Beginning Oct. 9, Windy City movie fans will get a two-week window to check out some of the best films from around the globe at the 50th anniversary of the Chicago International Film Festival. The festival lineup includes some of the most highly anticipated films of the year including opener “Miss Julie,” centerpiece duo “St. Vincent” and “The Last 5 Years,” and CIFF closer “Wild.” With big names like Bill Murray and Reese Witherspoon attached, it’s easy to see how the above films may grab movie-goer’s eyes and ears, the buzz all but burying some of the smaller festival fare. However, thanks to last night’s Critics’ Picks at the JW Marriott Chicago event, three of Chicago’s finest film critics provided a slew of suggestions to help eager attendees fill out the remainder of their 2014 CIFF schedules. Many of these films probably won’t move on to see wide distribution so be sure to take advantage of what may be your only chance to see them up on the big screen.
RedEye critic Matt Pais kicked things off with his recommendation of the documentary “Life After Death,” which follows Rwandan genocide survivor Kwasa, who is lent a helping hand by a Christian, philanthropic couple from America. Pais also recommended the relationship-focused slow-burner “Stockholm,” from Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, to which he said was carried by the film’s strong leading performances (Javier Pereira and Aura Garrido). Pais gave props to other festival entries, Turkish pic “The Lamb” and Dutch film “Supernova,” the former, which he called a “success in tone.” The critic’s top recommendation was saved for “Evolution Of A Criminal,” director Darius Clark Monroe’s autobiographical bank robber documentary, which Pais touted for its examination of forgiveness, innocence and regret.
The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson had some recommendations of her own, leading off with a strong endorsement of the South Korean film “A Girl At My Door,” starring Doona Bae (“Cloud Atlas”). She also gave her stamp of approval to the Marion Cotillard-led “Two Days, One Night,” and the Palme d’Or winner at this year’s Cannes, “Winter Sleep” by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Robinson raved the Italian drama “Human Capital” for its unique approach to bringing out character through the use of P.O.V. switches ala the 2000 CIFF Gold Hugo winner “Amores Perros.” Her top pick, however, went to Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Act of Killing.” Showered with awards and praise at this year’s Venice film festival, “The Look Of Silence” tells the story of the government-sanctioned mass murder in 1960s Indonesia, but this time as opposed to “The Act of Killing,” from the perspective of the victims.
Filmspotting co-founder Adam Kempenaar’s opening recommendation went to the dialogue-soft, visually driven Spanish film about disaffected youth, “Ártico.” He also suggested fans check out the French film “Maestro” and the micro-budget, relationship indie comedy “This Afternoon,” the latter which he praised for its ability to make one feel uncomfortable “in a good way.” Kempenaar suggested fans checkout the throwback screening of Taylor Hackford’s 1980 CIFF opener, “The Idolmaker,” touting the film’s hilarious performance by Peter Gallagher and confirming Hackford’s in-person appearance at the festival. He saved his top recommendation for the “All About Eve”-inspired “Clouds Of Sils Maria,” directed by Olivier Assayas and starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart.
The CIFF Junior Board also recommended a handful of films including “The Babadook,” “Red Army,” and “Free Fall.” You can join the board for a screening of “Low Down,” featuring the film’s director “Jeff Priess” on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. The 50th anniversary Chicago International Film Festival runs Oct. 9-23 with several of the above filmmakers and castmembers scheduled to attend (see full list of appearances here). Visit the official website for event details and to purchase tickets.