St. Louis Arches, a multi-ethnic group of elite youth circus performers from Missouri, as they travel to Israel to join the Galilee Circus, a troupe of Jewish and Arabic kids founded to foster and promote peace in the Middle East.

Against the violent backdrop of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, these kids, ranging in age from 6 to 18, and most of whom have never left the United States (much less St. Louis), suddenly find themselves in the role of peace ambassadors as they collaborate to spread their message throughout Israel. Performing in regions across the country, this eclectic troupe shares a belief that circus arts can create peace and social change.

"When I set out to make a film about kids in the circus I did not expect to go to Israel on a mission of peace and overcoming racism," said Lipsitz. "But I have learned the best way to find these things is to have fun and laugh and make art. Funny what a bunch of Kids can teach you."

To view this film's trailer, click here.

COOL IT

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Let's dubb this film a convenient truth. Bjorn Lomborg's 2007 book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalists Guide to Global Warming, in which he challenged conventional wisdom about the best ways to deal with climate change, is the inspiration behind this documentary film of the same name, directed by Ondi Timoner.
 

The Denmark native first came to prominence in 2001 with the publication of his best-selling book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, in which he argued that while pollution and other environmental woes needed to addressed, real progress had been made and the situation was not nearly as dire as many activists maintained. The book, which led the World Economic Forum to select him as a Global Leader for Tomorrow,  inspired intense debate and still provokes strong feelings nearly a decade later - and it shows in this film. Essentially, he asked these experts to tackle the question:  With limited resources, how can we do the most good possible? It is a question he continues to ask today.

"Al Gore's film, that's a brilliant film. The only problem is that a lot of it isn't true and all of it that's true is misinterpreted," said Lomborg. "If we only listen to worst-case scenarios, we are likely to be spending our money on the people who shout the loudest."

To view this film's trailer, click here.

Big Tits Zombie

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When you put exotic dancers, or strippers, in a horror film it's guaranteed to be hilarous. 'Big Tits Zombie', released on DVD this month, is a Japanese horror in the tradition of grind house, sexploitation films. When exotic dancer Lena Jodo returns to Japan she finds herself a temporary job dancing at a run-down strip-club in a deserted suburban town. One afternoon at the club Lena and her fellow strippers, Ginko, Maria, Nene and Dana discover a hidden door in their dressing room leading to the club's basement. There, they unearth a mysterious well and a rare copy of the Book of the Dead. Reading aloud from the tome, they inadvertently summon the dead back to life and soon Japan is overrun by rampaging, flesh-eating zombies.

You can't get a more funnier plot and storyline, and it's in 3D; guaranteed to make you laugh.

To view this film's trailer, click here.

Hereafter

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Director Clint Eastwood and his cast go in search of the Unknown. "Hereafter" tells the story of three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (C├ęcile de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (George McLaren and Frankie McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might--or must--exist in the hereafter.

Actress Cecile de France found herself thinking about life and death during and after the filming.

"It opened my mind and I'm very curious about how our beliefs will evolve in this century. But it didn't change my philosophy that death is part of life. It is better if we don't control everything and just enjoy the present day," she told Chicagonow.com.

To view this film's trailer, click here.

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