Feature: 2013 Chicago International Film Festival Highlights, Part Two

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CHICAGO – We’re sure that our loyal readers have been busy at the excellent 49th Chicago International Film Festival but the event is far from over. What should you see in the next three days? What are the highlights of part two of 2013 CIFF? Patrick McDonald and Brian Tallerico guide the way…

The Honor Diaries
The Honor Diaries
Photo credit: CIFF

“The Honor Diaries”

Tuesday, 10/15, 5:30pm

A stark documentary about women in Muslim majority societies, and the misogyny that darken their existence. Director Paula Kweskin focuses on the activists fighting the cir-cumstance of this misogyny, brave and outspoken women who have battled through their own situations in the Muslim patriarchy. This is short but has impact, as example after example of women who disgrace the “honor” of a family – her indentured servitude is somehow tied into a family reputation – are punished for no reason. This film is part of a movement to change the 1400 years of this exploitation, and hopefully the first ripples in the puddle will eventually make the tides change. (PM)

Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills
Photo credit: CIFF

“Cheap Thrills”

Tuesday, 10/15, 3:15pm
Thursday, 10/17, 10:30pm
Sunday, 10/20, 9pm

A SxSW hit that earned applause and raves in Austin makes it Chicago premiere and should be a nice jolt to a fest that’s a bit like on the dark materials. The great Pat Healy (“Compliance”) does his best work to date as Craig, a guy at the end of his financial rope. Facing eviction and just laid off, he’s drowning his sorrows in a bar when he runs into an old acquaintance named Vince (Ethan Embry). The two start a bar party with the intriguing Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton), a pair of “haves,” who want to have a little fun with the lower class. It starts simple — The first one to take a shot gets $50. And then the stakes and the reward are raised as the party goes back to Colin & Violet’s house. What would you do if saying no meant your family would be on the street? Is there anything you wouldn’t do? It’s a clever piece, well-performed, that will have legions of fans when it does get a theatrical release next year. Jump on the bandwagon early. (BT)

The Girls on Liberty Street
The Girls on Liberty Street
Photo credit: CIFF

“The Girls on Liberty Street”

Tuesday, 10/15, 6:15pm

Chicagoland writer/director John A. Rangel makes his feature film debut with a nicely original concept, following the days leading up to the army induction of a typical Hispanic girl in a Chicago suburb. Brianna Zepeda portrays the girl – also named Brianna – and turns in a mature and reflective performance of young adult transition. No punches are pulled in the film, including the director’s use of obvious friends and relatives to portray the characters around Brianna – with mixed results. Charming in its originality, frustrating in its flaws, this is what micro-budgeting independent debut features are all about, and a new voice is launched. (PM)

Like Father Like Son
Like Father Like Son
Photo credit: CIFF

“Like Father Like Son”

Wednesday, 10/16, 6pm
Saturday, 10/19, 7pm

The amazing Hirokazo Kore-eda has been a CIFF staple for years with films like “Air Doll” and “Nobody Knows” playing the fest in the past. His latest is a fascinating cultural family drama about two families who watch their lives torn apart when it’s revealed that their sons were mixed up at the hospital. Those with children can imagine this impossible-to-answer question: If your 6-year-old was revealed not to be yours, would you give him up? Kore-eda adds an interesting layer to the potential melodrama by revealing two very different fathers and potential homes, neither presented with judgment. The traditional Japanese father has worked hard to provide for and teach his family, one that he may have to give up to a man who is less financially stable and less old-fashioned. Non-judgmental, non-melodramatic, Kore-eda’s film is a bit less challenging than his best work but lingers in the memory as it addresses real issues of fatherhood and family from a truthful place. (BT)

Nebraska
Nebraska
Photo credit: CIFF

“Nebraska”

Wednesday, 10/16, 7pm

The latest film from director Alexander Payne (“Sideways” “The Descendants”), the subject is again about a dysfunctional family, centering on a father whose creeping dementia is becoming the last straw for the clan. Veteran actor Bruce Dern portrays the Dad, who wishes to travel from Montana to Nebraska to cash in a bogus sweepstakes reward. Aiding him in this journey is his son David (comic actor Will Forte), who turns in a balanced counter intuition to Dern’s obstinacy. The is more lower middle class than “The Decendants,” with different themes and less tragedy. Featuring June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach. (PM)

The Priest's Children
The Priest’s Children
Photo credit: CIFF

“The Priest’s Children”

Wednesday, 10/16, 8:15pm
Thursday, 10/17, 5:45pm

What begins as an almost wacky Serbian comedy, evolves into a serious indictment of extreme Catholicism. A priest on a remote island decides to take birth control matters into his direct realm, and alters the birthrate within his parish. The act of the alteration starts out like a farce, with several belly laughs with the inclusion of a local retailer and a fanatical druggist. The shift in direction is jarring, but does make sense – it is called living with reality and consequences, something in which the Catholic Church has not done well recently. Obviously the film is a litmus test for taste levels, religious attitudes and the act of forgiveness – all that makes it worth a look. (PM)

Le Week-end
Le Week-end
Photo credit: CIFF

“Le Week-end”

Thursday, 10/17, 8:30pm
Saturday, 10/19, 5:30pm

A tour de force for actors Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, who portray two long time married middle agers who escape to Paris for a long weekend. During that time, the ups, downs and in-betweens of their complicated relationship are exposed. There is nothing but pure truth about the nature of marriage and a long fidelity with one partner, and those truths are sometimes very uncomfortable. But the performances – including a stellar Jeff Goldblum – are sublime and the conclusions are joyful. Just be prepared to strap in for some harsh realities, delivered unerringly by Broadbent and Duncan. (PM)

Despite the Gods
Despite the Gods
Photo credit: CIFF

“Despite the Gods”

Thursday, 10/17, 8:30pm
Friday, 10/18, 5:45pm

Much like 2002’s “Lost in La Mancha,” this documentary is about a difficult film shoot and this time the victim is director Jennifer Lynch, the daughter of David Lynch and the long ago youngster (she was 19 years old) who created the controversial “Boxing Hele-na.” After getting acclaim for her second film, “Surveillance” – shot 15 years after her first – Lynch takes on an odd Indian/Bollywood-type film about a snake queen. Cultural differences, filming methods, family circumstances and Lynch’s own insecurities are constantly derailing the film, and all of it is both funny and poignant. Lynch was willing to expose all of the foibles of being herself, and that’s what makes this film special. (PM)

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