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Coming Soon: Chicago International Film Festival

By chicago_chris in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 27, 2004 5:28PM

2004_08_movies_filmfestival.jpg Did you know that the Chicago International Film Festival is the oldest competitive film festival in North America? Chicagoist didn't, but it's in a press release, so it must be true. (Plus, we'll take any excuse we can get for hometown bragging rights.) Celebrating its 40th year (the celluloid anniversary?), the fest will screen over 100 features and 40 shorts from over 40 countries between October 7th and 21st. (That was definitely too many numbers for Chicagoist's film-major brain to handle there, but we think we've got it.) In addition to the normal Opening Night festivities, a profile Centerpiece (with Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland) and a Gala Grand Finale (with a premiere of Robert Zemeckis's creepily animated The Polar Express) have been added this year. Each of these pricey screenings will surely feature a boatload of celebrities, so pay through the nose if you want to see those movies early and with famous people.

In the little preview pamphlet included in the Reader this week, critic Jonathan Rosenbaum notes, "The Chicago International Film Festival has to be cherished. Consider its offerings culture CARE packages, news bulletins... from diverse corners of the world" and Roger Ebert adds it "...has been an exciting annual voyage of discovery." (Michael Wilmington had a quote in there, too, but Chicagoist stopped reading when it began "Now more than ever...") One of the best events of the festival every year is when those three host "critic's choice" screenings of personal favorites, old and new.

But we also love seeing great foreign films months before they find some (if any) kind of local release. Out of the movies listed thus far on this year's program, Chicagoist is most looking forward to Jean-Luc Godard's latest pretension-fest Our Music, Dealer (described as a mix between David Lynch and Bela Tarr... too cool to be true), the autobiographical Tarnation (also opening at the Music Box on October 15), Theo Angelopoulos's new lyrical opus The Weeping Meadow, Ousmane Sembene's ecstatically reviewed Moolaadé (aging African auteur + movie about political issue = ecstatic reviews), and the documentary Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling (with a title like that, how can you not want to see it?). We're also intrigued by the sound of the Iranian black comedy Bitter Dream, mainly because Chicagoist loves movies that are dark and droll or from Iran. (And if Bush II gets reelected, that country might not live to make many more films. We must appreciate them while we can.)

The rest of the lineup will be announced in mid-September and tickets for regular screenings will go on-sale to the general public (that's you and me) starting September 24. Most films will show at the stadium seating goodness of Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.), the AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.), or Thorne Auditorium (375 E. Chicago Ave.).