48th Chicago International Film Festival Celebrates Unprecedented

The 48th Chicago International Film Festival wrapped up another successful two weeks of world-class cinema and events on Thursday, October 25 with the Closing Night presentation of Robert Zemeckis’ “Flight” (USA). This edition of the Festival not only featured some of the most anticipated films of the upcoming awards season but also, in keeping with its long-standing tradition of introducing audiences to the daring work of first-time filmmakers, from Martin Scorsese (1967) to Dustin Hoffman (2012, director of Audience Choice winner “Quartet”), presented the works of another 49 first-time directors to local and regional moviegoers.

“The response to this year’s line-up and special events has been incredible, from moviegoers, members of the media, visiting filmmakers and distributors alike,” said Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza. “After an extensive selection from 3,700 feature-length and short films from over 55 countries we brought a total of 327 performances to this year’s Festival. We wanted to bring the best of world cinema to our city and make sure that our audiences who came to see the world left satisfied – we think we have done just that.”

From the star-studded Opening Night World Premiere of “Stand Up Guys” to Closing Night, and special programs in-between, including the Chicago premiere of “Cloud Atlas” co-directed by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, the 48th Chicago International Film Festival celebrated the contributions Chicago-born filmmakers have made to the film industry.

“There is no better place to open a film than the Chicago International Film Festival,” said Academy Award®-winning producer of “Stand Up Guys” Tom Rosenberg (“Million Dollar Baby”) during the Opening Night ceremony.

106 narrative films, 21 documentaries and 50 short films from more than 55 countries were officical selections at this year’s Festival; 22 feature-length films received their North American Premiere at the Festival and 28 their U.S. Premiere.

“From such highly anticipated and award-winning films as “The Impossible” (Spain) and “Holy Motors” (France/Germany) to first feature films that made their World and North American Premieres at the Festival, this year’s program was enthusiastically embraced by our audiences and our competitions were as strong as ever,” said Programming Director Mimi Plauché. “With our Spotlight Middle East Program, we were privileged to showcase a range of impressive films from the region, many of them in competition and winning recognition. Now in its 16th year, our Black Perspectives Program highlighted an excellent group of films by African Americans about the black experience around the world and were some audience favorites.”

More than 200 filmmakers from 31 countries participated in post-screening discussions and free public panels giving Festival audiences an insight into their work and the artistic process. Filmmakers had the opportunity to mingle with industry insiders, media and fellow film enthusiasts at the Festival’s Filmmakers Lounge located within Lucky Strike at the AMC River East 21.

“The Festival is more than just going to the movies. We enjoy creating an environment where the audience has the opportunity to engage more fully in a complete experience—through discussions with filmmakers and other audience members," said Managing Director Vivian Teng. “To make this all possible, we rely on the continued generosity and support of our loyal sponsors, foundations and audiences. Their passion and dedication to our organization means so much to us."

“I am so pleased with our sponsor involvement this year; Columbia College Chicago, our Presenting Partner, helped make Opening Night and the entire Festival a real success. American Airlines, who’s been a sponsor for more than 30 years, flew in filmmakers from around the world, our Headquarters Hotel JW Marriott put them up in style, and Land Rover vehicles drove them back and forth to their film screenings,” added Development Manager Erin Payton.

Red Carpet Events
The 48th Chicago International Film Festival this year hosted a who’s who of the national and international talent that will potentially compete for such major awards as the Golden Globe® and the Academy Awards® early next year with numerous red carpet and photo opportunity events followed by post-screening Q&A sessions.

Hollywood landed in Chicago on October 11 with the Opening Night World Premiere of “Stand-Up Guys,” directed by Chicago-born actor and filmmaker Fisher Stevens, produced by Chicagoan Tom Rosenberg and starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. All three actors, Stevens, and Rosenberg worked the red carpet alongside co-stars Vanessa Ferlito and Addison Timlin, screenwriter Noah Haidle, and music superstar Jon Bon Jovi, who wrote two songs for the film.

Joan Allen (October 14), Helen Hunt (October 20) and Viola Davis (October 22) each walked the red carpet at the AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.) on their way to receiving the Festival’s Career Achievement Award, the latter as part of the Black Perspectives Tribute program. The Festival saved the best for last when director Robert Zemeckis followed the same path on his way to picking up the Founder’s Award on behalf of Closing Night film “Flight” on October 25.

