Cinema/Chicago News

The Chicago International Film Festival Celebrates 50 Years of Great Cinema with Revivals and Special Appearances

Published: September 16, 2014  |  Filed under: Festival News

CHICAGO, IL (September 18, 2014) – The 50th Chicago International Film Festival will celebrate its semi-centennial with special presentations of past Festival winners, audience favorites and cinema classics.

More than 20 films have been selected as part of this unique retrospective, including 1971 Silver Hugo winner “Family Life,” Lars von Trier’s Academy Award® nominated “Breaking the Waves,” “Roger and Me,” and three films which received their World Premiere at past Festivals: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), “The Idolmaker” (1980) and “White Nights” (1985). Several longtime Festival friends will present special editions of their favorite films, including director, writer and producer Oliver Stone, director and producer Taylor Hackford, and documentarian Michael Moore.

The 50th Chicago International Film Festival will take place October 9 – 23 at the AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.).

On Saturday, October 11, acclaimed director and producer Taylor Hackford will be the first returning Festival favorite to present his lively debut feature, “The Idolmaker” (1980),” at 2:15 p.m., followed by the Cold War dance drama “White Nights” (1985), starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines at 5 p.m. That same evening at 7:15 p.m., acclaimed Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi will present “Family Life,” winner of the 1971 Silver Hugo Award. The following afternoon, Sunday, October 12 at 2 p.m., Zanussi returns to present the U.S. Premiere of his most recent film, “Foreign Body.”

Oliver Stone, winner of the Festival’s 1992 Director of the Decade award, will present a double bill of his bold and controversial style of filmmaking, Sunday, October 12, beginning with the 25th anniversary Director’s Cut of “Natural Born Killers” at 4 p.m. and “Alexander: The Ultimate Cut” on the occasion of its 10th anniversary, at 7 p.m. On Wednesday, October 22 at 7 p.m. Michael Moore will present the 25th anniversary restored edition of his groundbreaking documentary, “Roger and Me,” originally presented at the Festival’s 25th anniversary celebration in 1989.

Longtime Festival friend, film historian, Charlie Chaplin expert and director of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, David Robinson, will explore the origins of Chaplin’s renowned “Tramp” costume 100 years ago in a special program that will include a screening of Kid’s Auto Races at Venice” and the short “The Immigrant” on Thursday, October 16 at 6 p.m. Another friend of the Festival, film historian and George Cukor/Alfred Hitchcock-expert, John Russell Taylor, will present restored versions of Cukor’s “A Star Is Born” starring Judy Garland and James Mason on Saturday, October 11 at 1 p.m. and Hitchcock’s “Jamaica Inn” on Sunday, October 12 at 2 p.m.

50th Anniversary Retrospective Screenings

“101 Reykjavik” Iceland (Director: Baltasar Kormákur) – A highlight of the 36th Chicago International Film Festival’s New Directors Competition, Icelandic auteur Baltasar Kormákur’s sharp-witted breakout centers on a young Icelandic man who has an affair with his mom’s Spanish girlfriend, Lola, a fish-out-of-water lesbian (played exuberantly by Pedro Almodovar regular Victoria Abril). With the same droll wit and ribald energy as compatriot Fridik Thor Fridriksson, Kormákur gives insight not only into his winning characters, but a unique northern youth culture. Also shown as part of the Spotlight: Scandinavia program.

“Alexander: The Ultimate Cut” USA (Director: Oliver Stone) – In honor of its 10th anniversary, Oscar-winner Oliver Stone presents this definitive version of his controversial epic about the rise and fall of Alexander the Great. Starring Collin Farrell as the titular hero, the film chronicles his decade-long quest to avenge the death of his hated father (Val Kilmer). No stranger to violence and politics, Stone infuses the battle scenes with gut-wrenching detail and provides yet another thought-provoking portrait of an historic leader. Also starring Angelina Jolie.

“Breaking the Waves” Denmark (Director: Lars von Trier) – Heralded as one of the best films of the ‘90s, Lars von Trier’s emotionally ravaging breakthrough stars Emily Watson, in her Oscar-nominated debut, as an innocent Scottish girl who goes to sexual extremes to prove her unwavering love for Jan (Stellan Skarsgård), an oil-man who is paralyzed on the job. Balancing the raw and the sublime, “Breaking the Waves” is a magnificent tour-de-force whose epic intimacy powerfully translates best on the big screen. Also shown as part of the Spotlight: Scandinavia program.

