The Chicago International Film Festival Returns Triumphant in its 51st Year

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Frank Sinatra said it best: “Chicago is my kind of town”. The same emotions I feel when I hear Sinatra croon those lyrics about my city were evoked in the pride and passion filling the historic Auditorium Theater on October 15, 2015. The 51st Annual Chicago International Film Festival kicked off an amazing red carpet ceremony for the opening night of the much-anticipated independent film Mia Madre. The arts showed up dressed to the nines for a beautiful night of appreciation of cinema.

With extraordinary content and style, Mia Madre’s John Turturro provides comic relief as a self-involved American actor in dynamic filmmaker Nanni Moretti’s latest masterpiece. An overworked director tries to complete her new movie that is to make a strong political statement about factory workers while caring for her beloved, dying mother. Real-life and art violently collide in this moving personal drama about the heavy cost of an artist’s integrity. Mia Madre set the tone for two phenomenal weeks of superb cinema.

The jury members will have a heck of a time naming the winner of this year’s Chicago International Film Festival. Michael Kutza, who founded the festival in 1964, walked the red carpet with nothing but gratitude for everyone in attendance. When asked how he manages to keep each festival, year after year, he simply responded that he loves a good movie and appreciates the filmmaking process. Kutza’s love and passion for the film show itself throughout the event, as each day is strategically planned to promote great bodies of work and give every filmmaker their moment to shine.

Programming Director of the Chicago International Film Festival MiMi Plauche could, and should, be described as Wonder

Woman. The first question I wanted to be answered was how much sleep she was able to get over the last six months. Though she looked beautiful, flashing a Hollywood smile for the cameras, Plauche had her eye on every detail. Explaining that coordinating an event of this magnitude that the people of Chicago could be proud of takes nearly a year to execute properly. The challenge in selecting films for the festival is getting an artist to respect the deadlines and trusting the staff with what every filmmaker considers to be their baby.

Oscar-nominated director Andrew Davis, Mississippi Damned actress Jossie Harris Thacker, Director of the International Film Festival in Guadalajara Ivan Trujillo Bolio, Global Film Initiative award winner Laura Astorga, and Abu Dhabi film director Nawaf Al Janahi have the incredible task of selecting winners for this year’s festival. Each understands the filmmaking process from conception to red carpet, and they will all look for a film of great substance that moves them with a necessary story to tell.

The filmmakers featured in the festival not only have the jury members sitting in expectation; festival guests such as Chaz Ebert, Chief Executive Officer of several Ebert enterprises will be watching in the spirit of her late husband, respected film critic Roger Ebert. The Roger Ebert Award will be presented to a stand-out emerging filmmaker whose film presents a fresh and uncompromising vision. Festival guests director Agnes Varda, architect designer Helmut Jahn, actor Christopher Abbott, director Josh Mond, Voice contestant Terisa Griffin, and more have been working the red carpet, promoting their current projects and networking for their next masterpiece.

The 51st Chicago International Film Festival comes to a close on October 29, 2015. While Kutza and Plauche are already putting their heads together to outdo themselves yet again next year, Chicago will be savoring the sweet moments from this opening night. As each film touches and leaves every guest with inspiration, the festival has proven to be, yet again, a memorable experience that everyone will keep coming back for more.


Photos courtesy of Chicago International Film Festival and Timothy M. Schmidt

About Meleika Gardner

Recognizing that people are struggling in life, Meleika Gardner provides inspiration and a welcoming distraction that goes beyond the glitz and glamour of the rich and powerful to fearlessly report…the real. Prior to branching off on her own as an independent writer, she held a staff editorial position for The Guardian Liberty Voice online news publication. Having been immersed in the good, the bad, and the ugly of the business world as well as the Hollywood music, film, and television scene for many years, readers look forward to Meleika's fresh perspective. Read more from this author.