Cinema/Chicago News

Top Ten (+One!) Memorable Moments of 2023

Published: December 21, 2023  |  Filed under: Chicago Industry Exchange, CineYouth, Festival News, Industry Days, News & Announcements, Year-Round News

Celebrating our Year in Film

2023 will be remembered as a landmark year for film, with barrier-breaking box office hits and legendary auteurs returning to the big screen with masterworks. Our year at Cinema/Chicago was just as successful. The 59th Chicago International Film Festival settled into a new hub, our industry events supported and inspired emerging talents, and our screenings ignited discussions, emotions, connections, and even some dancing!

As we bid farewell to another remarkable year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the incredible journey we’ve shared with you as we embrace the magic of cinema. Your support over the past year has enabled us to continue to bring thought-provoking, inspiring, and diverse films to audiences across the city of Chicago. Our collective efforts have shown the transformative power of film. Join us as we celebrate highlights, milestones, and wonderful personal experiences that tell the story of our impact in 2023.

January 19

Up Close and Personal: Director Lukas Dhont @ Members Screening

Award-winning Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont attended our January Members Screening of Close, which had won the Silver Hugo Jury Prize and Gold QHugo awards at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival in October 2022. Wiping tears away, audiences were visibly moved by the tender, emotional film, whose enthralling depiction of a childhood friendship being tested by social pressures leaves an indelible mark on all who watch it. Dhont captivated audiences with insights into his creative inspirations, his choreographic approach to cinematography, and his artistic journey from dancer to filmmaker. Shortly after, Close was nominated for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film.

April 21

Access Hollywood?: CineYouth Festival

At the Chicagoland Shorts screening, for the first time at CineYouth we were able to have both Open Captions and a Live Captioned post-screening discussion. After the event, a young filmmaker approached our Captioner to ask about her work, which sparked a lengthy discussion about accessibility in the film industry, leaving them excited about this previously unknown facet of filmmaking and film presentation. It was both rewarding and thrilling to observe a young person realize that expanding a film’s accessibility allows it to connect with an even wider audience! CineYouth provides opportunities for young people in all kinds of ways – to showcase their work, create lasting connections with their creative peers, and learn about a variety of specialized skills within the world of film.

April 29

Style, Story & Sexuality – Joyland: Digging Deeper into Movies with Nick Davis

If you love movies and learning about the nuances of cinematic storytelling, you can’t miss out on Cinema/Chicago’s talk series, “Digging Deeper into Movies with Nick Davis,” where each month, Nick takes an in-depth look into some of the year’s most notable films, their influences, styles, and craft. One standout talk was focused on Joyland (dir. Saim Sadiq), where audiences learned more about Trans Cinema and Pakistan’s views on “third gender” and engaged in a lively debate over key scenes in the film. Towards the end of the discussion, one attendee shared her thoughts on the ending, which elicited gasps from the audience as it was a fresh perspective that many in attendance hadn’t considered. Several attendees bought tickets to rewatch Joyland with these new insights in mind. It was an enlightening conversation for all who attended!

June 15

Julia Oh @ Chicago Industry Exchange

Award-winning producer Julia Oh (Titane, American Honey) returned to Chicago to join us for in-depth stories and behind-the-scenes tips about producing successful arthouse films as a keynote speaker in our Chicago Industry Exchange program series. Julia spent the next day with this year’s cohort of CIX:Lab filmmakers, learning about their individual projects at early stages in their development, answering questions, and offering them invaluable advice. Oh’s company 2AM is also one of the producers of Past Lives, an early awards front runner, which we presented as a Members Screening in June!

August 9

Freestyling: Keep Stepping @ Summer Screenings

Before the screening of Keep Stepping, an electrifying  documentary about competitive street dance in Sydney, co-hosted by the Australian Consulate-General in Chicago, @ChicagoDanceCrash energized audiences with their rousing freestyle lesson and performance. It was the perfect prelude to the film’s immersive tribute to the artform of street dancing and had audiences practicing their new dance moves in the aisles after the film.

