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Chicago International Film Festival Begins Today

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 6, 2006 2:13PM

You'll have to forgive us if it seems like we've got a one-track mind when it comes to film lately: CIFF is one of our absolutely favorite things about Chicago, and every year brings the thrill that comes from attempting to see as many movies as possible in its two weeks. The Opening Night feature at the Chicago Theater last night was Stranger Than Fiction, directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball) and starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson. We won't dwell too much on it, since it's going into wide release in about a month anyway, but what's really nice is that not only was it actually filmed in Chicago, it's from a screenplay by DePaul grad Zach Helm. We think it's much cooler than last year's opener, Elizabethtown, which few people were interested in anyway and (as far as we can tell) has absolutely nothing to do with Chicago.

Dozens of films of every stripe will be unfurled through October 19th at various venues, and quite often it's not hard to get same-day tickets if you're feeling spontaneous. Although evening shows of the hottest films are often sold out days in advance, the good news is that most programs are shown at least twice during the festival. Look for the schedule board when you arrive at the theater, or check their website.

It's impossible to make a complete list of highlights here, but we've got a few quick suggestions for you. The creepy German exorcist flick Requiem has its first screening tomorrow night, and we're so there. Its trailer starts out as a simple coming-of-age tale about a young woman who's just gotten into university ... and then the demon arrives. Another film we've got tickets to is 12:08 East of Bucharest, a dark comedy from Romania in which a Santa Claus impersonator and debt-ridden history teacher hold a debate on live TV about what really happened the day Ceausescu fled Bucharest.

There are four programs of shorts this year, each with its own different theme. We always have a great time just randomly choosing one and showing up; since each screening features several different films, we know there'll always be at least something great showing.

We'll be posting more reviews and reports from the fest, so keep your eyes peeled!

The Chicago International Film Festival runs October 5-19 at various theaters, including the River East 21 and the Landmark Century. Most tickets are $11.