“Family Life” Poland (Director Krzysztof Zanussi) – Acclaimed Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi returns to the Festival to present his 1971 Silver Hugo winner, an intense chamber piece about an industrial designer who returns to his family’s dilapidated country estate to help his alcoholic father and depressed sister. With powerful performances by Polish greats Daniel Olbrychski, Jan Nowicki, and Maja Komorowska, and a foreboding setting, the film remains an outstanding examination of the inability to break free from one’s past and a haunting evocation of the most suffocating kind of family life.

“Fanny and Alexander” Sweden (Director: Ingmar Bergman) – A high point of not just Scandinavian cinema, but widely considered among the best films of all time, Bergman’s autobiographical masterpiece examines the highs and lows of the bourgeois Ekdahl family at the turn-of-the-twentieth-century through the eyes of ten-year-old Alexander. A four-time Academy Award–winning triumph that combines Bergman’s thematic interests in religion, family and fantasy, “Fanny and Alexander” is an intense, sensual and sprawling epic that deserves to be seen on the big screen. Also shown as part of the Spotlight: Scandinavia program.

“Here’s Your Life” Sweden (Director: Jan Troell) – Winner of the Gold Hugo at the 1967 Chicago International Film Festival, Jan Troell’s gem of a film poetically traces the trials and tribulations of Olof, a boy coming of age in Sweden during World War I. A visually lush, stirring bildungsroman spread out over three hours and in gorgeous black-and-white widescreen, Troell’s rarely seen stylistic tour-de-force is rightfully heralded as a classic for its emotional candor.

“The Idolmaker” USA (Director: Taylor Hackford) — The Opening Night Film of the 1980 Festival, Hackford’s lively rock-‘n’-roll debut follows the making of budding teen idols in the 1950s. Ray Sharkey—in his buoyant Golden Globe-winning performance—plays Vincent Vacarri, a Bronx songwriter who takes nobodies and turns them into legends, vicariously living out the fame he never managed to win himself. “The Idolmaker,” which launched the real-life career of Peter Gallagher, is a humorous and harrowing look into the machinations of showbiz.

“Jamaica Inn” UK (Director: Alfred Hitchcock) – On the 75th anniversary of its original release, this restored version of Hitchcock’s 19th Century thriller follows an Irish girl (Maureen O’Hara) who arrives in a coastal village and finds herself caught up in a murderous gang’s plot, surreptitiously led by a deliciously nasty Charles Laughton. Adapted from a book by Daphne Du Maurier (“Rebecca,” “The Birds”), this rarely seen adventure film is as wicked as its successors. Hitchcock expert John Russell Taylor presents.

“Natural Born Killers: Director’s Cut” USA (Director: Oliver Stone) – Oscar-winning filmmaking Oliver Stone returns to the Festival to presents this special 20th anniversary screening of his black-hearted satire of the media’s obsession with violent crime. Starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a pair of bloodthirsty lovers on a violent rampage, the film gleefully evokes the aesthetics of popular entertainment, weaving together a lurid, frenetic collage of cartoons, police procedurals and sitcoms that drives his social critique with a blunt and inimitable force.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” U.S. (Director: Milos Forman) – Celebrating its 1975 world premiere at the Festival, Milos Forman’s darkly funny masterpiece stars Jack Nicholson as a rabble-rouser who fights against the oppressive rules of a mental hospital, presided over by the tyrannical Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (for Nicholson), and Best Actress (for Fletcher), the film will screen in a newly restored version, honoring producer Saul Zaentz, with surprise guests in attendance.

“Roger and Me” USA (Director: Michael Moore) – Michael Moore presents this 25th anniversary restored version of his breakthrough debut. An irreverent look at his hometown, Flint, Michigan, which had been economically decimated by downsizing at General Motors, the film charts Moore’s much-thwarted efforts to meet with then-GM Chairman Roger Smith. Blending humor with scathing indictment, “Roger and Me” ignited a national discussion about the cruelties of corporate America that remains just as relevant today.