October 11

Singing in the Rain: Chicago International Film Festival Opening Night and Block Party

Forecasts of rainstorms didn’t put a damper on our Opening Night festivities, with thousands of Chicagoans turning out for our ChiFilmFest Opening Night Block Party and our rousing Opening Night double-feature of Chicago-made, women-directed movies, kicking off with Minhal Baig’s stirring We Grown Now, followed by Claire Cooney’s late-night genre romp Departing Seniors. Braving the elements with umbrellas and rain ponchos, Block Party revelers danced in the rain to local bands, played interactive movie trivia hosted by Festival programmers, and took in short films from Chicago filmmakers.

October 13

The Shape of Directing: Michael Shannon on Eric LaRue @ Industry Days

Actor and director Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water) returned to the Chicago International Film Festival and captivated fellow filmmakers at his lively and inspiring “Directing the Actor” Master Class at Industry Days. Later that evening, he presented the premiere of his directorial debut Eric Larue at the Music Box Theatre. The sold out house was filled with cinephiles, Chicago theater luminaries, and Michael Shannon fans. After the post-screening discussion with screenwriter and friend Brett Neveu, Michael commented that it was “one of the most memorable nights of my life.”

October 13

Feast for the Eyes: The Taste of Things with Tran Anh Hung

During his visit to the Festival to present his prize-winning drama The Taste of Things, director Tran Anh Hung expressed great delight with the perfect projection in the AMC NEWCITY—a great vote of confidence for our new Festival hub venue. Delighted by the audiences’ questions about the filmmaking, he let the discussion run a full half-hour longer than scheduled. Tran was never more effusive than when speaking about his own wife, Tran Nu Yen-Khe, the costume designer and credited “artistic director” on The Taste of Things, as well as the star of many of his previous films, including Cyclo and The Scent of Green Papaya. On and off set, she was his most trusted consultant on the balance of color and lighting and the nuances of the actors’ performances. The Taste of Things is a gorgeous paean to creative and romantic partnership, and the screening only further affirmed it, as Tran stayed late with fans of all ages, scrolling through his phone to show off photos of his wife’s genius to anyone curious to look.

October 15

Tears and Fears: David Dastmalchian and Late Night with the Devil

Chicago native and actor David Dastmalchian attended our Sunday night screening of After Dark presentation Late Night with the Devil and was welcomed by an enthusiastic packed house. David gushed about Chicago, and the Chicago International Film Festival in particular, as a thriving incubator for immense creativity and a place artists are proud to call home. He reflected, “The Chicago Film Festival is THE festival I always dreamed of having a film in, and now I get to be here!” Feeling the audience’s electric buzz filling the Music Box Theatre, he wiped a tear from his eye and exclaimed, “Wow! I didn’t know you guys were going to make me cry.” We were thrilled to have him with us!

October 15

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?: “Better Together” @ ChiFilmFest

At the screening of “Better Together,” our program of family-friendly animated short films, we welcomed young filmgoers between the ages of 3 and 9. The next generation of cinephiles were at rapt attention. At one of the post-screening conversations, one kid raised his hand and asked about one of the films, “Why did the monster live in the dark?” This was followed by an involved intra-audience discussion about who was and wasn’t afraid of the dark. So fun (and hilarious) to see kids at the Festival responding to the films and engaging thoughtfully and earnestly.

October 20

Breaking Away: Bike Vessel @ Community Cinema

This year’s Community Cinema took us to the Hamilton Park Cultural Center in Englewood and Harrison Park Field House in Pilsen. One highlight was the October 20 screening of Bike Vessel, an inspiring, locally produced documentary about bicycling and Black men’s health. The film follows director Eric Seals and his father Donnie as they make an epic bike-ride from St. Louis to Chicago. Seated among the capacity-crowd was the entire Seals family, who engaged in a robust audience Q&A with Eric, Donnie, and the film’s producer, Donnie Jr. Topics included Black food traditions, how systemic racism affects the health of Black people, and local bicycling resources.

We are truly grateful for all your support that makes this list possible year after year. And with the 60th Anniversary just around the corner, we are building an exciting year for you. Please consider making a gift today and be part of investing in these unique and important stories told through the power of cinema.

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