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The Directors, Front and Center, at the 49th Chicago International Film Festival

CHICAGO (October 25, 2013) - The 49th Chicago International Film Festival wrapped up another successful two weeks of world-class cinema and events on Thursday, October 24 with the Closing Night presentation of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davies (USA). The exciting finale was the perfect bookend to this director-driven Festival after the October 10 Opening Night presentation of The Immigrant written and directed by James Gray.

115 narrative films, 20 documentaries and 55 short films from more than 60 countries were official selections at this year’s Festival. The Festival presented the feature filmmaking debut of 41 directors from the United States, China, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Kenya, Lebanon and the UK, among other countries, and welcomed back the works of such acclaimed artists as Steve McQueen, Frederick Wiseman, Stephen Frears, Errol Morris and Andrzej Wajda.

“We have long prided ourselves in being a director’s festival and in discovering the new voices of cinema,” said Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza. “This year was no different. Our program was the strongest yet in the Festival’s history.”

“Full of wonderful, inspiring and exquisite films, this year’s Festival sets the tone as we look forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary, a significant milestone for us, in 2014,” added Programming Director of the 49th Chicago International Film Festival Mimi Plauché.

Films from Kurdistan, France, Germany, Belgium, Mexico, Iran, the United States, Norway and Poland, among other countries, won the Gold and Silver Hugo Awards in the Festival’s Competitions: International Feature Film, New Directors, Docufest, After Dark and Short Film. Films from Taiwan, The Netherlands and Finland took home the first Q Hugo Gold and Silver Film Awards; shown as part of OUT-Look, the Festival’s recently rebranded LGBTQ program.

Filmmakers, actors, producers and special guests from 38 countries participated in post-screening discussions and free public panels giving Festival audiences an insight into their work and the artistic process. “The most exciting part, as always, was the chance to see audiences connect with the filmmakers after screenings, asking questions that illuminated the films in ways unique to the festival context," said Competitions Coordinator and Programmer Alex Kopecky.

Filmmakers had the opportunity to mingle with industry insiders, media and fellow film enthusiasts at the Festival’s Filmmakers Lounge located within Lucky Strike at the AMC River East 21, the Festival’s homebase.

Red Carpet Events

The 49th Chicago International Film Festival once again played host to a wide variety of film artists, some of whose films will potentially compete for such major awards as the Golden Globes® and the Academy Awards® early next year.


The Opening Night presentation of James Gray’s latest film, The Immigrant, at the historical Chicago Theatre in downtown Chicago on October 10, immediately set the tone for this director-driven Festival. It also became a celebration of the life and legacy of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert, a long-time supporter and friend of the Festival. Opening Night was attended by director Gray and Chaz Ebert, Roger’s wife and publisher of, the website she co-founded with her husband.

Writer, director and producer George Tillman, Jr. received a Career Achievement Award at the 17th Annual Black Perspectives Tribute, Friday, October 11, for his body of work and for playing an important role in opening the doors of the film industry to a new generation of African-American filmmakers. Tillman, Jr. was joined on the red carpet by Jennifer Hudson, the star of his latest film, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete and by producing partner Bob Teitel.

Iconic American actor Bruce Dern, winner of the Award for Best Actor at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, walked the red carpet on his way to receiving a Career Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding and diverse work during a special presentation of Alexander Payne’s critically acclaimed Nebraska on October 16.

Academy Award®-winning actor Geoffrey Rush, his co-star Sophie Nélisse and director Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) made a red carpet appearance on October 22 for the Chicago premiere of the big screen adaptation of The Book Thief, one of the most anticipated films of the awards season. Oscar Isaac, one of Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch, also got the red carpet treatment during the Closing Night presentation of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davies.

Other world-renowned artists who posed for the cameras included: Academy Award®-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler (Medium Cool and Medium Cool Revisited); legendary Italian horror director Dario Argento (Dracula 3D); legendary stage and TV actress Elaine Stritch (Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me); actor Michael Shannon, director John McNaughton and producer Steven A. Jones (The Harvest); co-directors Alan and Gabe Polsky (The Motel Life); Chinese filmmaker and Q Hugo Film Award honoree Scud, creator of sexually daring films, and the cast members of Voyage: Leni Speidel, Haze Leung, Byron Pang, and Chan Than San; director Penny Wozniak and director and documentary subject Jennifer Lynch (Despite the Gods); and actor and executive producer Harry Lennix, co-producers Danny Green and Albena Dodeva and actors Geno Montero and Amad Jackson (H4).

