Chicago International Film Festival 2017: What to see

Chicago International Film Festival 2017: What to see
Michael Kutza, Founder and CEO of Cinema/Chicago, with actress Marina Squerciati, actor Chadwick Boseman, John W. Marshall, son of Justice Thurgood Marshall, actor Sterling K. Brown and Director Reginald Hudlin at the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival premiere of Marshall at Opening Night. Photo: Elias Zimianitis

The 53rd annual Chicago International Film Festival is now up and running at the AMC River East 21, (322 E. Illinois) bringing the glamour of Cannes and Sundance to the Windy City with big name actors and directors, red carpet ceremonies and much more.

If you are following the fest you've probably heard about "Marshall," "Lady Bird" and Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water." 

All excellent. But there's a lot more.

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, C oatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, Uruguay and Venezuela are all represented at this year's fest.

The 15 day festival offers tons of feature films, feature-length documentaries, films by first-time filmmakers, short subject films, U.S. Premieres, North American Premieres, Black Perspectives, LGBT films, After Dark series (horror films), industry days, educational films and special programming.

Why go? The festival is an opportunity to see many shows before they are released. It is also an opportunity to see and discover films that may be Oscar contenders or others that will never be released locally.


When: Now through October 26

Where: AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois

Tickets: $15 regular screenings, with discounts for Cinema/Chicago members, students, seniors. After 10 p.m.: $10. Weekday matinees through 5 p.m.: $8


So what to see? Here's some of Show Me Chicago's picks beyond the big buzz films:

The Square (Sweden)ciffsquare

“We as a museum must not be afraid to push boundaries.” Claes Bang.

A stunning contemporary art museum in Sweden is the backdrop for Ruben Östlund's (“Force Majeure”) hilarious, provocative satire that explores the boundaries of political correctness and free speech, itself.

Handsome, arrogant art curator Christian (Claes Bang) is about to unveil his new installation, The Square--a safe zone--outside of his ultra-hip X-Royal Museum art museum where all who enter it share equal rights and obligations. 

Along the way all hell breaks loose starting with the theft of his cell phone, a sexual encounter with journalist Elisabeth Moss where the curator refuses to give up his condom, a bad PR campaign going viral and a patron dinner that spins out of control.

Ostlund is a genius at creating parodies of the art world, artists, and lectures that those in the world of art are all so familiar with but might leave others clueless.

Welcome to the world of Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund.

The Square has already been shown at CIFF. It will have a limited USA run with a release date of October 27, 2017. Opens November 10 at the Music Box in Chicago.  

Faces Places (France)cifffaces-places_1200x800

They called her 'The Ancestor of the New Wave" when she was only 30. Sixty years later, she's still making waves.

90-year-old filmmaker Agnès Varda and 33-year-old photographer and installation muralist JR join forces in a journey across the countryside in the documentary film, Faces Places.

As they travel throughout the small towns and villages of France, we meet the everyday people who inhabit them and witness the growing relationship of the two artists who agewise are decades apart but share a common bond.  From the opening-credit animation onward, this delightful collaboration celebrates the artists, who find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Limited USA release. Opens in Chicago, October 27, 2017 at the Music Box Theater.

Sicilian Ghost Story (Italy)ciffsicilian-ghost-storyThis stunning Italian drama is based on the harrowing true story of a 13-year-old boy kidnapped by Mafia figures in the 1990s. The film straddles the line between realism and fantasy focusing on the strong connection between the teen and his girlfriend, who appear to each other in dreams and visions during his imprisonment. Innovative camera work contributes to the mysterious atmosphere. Julia Jedlikowska gives a breakout performance as the girl, who suffers the heartbreak of young love. In Italian with subtitles. Screens at the AMC theater, October 19, 3 pm.

Never Steady, Never Still (Canada)ciffneversteady

Never Steady, Never Still is the highly anticipated feature debut from Kathleen Hepburn, one of Canada's most promising young filmmakers. The film examines the devastating costs of long-term illness on a family. Shirley Henderson stars as Judy, a woman who has battled Parkinson's disease nearly all her married life. Hepburn will attend the screening. Thursday October 19.

Disappearance (The Netherlands/Norway) ciffdisappearance_1200x800 A beautiful but sad film that explores relationships between a mother, her daughter and the daughter's 13-year-old half brother. The sparse dialogue brings home the story better than words. To slowly watch the story and emotions unfold is what makes Disappearance special. Sit back and take in the lyrical wintry scenery as the story plays out. To say more would ruin the impact. 5:45 p.m. Oct. 20; 2:45 p.m. Oct. 21; 3:15 p.m. Oct. 23.


The Festival explores many topics. One timely and special topic for 2017 is the international refugee crisis and the ongoing immigration debate.  

Nine provocative films tackle this subject: 

The documentaries: Before Summer Ends (Switzerland, France), Mr. Gay Syria (F rance, Germany, Turkey), The Other Side of the Wall (Spain), and Sea Sorrow (Vanessa Redgrave’s directorial debut); the features The Charmer (Denmark); The Insult ( Slovakia, Ukraine), Aki Kaurimaski’s The Other Side of Hope (Finland);

The shorts: Across My Land (U.S.) and The Comet (Sweden; both part of the program Shorts 5: Speak, See, Remember).

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