What's the Deal with CIFF?
By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 17, 2007 1:00PM
The Chicago International Film Festival is one of the highlights of the Chicago movie calendar. Every October for the past several years, we've purchased a festival pass and taken a gamble; in addition to catching films every year that we've already heard about, we always force ourselves to see at least a few films we know nothing about. In the past that's meant such pleasant surprises as Syndromes and a Century and 10th District Court.
This year, there's something fishy going on. The festival runs October 4-17 and will feature 150 movies from 35 countries. And that's just about all we know. With less than three weeks to go, we haven't been able to find a published schedule or even a list of venues. A quarter-page ad in Section Two of last week's Reader directed us to an online Sneak Preview at the festival's site, but even this is fairly uninformative.
In previous years, by this point a final schedule would have been printed up and distributed all across the city; over Sunday morning coffee, we would have mapped out a plan of attack, made our first- and second-tier choices and purchased a festival pass. True, we could go ahead and buy a pass online. But without seeing a schedule, we're a little hesitant. And on the CIFF site it clearly states that tickets will not be mailed for online reservations and that passes cannot be redeemed until September 22, less than two weeks before Opening Night! That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for planning on anyone's part.
So what's going on? Is there trouble behind the scenes, or is festival staff just being extra meticulous this year? We hope that this post triggers someone with inside knowledge to come forward so we can get some answers (an email directly to CIFF has so far gone unanswered). This year's festival will undoubtedly still be worth going to, and gorging on. But the festival should be two weeks preceded by the joyful anticipation of Chicago movie lovers, not restless anxiety about what the hell is going on.
Image of the 1983 festival poster via Cinema Arts.