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Chicago Film Festival 2015
Main Competition Jury: Andrew Davis (president), Nawaf Al Janahi, Laura Astorga, Jossie Harris Thacker, Ivan Trujillo Bolio


Gold Hugo of the Festival:A Childhood, France, dir. Philippe Claudel
Silver Hugo:Paulina, Argentina/Brazil, dir. Santiago Mitre
Best Director:The Club, Chile, Pablo Larraín
Best Actress:Full Contact, Lizzie Brochère
Best Actor:A Childhood, Alexi Mathieu and Jules Gauzelin
Best Ensemble Cast:The Club, Alfredo Castro, Marcelo Alonso, Antonia Zegers, Robert Farías, Jaime Vadell, Alejandro Goic, Alejandro Sieveking, José Soza, Francisco Reyes
Best Screenplay:The Club, Guillermo Calderón, Daniel Villalobos, and Pablo Larraín
Best Cinematography:Full Contact, Frank Van den Eeden
Best Art Direction:My Golden Days, Toma Baqueni
 
DocuFest Gold Hugo*:
 
Volta e terra, Portugal/Switzerland, dir. João Pedro Plácido
Docufest Silver Hugo*:In the Underground, China, dir. Song Zhantao
Docufest Special Mention:Time Suspended, Mexico/Argentina, dir. Natalia Bruschtein
 
New Directors Gold Hugo*:
 
Underground Fragrance, China, dir. Pengfei
New Directors Silver Hugo*:Sparrows, Iceland, dir. Rúnar Rúnarsson
 
Q Hugo Award*:
 
Carol, USA, dir. Todd Haynes
Q Hugo Silver Hugo*:Henry Gamble's Birthday Party, USA, dir. Stephen Cone
 
Founder's Award:
 
Where to Invade Next, Michael Moore
Chicago Award:Radical Grace, USA, dir. Rebecca Parrish
Roger Ebert Award:Nahid, Iran, dir. Ida Panahandeh
Audience Choice Award (Narrative)**:TBA
Audience Choice Award (International)**:TBA
Audience Choice Award (DocuFest)**:TBA
 
* These awards are determined by separately constituted juries
** Voted by the public, and announced later than the other awards


Features I Saw at CIFF:
Includes some films I saw previously, mostly in Toronto
Ranked in order of preference
 
My Golden Hugo
Carol A (Special Presentation/OutLook; USA, dir. Todd Haynes) - An icepick. An atomizer. A rose. I've never seen 1950s queer desire depicted as such a braid of frankness and circumspection.

Son of Saul A (Highlight; Hungary, dir. László Nemes) - So formally brilliant you can't help noticing, even as you expend all emotional and moral energy. The sound! The story.

In Jackson Heights A– (U.S. Indies/Docmentary; USA, dir. Frederick Wiseman) - Most democratic US community abounds with sidewalk pedagogy and filibusters. Everyone tries to save everyone.

Dheepan A– (Highlight; France, dir. Jacques Audiard) - Sleek, observant, steadily winching synthesis of prior Audiard themes. Psychology deftly externalized. Actors keep it hot.

45 Years A– (Main Competition; UK, dir. Andrew Haigh) - In which two women step into the same crevasse. Exquisite acting and writing, finessing conceits that could've undone it.

Heart of a Dog A– (Highlights/DocuFest; USA, dir. Laurie Anderson) - Griefs for dog, nation, parent, partner unpacked with warmth, lucidity, and weirdness. Not a funeral. A passageway.

The Treasure A– (Main Competition; Romania, dir. Corneliu Porumboiu) - Comic gold, with an impressively ferrous structure of ironies and nuances that hold it together and expand its scope.

Neon Bull A– (Main Competition; Brazil/Uruguay/Netherlands, dir. Gabriel Mascaro) - Disarming blend of muscle and tenderness, implying steady surges of violence and desire but refusing any standard route.

The Assassin B+ (Highlight; Taiwan/China, dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien) - A royal marriage of many lines, sumptuous, as much Unforgiven as Scarlet Empress. Hou's hand still unsteady on story.

Tikkun B+ (Main Competition; Israel, dir. Avishai Sivan) - I respected this film and enjoyed being pushed by it. Son's crisis of worldly curiosity. Father's miracle recast as ordeal.

The Club B+ (Main Competition; Chile, dir. Pablo Larraín) - Ruthless parable of how mendacity and violence cling to their perpetrators but also infect victims and putative remedies.

