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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on The Chicago International Film Festival 2011: The Prize-Winners

Le Havre

Here’s my announcement story for the awards of the 47th annual Chicago International Film Festival — brainchild and passion of festival founder and longtime artistic director Michael Kutza, who started the show back in 1965 and has headed it up ever since. This year’s, many thought, was one of the best, and there were lots of first-rate films on the fest schedule that didn’t win prizes. Here are the ones who did.

Aki Kaurismaki, long a familiar name in international art film circles, won the top award, The Gold Hugo for Best Picture, at this year’s 47th annual edition of the Chicago International Film Festival, for his latest film, the Finnish-French co-production Le Havre.  The awards were announced Friday evening, October 14 by Kutza, by head programmer Mimi Plauche, and by other fest programmers.

It was, as mentioned above, a strong festival and a particularly strong prizewinner from the always provocative Kaurismaki. The often impudent and rebellious Finnish filmmaker — director of  world art house critical hits like Ariel, Leningrad Cowboys Go America, The Match Factory Girl and The Man Without a Past — examines, in Le Havre, the plight of illegal immigrants in the market of the French port city, as a one time author, and present day Le Havre shoeshine man (Andre Wilms), tries to shield a young African refugee from the police.

Cairo 678

Winner of the Chicago festival’s Silver Hugo, for runner-up best feature, was the audacious Egyptian feminist social drama,  Cairo 678, a powerful work by first-time writer-director Mohamed Diab. Cairo 678 also took a second Silver Hugo, winning Best Actor honors for Maged El Kedwany as the savvy police detetcive charged with investigating a string of violent events. The Silver Hugo for Best Actress, meanwhile, went to the United Kingdom’s Olivia Coleman, for her role as a compassionate but troubled Christian worker in Tyrannosaur, the writer-director feature debut of actor Paddy Considine. And The Silver Hugo for Best Screenplay went to the United States-Albanian-Danish-Turkish co-production, The Forgiveness of Others, a brodding tale of an Albanian blood feud, and the way it tears apart a family — written by director Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace) and Andamion Murataj.

The Gold Hugo in the New Directors Competition (for first or second features) was won by director Zaida Bergroth’s explosive family drama The Good Son, from Finland, with the competition’s runner-up Silver Hugo going to the Icelandic/Danish Volcano, a moving romance from another debuting feature filmmaker, Danish writer-director Runar Runarsson.

Kutza presented the Founder’s Award to writer-director Michel Hazanovicius’ brilliant black and white pastiche of silent movies, The Artist. And the festival also gave a career Silver Hugo to French filmmaker Claude (A Man and a Woman) Lelouch, on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of making films, and a career Artistic Achievement Award to actor Anthony Mackie. The documentary prizes went to director -cowriter Mira Turaljic’s Cinema Komunisto, an imaginative archival survey of cinematic and political culture from Serbia (Gold Hugo winner) and to director-cowriter Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s vibrant portrait of her grandmother-in-law, legendary Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland.

The International Feature Film Competition jury consisted of Jury President Nimrod Antal (of  the U.S./Hungary), Leonardo Garcia Tsao (Mexico) , Claudia Landsberger (The Netherlands), Carlitos Ruiz Ruiz (Puerto Rico) and Bhawana Somaaya (India). The award announcements were made at the Public — the hotel that was once the Ambassador East, site of that iconic Chicago haunt, the Pump Room.

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3 Responses to “Wilmington on The Chicago International Film Festival 2011: The Prize-Winners”

  1. Ronald Fey says:

    As the academics would say, “Haven’t read Wilmington for awhile . . . ”

    Thanks for the great commentary as usual! ! ! !

    Ronald J. Fey, Jr.
    Facebook: “Bronco Fey”

  2. Alex says:

    I’m very curious Mr. Wilmington, what did you think of Bela Tarr’s “The Turin Horse”? We were both at the same screening. You were seated directly in front of me.

  3. Mike Wilmington says:

    To Alex,

    Liked it. More later.


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon