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Banner: the 57th Chicago International Film Festival Social Commentary

A Lot of Nothing

Mo McRae  |   United States
Comedy, Social Commentary, Thriller

Fiercely committed performances drive this satirical hothouse thriller about a successful Black couple driven to take action after learning that their neighbor, a while policeman, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed youth.



Clare Weiskopf & Nicolás Van Hemelryck  |   Colombia, Romania, Chile
Coming of Age, Social Commentary, Women Centered

When the residents of a Colombian youth shelter are asked to imagine a fellow adolescent, “Alis” emerges as an avatar for their own experiences in this innovative and moving portrait of youth and resilience.


All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Laura Poitras  |   United States
Political, Social Commentary, Women Centered

This compelling personal history chronicles Goldin’s tragedies and triumphs, as she uses her position as an artist and disrupter to affect cultural and political change.


Art and Pep

Mercedes Kane  |   United States
LGBTQ, Political, Social Commentary

A heartfelt tribute to activists Art Johnston and Pepe Peña, whose celebrated gay bar Sidetrack has fueled movements and created community on Chicago’s Halsted Street for decades.


The Big Payback

Erika Alexander & Whitney Dow  |   United States
Political, Social Commentary, Women Centered

An inspiring look at rookie Alderman Robin Rue Simmons’ fight to redress the wrongs of “redlining” and the legacy of slavery through a groundbreaking reparations program in Evanston, Illinois.



Hirokazu Kore-eda  |   South Korea
Drama, Family Affairs, Social Commentary

Overwhelmed and unable to care for her new child, new mother So-young stumbles into an unlikely partnership with two baby traffickers to find the perfect (and well-paying) parents for her infant in this heartbreaking, human story of found family.


A Compassionate Spy

Steve James  |   United States, United Kingdom
Historical, Political, Social Commentary

The fascinating story of Manhattan Project scientist Theodore Hall, who passed crucial military secrets to Soviet intelligence in the hopes of saving the world.


Empire of Light

Sam Mendes  |   United Kingdom, United States
Film on Film, Historical, Social Commentary

Set in an English seaside town in the early 1980s, Empire of Light is a powerful and poignant story about human connection and the magic of cinema from Academy Award®-winning director Sam Mendes.



Jerzy Skolimowski  |   Poland, United Kingom, Italy
English, French, Italian, Polish  
Drama, Social Commentary

A series of vignettes tell the life story of Eo, a sentient circus donkey whose tumultuous life finds him bearing witness to the best and worst of humanity in this loving homage to Robert Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar.”


Godland (Vanskabte Land)

Hlynur Pálmason  |   Denmark, Iceland, France, Sweden
Danish, Icelandic  
Historical, Religion, Social Commentary

Journeying to Iceland to establish a parish in a remote part of the Danish colony, a priest is confronted by an unforgiving landscape and wary locals, who refuse to bend to his will.


How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Daniel Goldhaber  |   United States
Political, Social Commentary, Thriller

Resonant and riveting, this eco-thriller sees a crew of young environmental activists plot to carry out a dangerous mission to sabotage an American oil pipeline.


A Human Position

Anders Emblem  |   Norway
Drama, Social Commentary, Women Centered

Searching for meaning in her life and work, a young journalist investigates the deportation of a local asylum seeker in this understated yet profound character-driven drama.



Guy Davidi  |   Denmark, Israel, Finland, Iceland
Family Affairs, Political, Social Commentary

With an uneasy beauty and a blistering moral force, filmmaker Guy Davidi chronicles the militarization of Israeli society and its impact on the lives of young people.


The Inspection

Elegance Bratton  |   United States
Drama, LGBTQ, Social Commentary

After a young, gay Black man joins the Marines, he battles prejudice and the grueling routines of basic training, while also finding unexpected strength, camaraderie and a welcome sense of identity from his new community.


King of Kings: Chasing Edward Jones

Harriet Marin Jones  |   France, United States
English, French  
Historical, Social Commentary

The thrilling life story of the legendary African American powerbroker, who built a multimillion-dollar empire running a racketeering syndicate on Chicago’s South Side in the 1930s and ’40s.


