By Ray Pride

Here Comes The 53rd Chicago Int’l Film Festival

[PR] Mimi Plauché, recently named Artistic Director of Cinema/Chicago and the Chicago International Film Festival, today announced the first 25 films to be shown at the 53rd annual event, running October 12 – 26, 2017.

The roster of films is wih an array of electrifying, challenging and entertaining feature and documentary films, including likely awards-season contenders, the work of highly acclaimed directors, indie treasures and discoveries. Within the first 25 films, a range of countries are represented, including Argentina, Brazil, China, Lebanon, Slovakia, and the United States (including two films from Chicago-based filmmakers). In addition to the Festival’s established sections, this year’s programming will also include architecture and design films in conjunction with the Chicago Architectural Biennial and a special focus on International Film Noir.  

“It’s another great year for film, from dark comedies that make us laugh in spite of ourselves, to intense psychological thrillers that expose our deep-seated anxieties, to politically minded documentaries that dare us to engage with the world in deeper ways,” said Plauché. “From Brazil to Iran, Senegal to Chicago, we are welcoming back Festival favorites, distinguished masters, and rising talents.”

Concurrently, Cinema/Chicago President and CEO Michael Kutza unveiled the 2017 Festival poster. The winning design, created by Netherlands-born, German resident Edwin Smeenge, a self-taught painter and graphic designer, was chosen from 172 entries from more than 30 countries and features the Festival’s new tagline, “Because Life Is a Movie.”

“Edwin’s image of a curious face looking out from the dark is perfect,” Kutza says. “It precisely captures the sense of curiosity, adventure and discovery that our audiences bring to the Festival. It also works so well as we have our international Film Noir section at this year’s Festival.”

The Chicago International Film Festival First 25 Films:

Blade of the Immortal
Mugen no jûnin
Director: Takashi Miike



A disgraced samurai partners with an orphan girl to take revenge on the swordsmen who slaughtered her family. Based on the manga series by Hiroaki Samura, the hundredth feature from Japanese maverick Takashi Miike has heart, humor and a helluva body count courtesy of show-stopping action sequences that see the director at his bloody best. Japanese with subtitles. 140 min.

The Cakemaker

Director: Ofir Raul Graizer

Israel, Germany


This tender drama about a closeted love affair unfolds through the eyes of Tomas, a Berlin pastry chef who learns that Oren, his Israeli lover, has died in a car accident in Jerusalem. Unmoored by his loss, Thomas journeys to Israel to begin the process of healing, inserting himself into the life of Oren’s wife and young son. This expertly crafted film is a moving portrait of grief and catharsis. Hebrew, German with subtitles.104 min.

Chasing the Blues

Director: Scott Smith

United States


Rival music collectors scheme against one another to con a woman out of a rare blues record—and end up serving two decades in jail. Once Alan Thomas is a free man, he heads by bus to retrieve the precious album. A rollicking Chicago-made comedy featuring Saturday Night Live alumnus Jon Lovitz,Chasing the Blues is a funny, surprising trip about the extremes to which people will go to pursue their obsessions.
77 min.


The Experimental City
Director: Chad Freidrichs

United States


From the acclaimed director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth comes the fascinating true story of the MXC (Minnesota Experimental City). A futuristic metropolis designed to eradicate the waste of urban living, the planned community encountered resistance when local citizens and environmentalists rose up in protest. Freidrichs chronicles the clash between scientific progress and American values. 95 min.

Faces Places
Visages Villages
Directors: Agnès Varda, JR

The New Wave living legend teams up with street photographer JR for a road trip through the French countryside, chronicling the ordinary folk they encounter (farmers, waitresses, factory workers). A beautiful meditation on the journey through life and the kindred spirits you meet along the way. French with subtitles. 89 min.

Director: Alain Gomis

France, Belgium, Senegal 


Single mother and chanteuse Félicité ekes out a living performing in a rough Kinshasa bar. Her fiercely guarded independence is threatened after her son is involved in a life-threatening accident. A love letter to persistence and the power of song, Félicité is buoyed by one woman’s irrepressible spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. Lingala, French with subtitles. 123 min.


