The 48th Chicago International Film Festival, the oldest competitive festival in North America, is currently running through October 25 and has been pulling out all the stops. Like with all film festivals, it would be easy to miss the scores of quality, story-driven, socially and politically relevant films for the vedettes that swoop through. Opening night on October 11 didn't disappoint with Al Pacino, Al Arkin, Bon Jovi and Christopher Walken creating a big buzz promoting Stand Up Guys.
Vince Vaughn did a drive by on October 12 to support his sister Valeri Vaughn's documentary, Art of Conflict: The Murals of Northern Ireland, which examines how street art tells the story of Northern Ireland's history. On October 16, David Chase, creator of the award-winning series The Sopranos, introduced a special presentation of Not Fade Away, his first feature film. Flight, Chicagoan Robert Zemeckis' return to live action movies, will premier on October 25 at 7 p.m. as the festival's closing night film, with Zemeckis walking the red carpet shortly beforehand.
However, it isn't just film screenings that abound at the festival, which premieres over 175 short films and features. Many heavy hitters are also present for either in-depth moderated conversations and/or to receive awards. Both Helen Hunt, Academy Award-winning star of The Sessions, and Joan Allen, Academy Award nominee for her roles in Nixon, The Crucible and The Contender, received Career Achievement Awards. Directors and Chicagoans Philip Kaufman, celebrated for his versatile and wide-ranging masterpieces Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Right Stuff, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Steve James, renowned for his observational storytelling documentaries, Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters, also availed themselves for 90 minute Q&As.
Yet, what really makes the Chicago International Film Festival unique is its incredible access to the public. Unlike other major festivals that thrive on the cache of being exclusive, that attitude never flies with Chicagoans and the festival smartly allows the public to see as many films as possible. Taking place right downtown at an AMC compound, attending the film festival is as easy as buying your tickets in advance. You may not get yourself on to a red carpet, but you will view as many riveting films as you would like. Some of the films that are garnering attention are The Cleaner, a Peruvian film directed by Adrian Saba, The Last Sentence, a Swedish film by Jan Troell, Full Circle, a Chinese film by Zhang Yang, Numbered, an Israeli Film by Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai, and Any Day Now, an American film by Travis Fine featuring Alan Cumming.
Another critical aspect of the Chicago International Film Festival is the importance it holds for filmmakers. As Nick Harkin, publicist for the festival noted, "Because the festival has a reputation for showcasing great foreign and independent cinema, it is important for producers and sales agents from around the world that their films are selected for the Chicago International Film Festival. Looking back over the past several years, on average over 30 films that did not have distribution before the festival found it afterwards. This includes being picked up by larger distributors as well as specialty/boutique distributors."
Enjoy the video below from the red carpet of the 48th Chicago International Film Festival with Academy Award nominee and Silver Hugo Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Joan Allen, who talks about her Midwestern roots, roles in Hollywood for women and her years with Steppenwolf Theatre.