Film News: Sneak Peek at the 50th Annual Chicago International Film Festival

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CHICAGO – One of the finest places in the world to witness its best cinema is the Chicago International Film Festival, which is now hitting its golden year of 50. This year’s festival boasts a lineup of top tier entries from world renowned filmmakers, packaged in the distinct Chicago flavor that keeps the city on a level all its own.

The festivities begin on Thursday, October 9 with a presentation of Liv Ullman’s “Miss Julie,” an adaptation of the August Strindberg play starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain. With the film playing at Chicago’s Harris Theater, Ullman and Farrell are scheduled to walk the red carpet, along with “The Fugitive” director Andrew Davis and Academy Award-nominated actress Kathleen Turner.

A delicious lineup of films from around the world, adored at previous festivals and now ready for Chicago audiences, begin their presentation the next day (Friday October 10) with all festival screenings occurring at the AMC River East multiplex.

‘Timbuktu’ competes at the 50th Annual CIFF
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

With’s first third of festival film reviews set to post tomorrow, the lineup is especially strong this year, especially in the category of “Main Competition,” which will be judged by Kathleen Turner and four other professionals from the worldwide industry, like German director Margarethe Von Trotta and Israeli cinematographer Giora Bejach. Titles to look out for in particular include “Timbuktu,” Abderrahmane Sissako’s fantastic film about a quiet land oppressed by fundamentalists, the unflinching coming-of-age story “Speed Walking” from the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” director Niels Arden Oplev, and the heated protest romance “Red Rose” from director Sepideh Farsi, showing for the first time in the United States.

This year’s festival also boasts two centerpiece presentations. Director Richard LaGravanese’s musical “The Last 5 Years” starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan will play Wednesday October 15 at 6:00, and Ted Melfi’s “St. Vincent,” a film starring Bill Murray, will follow at 8:15pm.

Closing the festival will be a presentation of the highly-anticipated Reese Witherspoon vehicle “Wild,” from “Dallas Buyers Club” director Jean-Marc Vallée, adapted from the bestselling book by Cheryl Strayed.

The festival is full of worldwide films that are categorized, but cannot be strictly defined, by their placements into groups like “Spotlight Scandanavia”, “Black Perspectives”, “Make ‘Em Laugh”, “Out-Look,” “City & State”, “After Dark”, “Docufest”, and more.

For those interested in witnessing multiple narratives but within the running time of a regular feature film, the CIFF boasts nine different shorts programs. Included groupings this year are “City and State”, “Animation - Squash and Stretch”, “Midnight Mayhem”, a group of family-based shorts entitled “Thicker than Water”, a celebration of the unique in “Waking Dreams”, a meditation on lover’s lane in “Meet Not So Cute”, a collection of Scandinavian shorts titled “Spotlight Scandinavia - Songs from the Northern Lands”, and more.

Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Wild’ closes the 50th Annual CIFF
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

Along with new films in and out of competition, the festival is bringing some favorites back into the mix, in tow with special guests to commemorate the legacy of their work. Director/producer Taylor Hackford will present his 1980 directorial debut “The Idolmaker,” along with his 1985 Soviet ballet drama “White Nights” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines.

Famed director Oliver Stone is set to present two of his films in their non-theatrical forms. He will be in town on October 12 to present the 25th anniversary Director’s Cut of “Natural Born Killers,” at 4:00pm and afterward will mark the 10th year of his film “Alexander” with a screening of the 207 minute Director’s Cut of that film at 7:00pm.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore is also scheduled to attend, presenting his revelatory documentary “Roger & Me,” which was originally presented during the festival’s silver anniversary in 1989.

Miss Julie
Michael Moore will present ‘Roger & Me’ at the 50th Annual CIFF
Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

Other classic films are set to return to the big screen for the festival, including Lars von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves”, Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage”, Krzystof Zanussi’s “Family Life”, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Jamaica Inn” (as presented by Hitch expert John Russell Taylor) “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (with producer Saul Zaentz in attendance) and more.

This year promises to be a monumental one for the festival, with so many films to be witnessed if not enjoyed again, in a palette that shows the vibrancy of filmmaking across this entire planet. Patrick McDonald and Nick Allen will be covering the festival day in and day out, so make sure to check back to this website often for reviews, interviews, photos, and more.

The 50th Annual Chicago International Film Festival will take place October 9th-23rd, 2014. Click here for film schedules, information and to purchase tickets.

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