Body B+ (Main Competition; Poland, dir. Małgorzata Szumowska) - Szumowska keeps surprising! Imagine Roy Andersson inching toward narrative, his morbid surrealism limned with feminist irony.

Henry Gamble's Birthday Party B+ (City & State/OutLook; USA, dir. Stephen Cone) - Cone gives the actors and the audience so much, but never too much. So quotidian, and so mysterious.

In the Underground B+ (DocuFest; China, dir. Song Zhantao) - Frederick Wiseman meets The Wages of Fear, miles deep in a Chinese mine right out of H.R. Giger. Very sobering.

Macbeth B+ (Highlights; UK/France, dir. Justin Kurzel) - Maybe not the rangiest vision of the play but a stark, grotty, and potent one. Fassbender's a lava pit, Cotillard a cobra.

Under Electric Clouds B+ (Spotlight: Architecture; Russia/Ukraine, dir. Aleksei German, Jr.) - I struggled with granular details but its spectral vision of Russia impresses—a fog of monoliths and nomads.

XConfessions B+ (Highlight; Sweden/Spain, dir. Erika Lust) - Joyous anthology of feminist porn. Polished. Original. Randy. Nonexploitative. Good on the fest for programming this.

In the Shadow of Women B+ (Highlight; France, dir. Philippe Garrel) - Tiny ficelle of a film takes witty stock of knotted infidelities. Neither one-sided nor free of judgment.

Cemetery of Splendor B (World Cinema; Thailand, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul) - Reader, I must confess I'm starting to find Weerasethakul tedious, as much as I admire his directorial craft.

James White B (U.S. Indies; USA, dir. Josh Mond) - Aka James Gray, but even more so, and hotter at the edges. At times, flamboyantly dialed up. At others, heart-piercing.

My Golden Days B (Main Competition; France, dir. Arnaud Desplechin) - I'm where I always am with Desplechin: I admire all his empathy and craft but just don't feel swept up. Cold awe.

A Very Ordinary Citizen B (Main Competition; Iran, dir. Majid Barzegar) - Co-written by Jafar Panahi, a unique melange of contemporary realism, sad comedy, and heightened surprise.

Eisenstein in Guanajuato B (OutLook; Netherlands/Mexico/Finland/Belgium/France, dir. Peter Greeanway) - Pretty silly, but punch-drunk Greenaway is as engaging as he is unexpected. Requires generosity, but fun.

Schneider vs. Bax B (Main Competition; Netherlands, dir. Alex van Warmerdam) - Another 18th-century comedy about 21st-century mercenaries. Merrily morbid, somewhat for its own sake. Thin look.

Mustang B (World Cinema; Turkey/Germany/France, dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven) - Makes you crave a looser, freer world for these girls; then again, you wish the movie itself were more supple and finessed.

The Red Spider B (New Directors Competition; Poland/Czech Republic, dir. Marcin Koszałka) - Hardly unmissable, given perpetual surfeit of serial killer dramas, but a taut, pointed study of mid-century Krakow.

Underground Fragrance B (New Directors Competition/Spotlight Architecture; China/France, dir. Pengfei) - No points for sniffing out a Tsai Ming-Liang protégé, but this tale of ephemeral encounter has its own voice.

Mountains May Depart B– (Main Competition; China, dir. Jia Zhangke) - Hi, I'd like a Hong Sang-soo, a Stella Dallas, a Notes on a Scandal (iced), and a small side of Drrrainage?!

Dégradé B– (World Cinema; Palestine/France, dirs. Tarzan Nasser & Arab Nasser) - Entrapment, suffocation are topics, occasionally effects of one-set suspenser in Gaza salon. Bold vision. Hang in there.

Radical Grace B– (City & State/DocuFest/U.S. Indies; USA, dir. Rebecca Parrish) - Loving, principled, mobilizing record of US nuns bravely demanding secular justice. Modest technique, but inspiring.

Room B– (Surprise Film; USA/Canada, dir. Lenny Abrahamson) - Contrivances abound; only some redeemed as ideas. Subtleties, semaphores duke it out. Messy transition. Larson works hard.

A Childhood C+ (Main Competition; France, dir. Philippe Claudel) - Some poignant observations. Several others feel overemphatic. Basically familiar tale needed lighter director's touch.

Looking for Grace C+ (Main Competition; Australia, dir. Sue Brooks) - Tonally odd. At early best, augurs Short Cuts. Often settles for Safety of Objects. Then its shaky, nervy twist.

