Bonjour Chicago! As part of the 20-year friendship between “sister cities” Paris and Chicago, the 5th Champs-Elysées Film Festival focused its urban spotlight on the “Windy City.” As part of the Chicago celebrations, the Paris-based festival of American cinema invited the Chicago International Film Festival to be part of the event. I was there, representing the Festival, along with a host of films and filmmakers that represented the cinematic “soul” of the city.
From classic films such as Andrew Davis’ “The Fugitive” and Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” to recent Chicago International Film Festival favorites from young Chicago filmmakers Patrick Underwood (“The Middle Distance”), Malik Bader (“Cash Only”) and Erik Shirai (“The Birth of Sake”), Chicago’s movies were all over the French festival. While Andy Davis was in Paris to introduce his own film, he also revealed at an introduction of Haskell Wexler’s “Medium Cool” that he was one of the young cinematographers on the ground during the violent 1968 political demonstrations that are seen in the seminal Chicago film. Other eminent guests of the Festival included acclaimed documentarian Frederick Wiseman, who showed his Chicago-set “Public Housing” and maverick filmmaker Abel Ferrara.
In between screenings at popular movie theaters–with names like “Le Balzac” and “Le Lincoln”–festival-goers could be seen walking along the famous boulevard for which the festival takes its name, or taking snapshots of the nearby majestic “L’Arc de Triomphe.” The Festival even hosted a gastronomic bus-ride, which toured the sites of Paris while offering a gourmet three-course lunch.
The Champs-Elysées Festival also hosted a robust Industry Days program, which showcased works-in-progress from emerging U.S. auteurs as well as filmmakers from around the world–including Chicago International alumni Gregorio Graziosi and Aly Muritiba–with projects in development. Industry Days closed with a fete formidable at the famous nightclub Silencio, designed by the iconoclastic filmmaker David Lynch. It was a fitting ending to our trip to the Champs-Elysées Festival–a potent reminder of the reciprocal relationship and mutual admiration of American and French cinema. At this fall’s Chicago International Film Festival, we will undoubtedly cement that connection further.