40th Chicago festival features films from 44 countries

CHICAGO – The Chicago International Film Festival, the oldest competitive film festival in North America, is showing 111 feature films and 54 short films from 44 countries through Oct. 21.

Oscar-winning actor Christopher Walken will appear in person at a special presentation of his new film “Around The Bend” on Saturday, Oct. 9, in Northwestern University’s Thorne Auditorium. After the screening Walken will discuss the film, which tells an offbeat story of loss and forgiveness spanning four generations of a family of men. The film co-stars Michael Caine and Josh Lucas.

Black Perspectives focuses on the films and topics that are important in African American cinema. Screenings during the festival include: Ferenc Toth’s “Unknown Soldier,” Rodney Evan’s Sundance award-winning “Brother to Brother,” former Spike Lee assistant Ntshaveni Wa Luruli’s “The Wooden Camera” and Cannes prizewinner “Moolaadé,” by 81-year old Senegalese master Ousmane Sembene.

Other films of interest include:

“Dear Frankie” (Scotland) – Nine-year-old Frankie, his single mom Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) live nomadically, hopping from town to town. Separated from his father for as long as he can remember, Frankie has come to idolize him, based on the weekly letters he sends from exotic ports around the world. What Frankie, who is deaf, doesn’t know is that Lizzie spins these colorful tales, in an attempt to shield him from an ugly truth: his father is not a sailor on the HMS Accra, but an abusive lowlife they’re on the run from. But when the Accra docks in the local harbor, Lizzie must choose between coming clean or extending the elaborate, and increasingly questionable, charade by producing a “father.” This one is a gem.



“Tarnation” (U.S.) – a spellbinding film by Jonathan Caouette, who has been documenting his life since he was 11. “Tarnation” begins in 2003 as Caouette learns of his mother’s lithium overdose in his native Texas. Faced with the haunting remnants of his past, including a family legacy of mental illness, abuse, and neglect, Caouette returns home to help his mother’s recovery. As a youth, Caouette used filmmaking and self-documentation as a means of escape and we watch him grow up on camera as he also deals with rebuilding a relationship with his mother, a victim herself.

Despite the grim subject matter, “Tarnation” is a testament to the resiliency of youth, the “power of love” and Caouette’s courage and imagination. It’s raw and sometimes brutal but it’s also unique and exhilirating. (“Tarnation,” which debuted at Sundance in January, is also part of the New York Film Festival, which runs through Oct. 17, and opens for a regular run at The Music Box in Chicago Oct. 15.)



“Boricua” – Boricua tells the intersecting stories of four Puerto Ricans in Chicago’s Humboldt Park, who struggle with their ethnicity and the world around them.



“Dance Cuba: Dreams of Flight” – Focusing on a historic collaboration between dance companies from Cuba and America, “Dance Cuba: Dreams of Flight” intertwines several personal stories to speak of the beauty of dance and the love of family, both being deeply affected by political environment. In a homecoming of sorts, Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, brings his dance company to Cuba for the first American performance there in 40 years. The rich history of Cuban dance is revealed through stories of 80-year-old Alicia Alonso, icon of Cuban ballet, and Carlos Acosta, a world-renowned dancer from the poorest area of Havana.

Most festival films will be shown at AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.), Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.) and Northwestern University’s Thorne Auditorium (375 E. Chicago Ave.). Individual tickets for all regular festival screenings cost $11 for the general public.