Anomalisa C+ (Special Presentations; USA, dirs. Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman) - Could summon no enthusiasm. The self-pity of Kaufman's men is usually ballasted by much more creative detail or insight.

Girls Lost C+ (World Cinema; Sweden, dir. Alexandra-Therese Keining) - A century after Florida Enchantment, we're still using magic-beans device for transgender tale. Shaky on its own themes.

Embers C+ (New Directors Competition; USA, dir. Claire Carré) - Mood, milieu strongest parts. Direction a bit too blatant, script a bit too tentative for my taste, but keep eyes on Carré.

Youth C (Highlights; Italy/Switzerland, dir. Paolo Sorrentino) - Frequently risible, occasionally tasteless, but across the whole, the blend of the epicurean and inchoate can be compelling.

Mia Madre C– (Opening Night; Italy, dir. Nanni Moretti) - An interesting, quiet mother-daughter dynamic slowly emerges, but hampered by listless storytelling and broad pandering.

We Are Francesco C– (World Cinema; Italy, dir. Guendalina Zampagni) - Sunny comedy about not intruding into a disabled man's sex life that blithely intrudes into—yep, you guessed it.

Where to Invade Next D (Documentary/Special Presentations; USA, dir. Michael Moore) - And whom to stereotype next? In its avowed favoring of hammers over scalpels, beats social analysis to a pulp.



Lineups in the Main Feature Programs:
Listed alphabetically within sections; more on this year's lineup at
the CIFF page (opens in a new window)
 
Main Competition:
Full list of entries
45 Years A–, UK, dir. Andrew Haigh
Body B+, Poland, dir. Małgorzata Szumowska
A Childhood C+, France, dir. Philippe Claudel
Chronic, Mexico/France, dir. Michel Franco
The Club B+, Chile, dir. Pablo Larraín
Full Contact, Netherlands/Croatia, dir. David Verbeek
Looking for Grace C+, Australia, dir. Sue Brooks
Mountains May Depart B–, China, dir. Jia Zhangke
My Golden Days B, France, dir. Arnaud Desplechin
Neon Bull A–, Brazil/Uruguay, dir. Gabriel Mascaro
Paulina, Argentina/Brazil, dir. Santiago Mitre
Schneider vs. Bax B, Netherlands, dir. Alex van Warmerdam
Sweet Bean, Japan, dir. Naomi Kawase
Tikkun B+, Israel, dir. Avishai Sivan
The Treasure A–, Romania, dir. Corneliu Porumboiu
A Very Ordinary Citizen B, Iran, dir. Majid Barzegar
New Directors Competition:
Full list of entries
Embers C+, USA, dir. Claire Carré
Hector, UK, dir. Jake Gavin
The Here After, Poland/Sweden, dir. Magnus von Horn
The Homecoming, Iceland, dir. Bjørn Hlynur Haraldsson
Magallanes, Peru/Argentina, dir. Salvador del Solar
The Middle Distance, USA, dir. Patrick Underwood
Nahid, Iran, dir. Ida Panahandeh
Orphans of Eldorado, Brazil, dir. Guilherme Coelho
The Red Spider B, Poland, dir. Marcin Koszałka
Road to La Paz, Argentina, dir. Francisco Varone
Sparrows, Iceland/Denmark, dir. Rúnar $únarsson
The Thin Yellow Line, Mexico, dir. Celso García
Underground Fragrance B, China/France, dir. Pengfei Song
Special Presentations:
Full list of entries
The 33, USA/Chile, dir. Patricia Riggen
Anomalisa C+, USA, dirs. Duke Johnson & Spike Jonze
Carol A, USA, dir. Todd Haynes
I Smile Back, USA, dir. Adam Salky
Mia Madre C–, Italy, dir. Nanni Moretti (opening)
Remember, Canada, dir. Atom Egoyan
Room B–, USA/Canada, dir. Lenny Abrahamson (surprise)
Spotlight, USA, dir. Tom McCarthy (closing)
Where to Invade Next? D, USA, dir. Michael Moore
Highlights:
Full list of entries
The Assassin B+, China/Taiwan, dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Brooklyn, UK/Ireland, dir. John Crowley
Dheepan A–, France, dir. Jacques Audiard
Heart of a Dog A–, USA, dir. Laurie Anderson
Hitchcock/Truffaut, USA, dir. Kent Jones
In the Shadow of Women B+, France, dir. Philippe Garrel
Macbeth B+, UK/France, dir. Justin Kurzel
A Perfect Day, Spain, dir. Fernando León de Aranoa
Sherlock Holmes, USA, dir. Arthur Berthelet
Son of Saul A, Hungary, dir. László Nemes
XConfessions: A Conversation with Erika Lust B+, Sweden, dir. Erika Lust
Youth C, Italy/Switzerland, dir. Paolo Sorrentino
After Dark:
Full list of entries
† Out of competition

