54th Chicago International Film Festival: Introduction

We’ve arrived at the fall film festival season.  Movies are being released rapidly, people are scrambling to see them, and much is being written about them.  As an onlooker trying to follow along on social media it can be difficult to follow all the hoopla.  Here at FilmEra we are doing our best this festival season to keep you in the loop on the happenings in a clear and sensible way.  Following in the footsteps of Anthony Garcia Taormina‘s coverage of the L.A. Film Festival, Calvin Kemph with the North Bend Film Festival, and Jayson McNulty for the Toronto Film Festival, I will be covering the 54th Chicago International Film Festival for our great website!

So what makes Chicago’s festival unique?  Well, for starters, The Chicago International Film Festival is North America’s oldest competitive film festival!  Michael Kutza founded the festival’s parent company, Cinema/Chicago, in 1964 “to provide an alternative to the commercial Hollywood movies that dominated the city’s theaters.”  Shortly thereafter the city debuted the festival the next year at the Carnegie Theater.  In the years since then the festival has grown into a world renowned event, featuring appearances by the likes of Orson Welles, Spike Lee, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, J.A. Bayona, Viola Davis and Bruce Dern, among others.

Roger Ebert and Michael Kutza at the Chicago International Film Festival

This being my first film festival experience, I can already testify to the exciting yet stressful experience of it all.  Everything starts happening at a really rapid rate, and it can be tough to keep up.  Fortunately, everyone working hard to make the festival happen is very nice and helpful.  It is easy to tell that getting the big event set up and running is a lot of work for them, so I just want to make sure to give everyone involved the credit they deserve and a big thanks from all of us cinephiles in attendance.

The key to having a successful festival experience is coming up with a game plan.  I had read this from critics before, and I have now come to realize how true this really is.  Once the screening schedule is released, it is a scramble to plan your attack.  With 123 features screening, 24 with their North America premier and 21 with their U.S. premier, sorting through them all can take some time.  Working around your availability, picking out the films of interest to you, and reserving your tickets all must be considered when getting ready for the fest.  As I have learned, tickets will sell out fast, so time is of the essence.  Some big time directors will hold a single screening for their film that sold out before I could jump on them.  Asghar Farhadi, Alfonso Cuarón, Jason Reitman, Yorgos Lanthimos and Joel Edgerton all have features screening at the festival that I unfortunately will not be able to attend.  That is no bummer, however, because there is still a stacked slate of enticing films on my schedule to keep me more than occupied!

AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Illinois

The festival opens tonight with a screening of Beautiful Boy, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.  It comes from director Felix Van Groeningen, who previously directed The Broken Circle Breakdown in 2012.  The film stars Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, and Maura Tierney.  Like the vast majority of screenings at the festival, the film will screen at the AMC River East 21, just west of Navy Pier off the coast of Lake Michigan.  It will be my first time visiting this famous Chicago cinema, and I am very much looking forward to checking it out and enjoying the atmosphere of the downtown spotlight as well.  Look for my review on the film to go up on the site in the coming days, along with continued write-ups on my experience at the festival.  It is a fun time to be a fan of the movies, so let’s enjoy it together!

Follow FilmEra on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for steady coverage of the festival, and check back on the site for detailed impressions as well

*All research and images courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival
and AMC Theaters