Other world-renowned artists who posed for the Media and the Festival’s cameras included: directors Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer in town to present Centerpiece film “Cloud Atlas”; director, producer, writer and creator of “The Sopranos,” David Chase (“Not Fade Away”); Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), who received the Emerging Visionary Award; director Charles Sturridge and actor Matthew Rhys (“The Scapegoat”); and “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell and star Chris Tucker.

Even Vince Vaughn joined in on the fun when, on October 12, he joined his sister Valeri for the U.S. Premiere of her documentary “Art of Conflict,” which he produced and provided the voice-over for.

Special Programs and Conversations The Festival once again held a series of special programs and master classes. Presented by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Spotlight Middle East, the second in a series of three annual programs, featured the works and exciting new voices emerging from such countries as Egypt, Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and United Arab Emirates. Panel discussions and special Community and Education Outreach screenings complemented the films presented in the program. Filmmakers from Egypt, Iran, Israel, and the UAE attended the Festival to present their films and participate in the panel discussion “Spotlight Middle East: The Politics of Creativity,” including Nawaf Al-Jahani (UAE), Mani Haghighi (Iran), Ami LIvne (Israel), Michael Mayer (Israel), Amr Waked (Egypt), Adel Yaraghi (Iran). The Spotlight Middle East series also featured a conversation with Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar on October 22, whose most recent film, “Footnote,” was nominated this year for an Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Chicagoans program featured a series of master classes and special screenings with those individuals who have left a mark on the film industry. “An Evening with Joan Allen” featured the celebrated stage and film actress who spoke about her craft, her career and her Illinois roots on October 14. Philip Kaufman (“The Right Stuff,” “Hemingway and Gellhorn”) participated in a Q&A with Annette Insdorf, Director of Film Studies at Columbia University in New York City and author of “Philip Kaufman,” after a screening of his 1974 film “The White Dawn” on October 16. And on October 23, Steve James, one of America’s most acclaimed documentary filmmakers, discussed his films, Chicago, and the state of documentary film in general. The Chicagoans series ended on a high note on October 24 with the world premiere of voice-over legend Ken Nordine’s film “Agenvite of Inwit.”

The Students Came and Saw the World For 22 years, the Chicago International Film Festival has welcomed Chicago Public School students to theaters to participate in its Education Outreach Screening Program. Eight screenings were offered, including documentaries, feature-length narratives, an international shorts program and a screening of “CineYouth’s Best of the Fest.”

“As part of our year-round Education Outreach Program, the Festival welcomed over 1,500 students and 21 participating schools to screenings of foreign, documentary and locally made films. I am always amazed at how receptive and respectful our student audiences are to the films they see,” said Education Program Manager Rebecca Fons. “Following each screening we held a discussion with visiting filmmakers, local critics and film professors, and I was continually impressed by the questions and comments that came from our student audiences, proving again that film is a powerful teaching tool and a vital part of arts education.”

Each year, Cinema/Chicago brings over 5,500 CPS students into theaters throughout the school year and during the Festival for special Education Outreach screenings. With the help of the Cinema/Chicago Education Advisory Committee - made up of youth media professionals and educators - films are chosen that relate to Chicago Public School curriculum, exposing students to films from other cultures, in other languages, and about complex and engaging subjects.

What’s Next
The 49th Chicago International Film Festival will be held October 10-24, 2013. The Call for Entries will open on January 7, 2013 with an early bird deadline of March 29. The regular deadline to submit entries will be June 21, with a late entry deadline of July 8.

For the latest information, visit www.chicagofilmfestival.com or follow us on Twitter (@chifilmfest) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/chicagofilmfestival). Led by Presenting Partner, Columbia College Chicago, the 48th Chicago International Film Festival's sponsors include: Official Airline - American Airlines; Producing Partners: AMC Theaters, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Major Partner: Intersites; Supporting Partners: DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media, Stella Artois, Chris Pagano - Realtor, Land Rover, WBBM NEWSRADIO 780 AND 105.9FM, ShutterBox Photobooth, Cultivate Studios; Participating Partners: iN Demand, EC Charro Tequila, Brugal Rum, Creative America, Gibsons Restaurant Group, Second City Computers, Optimus; and the Festival's Headquarters Hotel, JW Marriott Chicago.

About Cinema/Chicago Cinema/Chicago is a not-for-profit cultural and educational organization dedicated to encouraging better understanding between cultures and to making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image. The Chicago International Film Festival is part of the year-round programs presented by Cinema/Chicago, which also include the International Screenings Program (May-September), the Chicago International Television Competition (April), CineYouth Festival (May), Intercom Competition (October) and year-round Education Outreach and Member Screenings Program.

Photography by Dan Locke

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