2015 Chicago International Film Festival

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The 51st annual Chicago International Film Festival was a luminous celebration of cinematic visions from around the world. With more than 130 films on display, representing over 50 countries, the longest-running competitive film festival in the US continues to brilliantly “bring the world to Chicago.”

As part of the opening red carpet ceremony, we spoke with some of the individuals involved in the festivities including its

Chaz Ebert
Chaz Ebert

genius founder, Michael Kutza. We also had the opportunity to speak with renowned architect Helmut Jahn, programming director Mimi Plauché, jury president Andrew Davis, and the enchanting Chaz Ebert, who just happened to be celebrating her birthday.

This was also a wonderful opportunity to welcome our newest ITeam member, Meleika Gardner, who joined me on the red carpet to speak with director Agnès Varda and the opening night performer, Voice contestant Terisa Grifin. Watch our red carpet coverage here.

Chicago International Film Festival believes “film is a transformative medium, giving expression to different ways of thinking while confirming our shared stories and common humanity”, And it does this by providing documentaries, short films, and narrative features, totaling more than 200 selections, from around the world.

Some of the festival’s main competition entries included:

The 51st annual Chicago International Film Festival
Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay in “45 Years”

45 Years

This drama from the UK, directed by Andrew Haigh, focuses on a long-term couple’s 45th anniversary and the secrets from the husband’s past that surface to threaten their union. The feature stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, who both won top honors for their performances at the Berlin Film Festival.

Jimmy is central character of the coming-of-age tale, "A Childhood"
Jimmy is the central character of the coming-of-age tale, “A Childhood”

A Childhood

French director Phillippe Claudel takes us on a journey through a small, poverty-stricken town in eastern France where 13-year old Jimmy dreams of living a lush life beyond the strife of having had to grow up too fast thanks to an unstable mother and her criminal boyfriend. The film stars Alexi Mathieu, Angelic Sarre, and Pierre Deladonchamps.

Odessa Young, Radha Mitchell, and Richard Roxburgh star in “Looking for Grace”

Looking for Grace

Directed by Sue Brooks, this dramatic feature is set in rural Australia and tells the story of a rebellious teenager who takes off for a concert without letting her family know. After hiring a detective to find her, all sorts of family secrets start to be revealed. Starring Odessa Young, Radha Mitchell, and Richard Roxburgh.

Mountains May Depart

A scene from "Mountains May Depart"
A scene from “Mountains May Depart”

Director Jia Zhang-ke takes a piercing examination of modern China through the eyes of a young woman who marries for money and names her firstborn son “Dollar”. The story tells the heartbreak of the family who, over the ages, is unable to reach their ultimate vision of success. It stars Tao Zhao, Yi Zhang and, Jing Dong Liang.


A haunting visual from "Tikkun"
A haunting visual from “Tikkun”

This drama set in Jerusalem is directed by Avishai Sivan. It follows an ultra-Orthodox man who is saved from a near-death experience by his father. Both men end up traumatized by the shocking experience. Starring Aharon Traitel, Khalifa Natour, and Riki Blich.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 12.55.34 PM
“Paulina” already debuted at Cannes, earning great praise


From Argentine director, Santiago Mitre comes the story of Paulina, an idealistic lawyer who leaves the urban life to teach at a rural high school where she witnesses students commit an atrocious crime. The drama dives deep into the lines that separate victim and survivor, and wealth and poverty. It won the best film award in Critics’ Week at Cannes.

Winners of some of the competitions were announced at The Peninsula by Michael Kutza, Mimi Plauché, Anthony Kaufman, Camille Lugan, and Sam Flancher. Hosted by Vivian Teng, top honors went to Philippe Claudel for A

Childhood (France), winner of both the Gold Hugo for Best Film and the Silver Hugo for Best Actor; Pengfei Song’s Underground Fragrance (China, France), winner of the New Directors Competition Gold Hugo; Pablo Larraín’s The Club (Chile), winner of three Festival awards; and João Pedro Plácido’s look at a rural Portuguese farming village in Volta à Terra, winner of the Gold Hugo for best documentary.

The complete list of winners can be found here.

About Irene Michaels

Over the past 25 years I have taken on the roles of a producer, publisher, insider journalist and fundraiser. My artistic interests began early in my teens working as a model and a dancer throughout the U.S. I formed my first modeling agency before I was twenty. While modeling I secured a re-occurring role in the popular daytime TV series General Hospital. Read more...