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The Chicago International Film Fest Returns!

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 5, 2005 3:20PM

We’ve been alluding to it all week, but tomorrow marks the beginning of the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF)!

2005_10_05_ciff.jpgIn a city with no shortage of film fests, the CIFF is considered the gold standard. Now in its 41st year, the CIFF brings us new and classic films, documentaries, critic’s favorites, locally produced films and even the occasional splatter film. Running through October 20th, the fest kicks off tomorrow with Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown and a tribute to Susan Sarandon who will be given the Gold Hugo Award (which we hope is not a shiny version of this guy). Tickets are still available for tomorrow’s screening and gala.

In our sneak peek last month, we told you about some of the films we’re looking forward to during this year’s fest. With the full schedule up, you can see what else would be worthy of your attention.

In the Critic’s Choice category, Chicago’s best-known film critics—the Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert, the Tribune’s Michael Wilmington and the Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum—present films that reflect each man’s sensibilities. If you agree with their reviews, you’ll probably like their picks.

The documentary that’s a must-see for us is Learning to Swallow, the story of Chicago party scenester Patsy Desmond. Profiled in the Reader earlier this year, Desmond was the doyenne of Chicago’s artsy tastemakers in the 1990s before she attempted suicide by drinking drain cleaner. The film follows her struggle to recover physically and emotionally from this traumatic event.

More must-see films and a link-filled guide to buying tickets, free screenings, and other special fest events after the jump.

Other Chicago-centric films include The Trouble With Dee Dee, Kissing On The Mouth and the locally-filmed The Weather Man, which after several release date delays will finally see a silver screen debut on the fest’s Closing Night. Also, Chicago-born Terrence Howard (Hustle and Flow, Crash) will be honored as Hollywood’s “Hottest” Talent. (Are those quotes a backhanded insult or is it just us?) on October 14th as part of the fest’s Black Perspectives presentations.

If you’re trying to spend your fest dollars wisely, avoid the Special Presentations. Almost all the films will see a wide release later in the year so it’s only worth paying the slightly inflated festival prices if you want to be one of the first to peep ‘em. The only exception here is Carmen in Khayelitsha, a cinematic re-telling of Bizet’s Carmen set in an African shantytown and translated into Xhosa. While not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s the kind of film that makes the fest worth having.

If you’re really broke, we recommend the Future Filmmakers Festival, a fest within the fest that showcases new talent on both sides of the camera. Other free screenings of The Phantom of the Operator and Watermarks are also worth your time. The CIFF’s panel discussions at Borders are also free and are perfect for anyone looking to break into the film biz.

Most of the films are playing
at AMC River East and the Landmark with some special presentations at the Chicago and Harris Theatres. If you plan on seeing more than six films, buy a Moviegoer pass. Otherwise, tickets are $11 for each screening, except for the opening and closing night galas. Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster or you can avoid the fees by purchasing advance tickets from the Borders on Clark and Diversey or the one on Michigan Ave. Day-of tickets can be also purchased at the individual box offices but we wouldn't recommend it since most screenings sell out fast.