Special Programs and Conversations

Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Spotlight Africa, the third in a series of three annual programs, featured the exciting new works emerging from such countries as Algeria, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

Filmmakers from Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe attended the Festival to present their films and participate in several panel discussions, Education Outreach screenings and free events including Spotlight Africa: Meet the Filmmakers, Spotlight Africa: Producers Without Borders and Spotlight Africa: African Music Videos, an exciting showcase of videos created by a new generation of directors and musicians that celebrate the vibrant sounds coming out of the continent. Visiting filmmakers included João Viana (Guinea-Biseau), Mosco Kamwendo (Zimbabwe), Ng’endo Mukii (Kenya), Joel Karekezi (Rwanda), Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (South Africa) and Alex Pitstra (Tunisia).

The Festival dedicated a portion of its first Comedy Focus program to classic Italian film comedy. The films featured in this sidebar included: Pietro Germi’s Divorce Italian Style, winner of the 1962 Academy Award® for Best Original Screenplay; Federico Fellini’s Amarcord; The Mass is Ended written and directed by Nanni Moretti; and Bread and Tulips directed by Silvio Soldini, who attended the screening.

Students Also Love the Movies

For 23 years, the Chicago International Film Festival has welcomed Chicago Public School students to participate in its Education Outreach Screening Program. Eight screenings were offered, including documentaries, feature-length narratives, an international shorts program and a screening of “CineYouth’s Best of the Fest.”

“We were so thrilled to welcome new school partners to the Festival this year,” said Education Program Manager Rebecca Fons.  From the 7th and 8th grade students from Richard Yates Elementary who attended our screening of the Colombian film Chasing Fireflies and got autographs from director Roberto Flores Prieto after the film to the 10th and 11th grade students from Kelly High who attended the documentary Tough Bond and spoke with directors Austin Peck and Anneliese Vandenberg, all eight screenings presented to Chicago Public School students during the Festival were a terrific portion of our robust year-round Education Outreach Program.”

During the 2013-2014 school year, more than 7,000 CPS students and teachers will participate in Cinema/Chicago’s Education Outreach Program, up from 5,000 in the 2012-2013 school year. Prior to all Cinema/Chicago Education Outreach Screenings, study guides are provided to prepare educators and students for the content and themes of each film, ensuring that the discussion can take place long after the students have left the theater. With the help of the Cinema/Chicago Education Advisory Committee - made up of youth media professionals and educators - films are chosen that relate to Chicago Public School curriculum, exposing students to films from other cultures, in other languages, and about complex and engaging subjects.

What’s Next

The 50th Chicago International Film Festival will be held October 9-23, 2014.

For the latest information, visit or follow us on Twitter (@chifilmfest) and Facebook (

Led by Presenting Partner Columbia College Chicago, the 49th Chicago International Film Festival's sponsors include: Official Airline - American Airlines; Headquarters Hotel - JW Marriott Chicago; Official Vehicle - Mercedes-Benz; Producing Partners: AMC Theaters, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Major Partners: Illinois Office of Tourism and Intersites; Supporting Partners: DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media, Stella Artois, Effen Vodka, WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9FM, Cultivate Studios; Participating Partners: State Farm, AARP, Tres Generaciones®, Comcast, Allstate, Spotlight Cinema Networks, Casale del Giglio, Second City Computers, Shutterbox Entertainment, Gibson’s Restaurant Group, RL Restaurant, Creative Technology and Lavazza Espression.


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About Cinema/Chicago
Cinema/Chicago is a not-for-profit cultural and educational organization dedicated to encouraging better understanding between cultures and to making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image. The Chicago International Film Festival is part of the year-round programs presented by Cinema/Chicago, which also include the International Screenings Program (May-September), the Chicago International Television Competition (April), CineYouth Festival (May), Intercom Competition (October) and year-round Education Outreach and Member Screenings Program.

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