Thursday, October 4, 2007


43rd annual Chicago International Film Festival sweeps the city

Listen up, Hollywood: Today's films are in desperate need of some of that good, old-fashioned movie magic. We just want the basics -- good plot, complex characters, a movie that doesn't make us want to stuff our heads in our overpriced bucket of popcorn. Not a computer-animated Alvin and the Chipmunks translated into a live-action movie. Or another Saw. Thankfully, Chicago's International Film Festival -- in its fifth decade -- offers ticket holders cinema with a little more substance this week.

The nonprofit competitive film festival organization Cinema/Chicago presents the festival once a year, in the hopes of increasing and encouraging an appreciation of different cultures and people through film. Festival founder and artistic director Michael Kutza and his selecting team handpicked hundreds of films from six continents and more than 30 countries. Many of the film selections, such as Ben Affleck's directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, are competition entries -- along with world premieres of Oscar buzzworthy films, like John Cusack's Grace is Gone and Benecio del Toro and Halle Berry's touching Things We Lost in the Fire.

Film selections are screened at AMC River East (322 E. Illinois) and Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark); special events and presentations can be found in other theaters and venues across the city. The International Feature Film Competition offers 18 feature-length films, one of which will receive the Festival's highest award -- the Gold Hugo -- after a judging process including a jury of international movie professionals. A New Directors Competition draws in 15 of the festival's movies; films representing categories like "World Cinema," "Cinema of the Americas," "Black Perspectives," anime, documentaries and.

There are nods to Chicago and its place in the movie world as well. The film festival honors beloved Chicago-Sun Times film critic Roger Ebert by dedicating this year's festival to him. A program of short films made in Chicago will be presented in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, once one of the largest production companies in Chicago.

Watching any one of these movies will serve as a reminder that film is alive and well the next time you find yourself sitting through another crappy trailer in the movie theater. Or the next time you need to drive down Wabash and find it's closed because Christian Bale is filming Dark Knight.

The 43rd Chicago International Film Festival runs through Oct. 17;