Director: Sergio Castellitto



On the outskirts of Rome, a hairdresser with dreams of opening her own salon strikes up an affair with her daughter’s therapist. Jasmine Trinca won the acting prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section for her portrayal of a woman determined to live life on her own terms and who is unafraid to make mistakes. Italian with subtitles. 103 min. 


Dir. Aaron Katz.

United States


In this intoxicating L.A.-set neo-noir, Lola Kirke (Gone Girl) stars as Jill, a personal assistant to a Hollywood starlet (Zoe Kravitz). When the young actress is found dead, Jill sets out to investigate the murder and prove her own innocence. But Gemini is much more than its mystery plot and cool, sleek surfaces: Indie auteur Katz has wrapped his engaging thriller around a sly riff on celebrity and identity in the City of Angels. 93 min.


God’s Own Country
Director: Francis Lee

United Kingdom


An unlikely yet passionate romance between a frustrated young farmer and a migrant worker forms the spine of writer-director Lee’s astonishingly accomplished first feature. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the north English countryside, the tender love story unfolds in sharply drawn, deeply considered detail. Small moments carry great weight. 104 min.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Director: Simon Curtis

United Kingdom

Domhnall Gleeson stars as beloved children’s author A.A. Milne in this moving tale centering on his relationship with his young son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie-the-Pooh. Along with his mother Daphne (Margot Robbie) and his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald), Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books, which bring hope and comfort to England after the First World War. 119 min. 

Have a Nice Day

Hao ji le

Director: Liu Jian



In Southern China, driver Xiao Zhang steals one million yen from his mobster boss to finance a trip to South Korea for a girlfriend who needs to have a botched cosmetic surgery repaired. That ill-considered act sets into motion a violent series of events leading to an electrifying climax in Liu’s animated black comedy, all of it rendered in a precise, artful comic-book palette and punctuated with pop music. Mandarin with subtitles. 74 min.

The Insult

Director: Ziad Doueiri

Lebanon, France


In this ripped-from-the-headlines drama, a trivial contretemps between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian construction worker comes to a head in a highly publicized national trial. Politically engaged Lebanese filmmaker Doueiri (West Beirut) delves into his country’s contentious history and offers sly comment on male pride. Arabic with subtitles. 110 min


In the Fade
Aus dem Nichts
Director: Fatih Akin

Germany, France


Diane Kruger won the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her searing performance as a Hamburg woman whose world is torn apart by grief and anger after neo-Nazi sympathizers murder her Kurdish husband and six-year-old son. From the award-winning filmmaker Faith Aiken (Head-On), comes a powerful take on the revenge drama and a study of a woman driven to the edge. German with subtitles. 106 min.

The Line

Director: Peter Bebjak

Slovakia, Ukraine


His daughter is pregnant and his gang is in revolt, leaving cigarette smuggler Adam squeezed from all sides in this fast-paced thriller. The Line is an exemplary crime picture featuring muscular direction, a savvy screenplay, spectacularly photographed locations and a propulsive score. Slovak, Ukranian with subtitles. 112 min.

No Date, No Signature 
Bedoune Tarikh, Bedoune Emza
Director: Vahid Jalilvand



A seemingly minor traffic collision has far-reaching consequences in this story of a well-meaning doctor haunted by the death of a child he might have prevented. In only his second feature, Jalilvand coaxes brilliantly understated performances from a superb cast for this compelling, considered meditation on guilt and grief. Farsi with subtitles. 100 min.

Paris Square

Plaça Paris
Director: Lúcia Murat

Brazil, Argentina


Psychotherapist Camila has arrived in Brazil to study the effects of violence on society. Glória, hoping to work through her troubled past growing up in a favela, comes to Camila as patient and case-study subject. The doctor-patient relationship becomes increasingly strained as social tensions rise to the surface and power dynamics begin to shift in this taut psychological thriller. Portuguese with subtitles. 110 min.

Princess Cyd
Director: Stephen Cone

United States


A sporty 16-year-old girl visits her middle-aged novelist aunt, and the two opposites must strive to find common ground. From the Chicago-based director of Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party comes a charming coming-of-age tale about generational difference, sexual identity, spirituality—and the delicate process of opening up to human intimacy. 96 min.


Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me

Director: Sam Pollard

United States


Singer, dancer, and actor; “Rat Pack” legend; civil rights activist; Jewish convert; Nixon supporter—the life of Sammy Davis, Jr. defies easy categorization. Charting the performer’s surprising journey across the major flashpoints of contemporary American history, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Pollard culls together a captivating exploration of the man and his talents. 113 min.

Director: Agnieszka Holland in collaboration with Kasia Adamik



The acclaimed filmmaker returns to the big screen with a genre-bending, ecologically-minded thriller following a retiree and avowed defender of animal rights living in Southern Poland. The outspoken woman believes she knows who is behind a recent spate of murders in the wilderness near her home, yet she’s dismissed by her neighbors, who view her with deep suspicion. Polish with subtitles. 128 min.

The Square

Director: Ruben Östlund

Sweden, Germany, France


In his Palme d’Or-winning follow-up to 2014’s Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund hilariously satirizes the art world with the outrageous story of a museum curator who finds himself in hot water after falling victim to a con artist and approving a questionable media campaign that unexpectedly goes viral. The film features uproarious performances from Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West and Terry Notary. English, Swedish, Danish with subtitles. 142 min.


Director: Joachim Trier

Norway, Sweden, France


In Trier’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Louder Than Bombs, shy college student Thelma moves away from her religious family to attend college in Oslo. After experiencing a violent seizure, she becomes powerfully attracted to Anja, another woman on campus. As her passion becomes all-consuming and her behavior increasingly reckless, her seizures—a manifestation of some inexplicable paranormal abilities—intensify. Soon, Thelma must confront the terrifying implications of her powers. Norwegian with subtitles. 116 min.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Director: Martin McDonagh

United States, United Kingdom

Frances McDormand stars in this darkly comic drama as Mildred Hayes, a woman who paints three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at the chief of police (Woody Harrelson). The bold move—designed to prompt him to find the culprit in her daughter’s murder—only exacerbates the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement. 110 min.

Under the Tree

Undir trénu
Director: Hafsteinn Gunnar SigurDsson

Iceland, Poland, Denmark


Two neighboring households are locked in a bitter dispute over a tree. As the disagreement escalates, property is damaged, pets disappear, security cameras are installed and the complaining neighbor acquires a chainsaw. Part-family drama, part-dark comedy, part-thriller, Under the Tree plants itself squarely in a class of its own. Icelandic with subtitles. 90 min.

The Workshop

Director: Laurent Cantet


In this gripping thriller, Parisian crime author Olivia develops a troubling relationship with a combative student from her writing group. His tales of imagined violence and his support for extremist ideologies raise alarm bells, but her intellectual curiosity draws her ever closer as the film veers toward a blistering conclusion. French with subtitles. 114 min.


Short Series Films:

Turtles are Always Home

Director: Rawane Nassif 



500,000 Years
Director: Chai Siris



Highlights from this year’s shorts program include Turtles are Always Home (Qatar/Lebanon), a personal portrait about the search for home in a transient world, and 500,000 Years (Thailand), an eerie documentary about a traveling cinema, a religious shrine, and the ghostly world of the dead.

Festival and Ticket Information

The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival runs Oct. 12 – 26 at the AMC River East. Featuring more than 150 films, with a vast diversity of offerings, with numerous competitive categories and several highlight programs such as Black Perspectives, Cinemas of the Americas, Out-Look, After Dark and the City & State program, showcasing films made in Chicago and throughout Illinois. 

The complete Festival schedule will be announced September 19, 2017. Festival passes ($105 – $260) are now on sale. Individual tickets ($7 to $20) and Special Event tickets ($30 to $150) will go on sale September 20 for Cinema/Chicago Members and on September 22 for the general public. Discounted parking is available at AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois Street). For more information, visit or call 312-683-0121.    

About Cinema/Chicago
Cinema/Chicago, the parent organization of the Chicago International Film Festival, is a year- round non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to fostering better communication between people of diverse cultures through the art of film and the moving image. Year-round programs include the Chicago International Film Festival, the Chicago International Television Festival, CineYouth Festival, International Screenings Program, and Education Program. For more information visit

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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