The Abandoned, USA, dir. Eytan Rockaway
Bite, Canada, dir. Chad Archibald
Entertainment, USA, dir. Rick Alverson
The Laundryman, Taiwan, dir. Chung Lee
Ludo, India, dirs. Qaushiq Mukherjee and Nikon
Other Madnesses, USA, dir. Jeremy Carr
Tag, Japan, dir. Sion Sono
They Look Like People, USA, dir. Perry Blackshear
Black Perspectives:
Full list of entries
Adama, France, dir. Simon Rouby
Cronies, USA, dir. Michael J. Larnell
Cuckold, South Africa, dir. Charlie Vundla
Danny and the Human Zoo, UK, dir. Destiny Ekaragha
Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows, USA, dir. Robert Hatch-Miller
Cinema of the Americas:
Full list of entries
The 33, USA/Chile, dir. Patricia Riggen
600 Miles, Mexico, dir. Gabriel Ripstein
Absence, Brazil, dir. Chico Teixeira
Carmín Tropical, Mexico, dir. Rigoberto Perezcano
Clever, Uruguay, dirs. Federico Borgia & Guillermo Madeiro
The Club B+, Chile, dir. Pablo Larraín
The Companion, Panama, dir. Alvaro Delgado Aparicio
Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia/Venezuela, dir. Ciro Guerra
Hopefuls, Brazil, dir. Ives Rosenfeld
How to Win Enemies, Argentina, dir. Gabriel Lichtmann
Magallanes, Peru/Argentina, dir. Salvador del Solar
A Monster with a Thousand Heads, Mexico, dir. Rodrigo Plá
Neon Bull A–, Brazil/Uruguay, dir. Gabriel Mascaro
Obra, Brazil, dir. Gregorio Graziosi
Orphans of Eldorado, Brazil, dir. Guilherme Coelho
Paulina, Argentina/Brazil, dir. Santiago Mitre
Road to La Paz, Argentina, dir. Francisco Varone
The Thin Yellow Line, Mexico, dir. Celso García
Time Suspended, Mexico/Argentina, dir. Natalia Bruschtein
To My Beloved, Brazil, dir. Aly Muritiba
Walking Distance, Mexico, dir. Alejandro Guzmán Alvarez
City & State:
Full list of entries
Breakfast at Ina's, USA, dir. Mercedes Kane
Cash Only, USA, dir. Malik Bader
For Grace, USA, dirs. Kevin Pang and Mark Helenowski
Henry Gamble's Birthday Party B+, USA, dir. Stephen Cone
A Light Beneath Their Feet, USA, dir. Valerie Weiss
The Middle Distance, USA, dir. Patrick Underwood
Open Tables, USA, dir. Jack C. Newell
Radical Grace B–, USA, dir. Rebecca Parrish
Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows, USA, dir. Robert Hatch-Miller
Docufest (Competition):
Full list of entries
Banana Pancakes and..., Netherlands, dir. Daan Veldhuizen
Call Me Marianna, Poland, dir. Karolina Bielawska
The Closer We Get, Scotland/UK, dir. Karen Guthrie
In the Underground B+, China, dir. Song Zhantao
The Living Fire, Ukraine, dir. Ostap Kostyuk
Motley's Law, Denmark, dir. Nicole Horanyi
Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows, USA, dir. Robert Hatch-Miller
Time Suspended, Mexico/Argentina, dir. Natalia Bruschtein
Tough Love, Germany, dir. Rosa von Praunheim
Volta à Terra, Portugal, dir. João Pedro Plácido
Docufest (Out of Competition):
Full list of entries
The Birth of Saké, USA/Japan, dir. Erik Shirai
Breakfast at Ina's, USA, dir. Mercedes Kane
Concrete Love: The Böhm Family, Germany/Switzerland, dir. Maurizius Staerkle-Drux
Double Happiness, Austria, dir. Ella Raidel
For Grace, USA, dirs. Kevin Pang and Mark Helenowski
Heart of a Dog A–, USA, dir. Laurie Anderson
Hitchcock/Truffaut, USA, dir. Kent Jones
Illegal Portraits, Italy, dir. Romano Montesarchio
In Jackson Heights A–, USA, dir. Frederick Wiseman
The Infinite Happiness, France/Denmark, dirs. Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine
Invention, Canada/France, dir. Mark Lewis
Milano 2015, Italy, dir. Miscellaneous
Modern Metropolis: Midcentury Chicago on Film, USA, dir. Miscellaneous
Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, USA, dir. Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Radical Grace B–, USA, dir. Rebecca Parrish
Very Semi-Serious, USA, dir. Leah Wolchok
Where to Invade Next D, USA, dir. Michael Moore
Why a Film About Michele De Lucchi?, Italy, dir. Alessio Bozzer
Women He's Undressed, Australia, dir. Gillian Armstrong
OutLook:
Full list of entries
Absence, Brazil, dir. Chico Teixeira
Barash, Israel, dir. Michal Vinik
Big Father, Small Father, and Other Stories, Vietnam/France, dir. Phan Dang Di
Call Me Marianna, Poland, dir. Karolina Bielawska
Carmín Tropical, Mexico, dir. Rigoberto Perezcano
Carol A, USA, dir. Todd Haynes
Eisenstein in Guanajuato B, Netherlands/Mexico, dir. Peter Greenaway
Front Cover, USA, dir. Ray Yeung
Girls Lost C+, Sweden, dir. Alexandra-Therese Keining
Henry Gamble's Birthday Party B+, USA, dir. Stephen Cone
I Am Michael, USA, dir. Justin Kelly
Sworn Virgin, Italy/Albania, dir. Laura Bispuri
Women He's Undressed, Australia, dir. Gillian Armstrong
Spotlight: Architecture:
Full list of entries
Concrete Love: The Böhm Family, Germany/Switzerland, dir. Maurizius Staerkle-Drux
Double Happiness, Austria, dir. Ella Raidel
Greater Things, UK/Japan, dir. Vahid Hakimzadeh
Illegal Portraits, Italy, dir. Romano Montesarchio
The Infinite Happiness, France/Denmark, dirs. Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine
Invention, Canada/France, dir. Mark Lewis
Milano 2015, Italy, dir. Miscellaneous
Modern Metropolis: Midcentury Chicago on Film, USA, dir. Miscellaneous
Obra, Brazil, dir. Gregorio Graziosi
Under Electric Clouds B+, Russia/Ukraine, dir. Aleksei German, Jr.
Underground Fragrance B, China/France, dir. Pengfei Song
Why a Film About Michele De Lucchi?, Italy, dir. Alessio Bozzer
U.S. Indies:
Beyond films listed above
Creative Control, USA, dir. Benjamin Dickinson
James White B, USA, dir. Josh Mond
Stinking Heaven, USA, dir. Nathan Silver
World Cinema:
Beyond films listed above
All About Them, France, dir. Jérôme Bonnell
The Ardennes, Belgium, dir. Robin Pront
As We Were Dreaming, Germany, dir. Andreas Dresen
L'Astragale, France, dir. Brigitte Sy
Cemetery of Splendor B, Thailand, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
The Dark Horse, New Zealand, dir. James Napier Robertson
Dégradé B–, Palestine, dir. Tarzan Nasser & Arab Nasser
The Emperor in August, Japan, dir. Masato Harada
From A to B, United Arab Emirates, dir. Ali F. Mostafa
Homesick, Austria/Germany, dir. Jakob M. Erwa
Just Jim, UK/USA, dir. Craig Roberts
Kakekomi, Japan, dir. Masato Harada
Mustang B, Turkey/Germany, dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven
My Life with a King, Philippines, dir. Carlo Enciso Catu
Rams, Iceland, dir. Grímur Hákonarson
Song of Songs, Ukraine, dir. Eva Neymann
The Surprise, Netherlands, dir. Mike Van Diem
Three Days in September, Macedonia/Kosovo, dir. Darijan Pejovski
Umrika, India, dir. Prashant Nair
Valley of Love, France, dir. Guillaume Nicloux
We Are Francesco C–, Italy, dir. Guendalina Zampagni
We Monsters, Germany, dir. Sebastian Ko
Why Me?, Romania/Bulgaria, dir. Tudor Giurgiu
You Can't Save Yourself Alone, Italy, dir. Sergio Castellitto

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