PostHeaderIcon 10 Films to Catch at the Chicago International Film Festival

The 53rd edition of the Chicago International Film Festival kicks off on Thursday and runs through October 26th. I can recall the early days when the festival was a scrappier version of its current self, screening movies at 4 or 5 different venues and not capturing such high-profile stars as this year’s Patrick Stewart and Vanessa Redgrave.

Tribute must be paid to Michael Kutza and close associates who persevered through the years so that Chicago is now is now seen as on a par with the film festivals of Berlin, Toronto, Cannes and New York. I still remember an early festival film I saw, “Diva”, that screened back in 1981.

The festival this year will feature 150 films from 50 countries in a wide variety of categories. What this blog offers is a personal guide to the      10 films that I think will be among the festival’s most noteworthy. They are arranged not in numerical order but according to the dates they will screen to make your scheduling easier. All films will be screened at the AMC River East theater at 322 East Illinois St.

October 12–Opening Night features Marshall, a docudrama about an early case in the career of  Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. It stars Chadwick Boseman as Marshall and is directed by Reginald Hudlin.

October 13 (Also 10/14 & 18)–A dark horse pick is Chateau, from French directors Modi Barry and Cedric Ido. It’s described as a smart, fast-paced comedy that follows an African immigrant who must stay ahead of the game and out of the way of the law.

October 16–Last Flag Flying stars Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne. And it is directed by a favorite of mine, Richard Linklater. Seems like a no-brainer to be a hit.

October 17–Blow-Up, an enigmatic murder mystery directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, that was a sensation when it was released back in 1966. Starring Vanessa Redgrave (who also directs a feature at the festival, Sea Sorrow). If you have never seen this film or if you were born after 1970, this should be on your must-see list.

October 18–Lady Bird looks like another sure winner. It stars a strong-willed teenage girl (Saoirse Ronan) and an opinionated mother, played by Laurie Metcalf and is directed by Greta Gerwig.

October 19–Hannah which seems like another dark horse choice but stars Charlotte Rampling and that’s good enough for me. The director is Andrea Pallaord.

October 19 & 23–Rogers Park, a drama set in the Chicago neighborhood, revolves around the struggles of an interracial couple to keep their love alive. Directed by Kyle Henry.

October 20 & 21–In the Fade stars Diane Kruger who won the Best Actress prize at Cannes. The director is Fatih Akin.

October 22–This is a personal pick. It’s two documentaries from Kartemquin Films, Chicago’s independent film collective, that has been producing quality documentaries revolving around themes of social justice. One not to miss is ’63 Boycott, by Kartemquin founder. Gordon Quinn, about the Chicago Public School Boycott of 1963.

October 22 & 23–Let the Sunshine In starring Juliette Binoche and directed by Claire Denis. That combination says it all and is a worthy way to end the festival for me.

There are many ways to order tickets. Go online at, call 312-332-FILM, in person at the AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois St. and at the Pop-up box office at 400 S. Dearborn St. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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