Now in its 50th year, the Chicago International Film Festival is the longest-running competitive film festival in North America. The Festival was started in 1964 by filmmaker and graphic artist Michael Kutza to provide an alternative to the commercial Hollywood movies that dominated the city’s theaters. The Festival opened in 1965 at the Carnegie Theater, where King Vidor, Bette Davis, and Stanley Kramer were honored for their contributions to American cinema. Since then, the Festival has grown to become a world-renowned annual event. The Festival is dedicated to fostering better understanding between cultures and to making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image.
The Festival has a rich history of discovering hundreds of ground-breaking directors such as: Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter, Taylor Hackford, Susan Seidelman, Victor Nunez (United States); Wim Wenders, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Germany); Bertrand Tavernier (France); Peter Weir (Australia); Dariush Mehrjui (Iran); Mike Leigh, Alan Parker, Michael Apted, Peter Greenaway (Great Britain); Vincent Ward (New Zealand); Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Zanussi (Poland); Dusan Makavejev (Yugoslavia); Victor Erice (Spain); Jan Troell (Sweden); and Maria Louisa Bemberg (Argentina), to name just a few!
Seeking out the best in international cinema, the Festival has opened windows to a world of film previously or otherwise unavailable in Chicago. In 2013, the Festival showcased the work of the world’s top filmmakers and fresh talent alike, presenting more than 175 films from 55 countries. The films are all Chicago premieres and many are world or U.S. premieres. Most of the films shown at the Festival will not gain a wide release, secure a U.S. distributor, or become available on video. Therefore, the Festival provides local audiences with a unique opportunity to discover a range of films that would otherwise be unavailable to them. In addition, at more than half of the screenings each year, filmgoers have the rare and exciting chance to meet directors, actors, and actresses who introduce their films and hold discussion sessions after the screenings. In 2013, our guests included Bruce Dern, James Gray, Oscar Isaac, George Tillman, Jr., and Haskell Wexler.
Some have thought they were Charlie Chaplin's eyes (including Mr. Chaplin), others thought they were Liza Minnelli's (including Ms. Minnelli). However, those intriguing eyes on the Chicago International Film Festival logo belong to a combination of silent screen sirens. All legendary. Theda Bara, Pola Negri and Mae Murray. These ladies vamped it up in countless films at the dawn of cinema. The logo is a rendering of all three! Created by Festival Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza, has become internationally recognized as an image that represents both the allure of the silver screen and the cinematic celebration that takes place every year in Chicago.
Each year the festival specializes in showcasing the greatest directors, the freshest visions, and the strongest cinematic stories. The silent star Celluloid hero, with her heavily mascared eyes, continues to be the Festival's guiding vision since 1964.