The Kings of the World (Los reyes del mundo)

Laura Mora  |   Colombia, Norway, Luxembourg, Mexico, France
Coming of Age, Drama, Social Commentary

A kaleidoscopic road movie that follows five streetwise boys on a dangerous yet dreamlike journey across Colombia to reclaim a piece of land that they might finally call home.



Josh Alexander  |   United States
Historical, Political, Social Commentary

An in-depth look at controversial civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton detailing the roots of his political engagement and his evolution into a media-savvy crusader.


Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues

Sacha Jenkins  |   United States
Historical, Music, Social Commentary

An intimate and revealing look at the world-changing musician, presented
through a lens of archival footage and never-before-heard home recordings and personal conversations.


Mediterranean Fever

Maha Haj  |   Palestine, Germany, France, Cyprus, Qatar
Comedy, Family Affairs, Social Commentary

In this charming, absurdist tale of mid-life restlessness, an aspiring novelist suffering from writer’s block finds himself out of his depth after he is befriended by his new neighbor who dabbles in petty crime.


The Melt Goes On Forever: The Art and Times of David Hammons

Judd Tully & Harold Crooks  |   United States, Canada
Historical, Political, Social Commentary

A striking portrait of artist David Hammons, who emerged out of L.A.’s Watts Rebellion and whose provocative work was rooted in a deep critique of U.S. society.



Nikyatu Jusu  |   United States
English, French, Wolof  
Social Commentary, Thriller, Women Centered

In a stunning performance, Anna Diop plays a Senegalese nanny increasingly haunted by the absence of the young son she left behind.


Noise (Ruido)

Natalia Beristáin  |   Mexico, Argentina
Mystery, Social Commentary, Women Centered

Months after her daughter’s disappearance, a grieving mother sets out on a search for answers and joins an underground network of people risking their lives to search for lost loved ones.



Marcelo Gomes  |   Brazil, Portugal
LGBTQ, Religion, Social Commentary

A lyrical and intimate portrait of a transgender woman in rural Brazil confronting prejudices as she pursues her dream of a traditional church wedding.


The Passengers of the Night (Les passagers de la nuit)

Mikhaël Hers  |   France
Family Affairs, Social Commentary, Women Centered

In this sublime 1980s Paris-set drama, newly single mother Élizabeth (Charlotte Gainsbourg) takes a job at a late-night call-in radio show, a decision that redefines her place in the world and reshapes her destiny



Cristian Mungiu  |   Romania, France, Belgium
Religion, Social Commentary, Thriller

A rural Transylvanian village is pushed to its breaking point by anger and xenophobia in this edge-of-your-seat small town thriller.


Return to Dust

Li Ruijun  |   China
Drama, Romance, Social Commentary

A surprisingly tender bond develops between two social outcasts in this sweeping meditation on the joys and sorrows of life on the margins in rural China.


Return to Seoul (Retour à Séoul)

Davy Chou  |   South Korea, France, Germany, Belgium, Quatar
English, French, Korean  
Coming of Age, Family Affairs, Social Commentary

After Freddie, 25, returns to her native South Korea for the first time, she finds herself on an unexpected journey, taking her life in new directions.


Saint Omer

Alice Diop  |   France
Crime, Drama, Social Commentary, Women Centered

In this profound character study, a novelist observes the trial of a Senegalese woman accused of infanticide—a crime she admits to having committing yet maintains her innocence.



Chris Smith  |   United States
Family Affairs, Film on Film, Social Commentary

In this tender yet fittingly irreverent portrait of iconoclastic filmmaker Robert Downey, Sr.), documentarian Chris Smith, together with the subject’s movie-star son, conspire to tell the story of a fearless American director.


The Substitute (El suplente)

Diego Lerman  |   Argentina, Italy, Mexico, Spain, France
Drama, Social Commentary

Learning that a local drug cartel threatens one of his promising young pupils, a Buenos Aires educator must decide how far he will go to protect the boy’s life in this tense and timely drama.


White Noise

Noah Baumbach  |   United States
Comedy, Literary Adaptation, Social Commentary

A contemporary American family attempts to deal with the mundane conflicts of everyday life while grappling with the universal mysteries of love, death, and the possibility of happiness in an uncertain world.