Cinema/Chicago News

59th Chicago International Film Festival Sneak Peek: Opening Night, Centerpiece, Closing Night & More

Published: September 14, 2023  |  Filed under: Festival News

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The 59th Chicago International Film Festival announced select highlights of this year’s festival, running October 11 – 22, 2023. Films will be presented at venues throughout the city including the AMC NEWCITY 14, the Music Box Theatre, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Chicago History Museum, the Hamilton Park Cultural Center in Englewood, Harrison Park in Pilsen, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

We Grown Now, written and directed by Festival alum Minhal Baig (Hala), will open the Festival on October 11 at the Music Box Theatre. This heartfelt, Chicago-set coming-of-age story follows two 10-year-olds as they revel in the freedoms of boyhood and the joys of friendship. The film is a lyrical coming-of-age fable deeply rooted in and based on the real-life experiences of Chicago’s Black community. With captivating performances by Smollett, Lil Rel Howery, young actors Blake Cameron James and Gian Knight Ramirez, and S. Epatha Merkerson as Malik’s wise and witty grandmother, the film is a love letter to growing up and the places we call home.

With Festival Centerpiece film Saltburn, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) brings us a beautifully wicked tale of privilege and desire. Struggling to find his place at Oxford University, student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) finds himself drawn into the world of the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who invites him to Saltburn, his eccentric family’s sprawling estate, for a summer never to be forgotten. Fennell will be celebrated at the screening on Thursday, October 19 with this year’s Visionary Award.

Closing the Festival this year will be The Bikeriders, written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Loving, Midnight Special, and Mud) and inspired by Danny Lyon’s renowned photographic work. Nichols will also be honored by the Festival with this year’s Artistic Achievement Award for his outstanding body of work. This gripping narrative traces the ascent of a fictional 1960s Midwestern motorcycle club by delving into the lives of its members. The cast includes acclaimed actors such as Jodie Comer, famous for her roles in Killing Eve and The Last Duel; Austin Butler, known for his portrayal of Elvis; and Tom Hardy, recognized for his performances in Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant.

Academy Award-nominated Chicago actor Michael Shannon is also set to appear on October 13 with his directorial debut, Eric LaRue, adapted from Brett Neveu’s 2002 play which had its bow at Shannon’s A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago. The film follows the shell-shocked Janice (Judy Greer) as she attempts to navigate the aftermath of a shooting spree perpetrated by her son. Also starring Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Sparks, Alison Pill, and Tracy Letts, Eric LaRue is a penetrating psychological drama about grief, guilt, and atonement that builds to a profound and cathartic conclusion.

In director David Fincher’s highly anticipated The Killer, partially shot in Chicago, Michael Fassbender plays an assassin who, after a fateful near-miss, battles his employers (and himself) on an international manhunt he insists isn’t personal.

Cannes Palme d’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet’s tension-filled opus, is a bracing, Hitchcockian showstopper following a wife suspected of murdering her husband in the French Alps. The film appears in the Women in Film program.

Also coming off its highly acclaimed Cannes premiere, where it won the Grand Prix and International Film Critics Awards, The Zone of Interest, from writer-director Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin, Birth) tells the story of a commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife Hedwig, who strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp. The film will screen as a Spotlight Presentation on October 18 with actor Christian Friedel in attendance.

Directed by five-time Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe (Lackawanna Blues, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and starring Emmy winner Colman Domingo in a towering and electrifying performance, Rustin tells the story of Bayard Rustin, the architect of the 1963 March on Washington and one of the greatest activists and organizers the world has ever known. The film appears in the Festival’s acclaimed Black Perspectives program.

With such an extraordinary lineup of films and talents, the 59th Chicago International Film Festival promises to be an unforgettable celebration of cinema and storytelling. The full program and screening schedule for the 59th Chicago International Film Festival will be released on September 18. Festival passes and tickets to Opening Night are on sale now. Mark your calendars and secure your tickets because this year’s festival is set to deliver cinematic experiences that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

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