“A Star Is Born” USA (Director: George Cukor) – The most quintessential show-business drama of all time, “A Star is Born” (1954) stars Judy Garland as rising singer Esther Blodgett. When she catches the eye of an erudite alcoholic actor whose career is in decline, their intense love transforms them both. Returned to its initial length and digitally re-mastered, this glorious digital presentation restores this Hollywood Star to its original shining glory. Film historian and George Cukor expert John Russell Taylor will present.

“White Nights” USA (Director: Taylor Hackford) – In honor of Oscar-winning director Taylor Hackford (“Ray”), whose debut “The Idolmaker” premiered at the 1980 Festival, we present this special revival of the film that boasted its world premiere here in 1985. A stirring Russia-set thriller, “White Nights” stars famed actor-dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines as unlikely allies pitted against a nefarious Soviet empire. Featuring a stellar supporting cast, including Helen Mirren, Geraldine Page, Isabella Rossellini and choreography by the great Twyla Tharp.

“Why Be Good?” USA (Director: William A. Seiter) – The top box-office draw of 1927 and a defining figure of the Roaring Twenties (and later, co-founder of the Chicago International Film Festival), Colleen Moore stars in this delightful jazz-age romp about a poor flapper girl with a bad reputation whose wealthy beau puts her virtue to the test. Long thought lost, the film, now having its North American premiere, was recently discovered and restored with its original score. A rare movie event!

Chaplin Tribute
Meet Charlie Chaplin authority David Robinson, who will celebrate the centenary of the first appearance of Chaplin’s famous Tramp costume. Robinson will explore the origins of the costume and the character, taking a fresh look at the first film in which the character was seen, “Kid’s Auto Races at Venice,” as well as his landmark short “The Immigrant,” a masterpiece of farcical comedy, sentiment and social commentary.

Tickets, Festival Passes and Theater Information
Festival Passes are on sale until October 19. Pass options include:

Moviegoer (10 regular admissions): $100 for Cinema/Chicago members, $130 for non-members.
Passport (20 regular admissions): $190 for Cinema/Chicago members, $240 for non-members

Festival Tickets will be available to Cinema/Chicago members on September 17-18. General public tickets will be on sale starting September 19. Tickets can be purchased online via Ticketmaster; by phone at 312-332-FILM (3456); or by visiting the Festival box office at AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St.) or the Cinema/Chicago office (30 E. Adams, Suite 800) beginning September 19.

For ticketing information, visit

Festival screenings will be held at the AMC River East 21 Theater (322 E. Illinois St.). The full schedule will be announced Tuesday, September 16.

Led by Tourism Partner Illinois Office of Tourism and Presenting Partners Columbia College Chicago, the 50th Chicago International Film Festival’s sponsors include Official Airline: American Airlines; Headquarters Hotel: JW Marriott Chicago; Major Partner: Intersites, Wintrust Community Banks; Participating Partners: AARP, Allstate, Bloomberg, Casale del Giglio, Cultivate Studios, Netrix, Stella Artois; Platinum Media Sponsors: NCM Media Networks, Ingage Media, JC Decaux, Michigan Avenue Magazine.

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Cinema/Chicago is a not-for-profit arts and education 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 one of the year-round programs presented by Cinema/Chicago, which also include the Chicago International Film Festival Television Awards, CineYouth Festival, INTERCOM Competition, International Screenings Program, and Education Outreach Program. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Chicago International Film Festival is North America’s longest-running competitive film festival.

The Festival and its parent organization, Cinema/Chicago, were founded in 1964 by filmmaker and graphic artist Michael Kutza to showcase great international film, which was conspicuously absent from the city’s theaters, and to bring celebrated filmmakers from around the globe to Chicago. Over the past half century, as we have grown to become a world-renowned event and evolved to reflect the changing times, the Festival has remained dedicated to its founding vision: to discover new and rising talents in filmmaking and to bring the best in international cinema and the artists behind the work to Chicago audiences. This year’s 50th anniversary Festival will feature a selection of “50th anniversary screenings,” featuring the work of returning filmmakers presenting past Festival films and/or personal favorites and important repertory films as well as new films by emerging and celebrated filmmakers alike.

The 50th Chicago International Film Festival runs October 9-23, 2014.

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