Nick-Davis.com: Chicago International Film Festival
Chicago Festivals by Year:
Prizes, Juries, and Favorites
Browse Films by
|Chicago Film Festival 2017
Main Competition Jury: Anne Zohra Berrached, Nick Davis (!), Leticia Dolera, Daniel Dubiecki, Tzi Ma
|Gold Hugo of the Festival:||A Sort of Family, Argentina, dir. Diego Lerman|
|Silver Hugo:||Félicité, Senegal/France/Belgium, dir. Alain Gomis|
|Best Director:||Birds Are Singing in Kigali, Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze|
|Best Actress:||Birds are Singing in Kigali, Jowita Budnik and Eliane Umuhire|
|Best Actor:||Arrhythmia, Aleksandr Yatsenko|
|Best Screenplay:||A Man of Integrity, Mohammad Rasoulof|
|Best Cinematography:||Hannah, Chayse Irvin|
|Best Art Direction:||The Line, Václav Novak|
DocuFest Gold Hugo*:
The Other Side of the Wall, Spain/Mexico, dir. Pau Ortiz
|Docufest Silver Hugo*:||Mr. Gay Syria, France/Germany/Turkey, dir. Ayse Toprak|
New Directors Gold Hugo*:
No Date, No Signature, Iran, dir. Vahid Jalilvand
|New Directors Silver Hugo*:||The Charmer, Denmark, dir. Milad Alami|
Q Hugo Award*:
BPM (Beats Per Minute), France, dir. Robin Campillo
|Q Hugo Silver Hugo*:||God's Own Country, UK, dir. Francis Lee|
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro
|Roger Ebert Award:||Killing Jesús, Colombia, dir. Laura Mora|
|Audience Choice Award (Narrative)**:|| |
Marshall, dir. Reginald Hudlin
|Audience Choice Award (International)**:|| |
Aurora Borealis, dir. Márta Mészáros
|Audience Choice Award (DocuFest)**:||The Work, dir. Jairus McLeary|
* These awards are determined by separately constituted juries
|** Voted by the public, and announced later than the other awards|
Features I Saw at CIFF:
Ranked in order of preference
My Golden Hugo
Western (World Cinema; Germany/Bulgaria/Austria, dir. Valeska Grisebach) -
Genius intervention into its titular genrenarratively, spatially, and politicallybut sublimely achieves its own identity.
Life and Nothing More (U.S. Indies; Spain, dir. Antonio Méndez Esparza) -
Quietly astonishing, beat after beat. Rich, round portraits. Non-professionals beat every other cast at TIFF.
Birds Are Singing in Kigali (International Competition; Poland, dirs. Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze) -
Rwandan genocide drama holds specifics and universals in taut, careful balance. Innovative direction.
A Ciambra (World Cinema; Italy/U.S./France/Germany, dir. Jonas Carpignano) -
The tactile throb of Arnold, the steel-cable tension of Audiard. Coming of age and into crime, messily but so memorably.
A Man of Integrity (International Competition; Iran, dir. Mohammad Rasoulof) -
Haunting crime story about a guy trying to say no to crime. Sharp on corruption that can't or won't see itself.
A Sort of Family (International Competition; Argentina, dir. Diego Lerman) -
Well-shot black-market adoption drama as tense as any thriller. Complex analyses of region, characters, politics.
Félicité (International Competition; Senegal/France/Belgium, dir. Alain Gomis) -
Ripe premise for maternal melodrama, complicated by stubbornly opaque heroine. Unusual structure. Vivid Congolese milieu.
The Charmer (New Directors Competition; Denmark, dir. Milad Alami) -
Iranian in Denmark must find a wife or be deported back home. Tense, handsome beat-the-clock drama, craftily layered.
Mr. Gay Syria (Documentary Competition; Turkey/Germany/France, dir. Ayşe Toprak) -
Pageant build-up is delicious, inspiring, and complex, and that's not even half the film. Deeply humane document.
Call Me By Your Name (Special Presentations; Italy/France/Brazil/USA, dir. Luca Guadagnino) -
Starts out gawky and rushed but hits its stride in the second half, and it's a very difficult stride to hit.
Arrhythmia (International Competition; Russia, dir. Boris Khlebnikov) -
Bringing Out the Death of Mr. Lazarescu. Ace cast in colorful, chaotic portrait of erratic EMT in crisis-prone Russia.
They (New Directors/OutLook/City & State; USA, dir. Anahita Ghazvinizadeh) -
Equally bold and delicateitself a feat. Young trans protagonist retains watchful reserve but is very much part of the world.
Closeness (World Cinema; Russia, dir. Kantemir Balagov) -
Tough drama that touches raw nerves around patriarchy, sexuality, and cultural identity. Powerfully shot and structured.
The Line (International Competition/Spotlight: Film Noir; Slovakia/Ukraine, dir. Peter Bebjak) -
Tautly plotted, deftly directed noir, like Animal Kingdom in Eastern Europe. Visuals, actors keep old tropes fresh.
Princess Cyd (City & State/OutLook; USA, dir. Stephen Cone) -
Another Cone film that loves its characterseven the light loves themwithout diluting their ideas or contradictions.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) (World Cinema/OutLook; France, dir. Robin Campillo) -
Loving, detailed tribute to ACT-UP Paris in early 90s. Narrows focus over time; short on style. Still, moving.
12 Days (Documentary Competition; France, dir. Raymond Depardon) -
Depardon retains his clinically observational style, capturing some haunting patient-judge exchanges. Might he offer more?
The Square (Special Presentations; Sweden, dir. Ruben Östlund) -
I prefer Östlund's scene-building to his image-making or storytelling. Fits and starts, but flashes of wit and lucidity.
Scary Mother (New Directors Competition; Georgia/Estonia, dir. Ana Urushadze) -
Sharp study of an artist whose surreal genius is lost on her family. Or is she actually mad? Lots heremaybe too much.
God's Own Country (World Cinema/OutLook; UK, dir. Francis Lee) -
Men's bodies and souls as loamy, thistly, hardscrabble terrains to tend and touch. Sweeter than you may guess.
Gemini (International Competition/Spotlight: Film Noir; USA, dir. Aaron Katz) -
Clever plotting, cool score, good jokes, and a Lola Kirke-Zoë Kravitz bond that keeps showing new layers. Tiny but skillful.
Let the Sun Shine In (World Cinema; France, dir. Claire Denis) -
Fun to see actress and director loosen up and Godard shoot with casual elegance. I still prefer tougher Denis.
Hannah (Main Competition; Italy/France/Belgium, dir. Andrea Pallaoro) -
Split. Ended up impressed, albeit coldly. There's a reason ads aren't foregrounding plot. Seems broad, reveals specificity.
In the Fade (World Cinema; Germany, dir. Fatih Akin) -
If it feels sterner, tighter, and less hopeful than The Edge of Heaven, so does the world. Kruger rewards Akin's trust.
The Other Side of the Wall (Documentary Competition/Cinemas of the Americas; Spain/Mexico, dir. Pau Ortiz) -
Compact, prize-winning documentary more distinguished by moving tale than formal finesse. Enough for me!
Golden Years (World Cinema/OutLook; France, dir. André Téchiné) -
Téchiné's deceptively subdued style still yields Louvre-ready images. Story not always served by a fussy structure.
Thelma (Main Competition; Norway/Sweden/France, dir. Joachim Trier) -
Think Carrie, refashioned as anomic poetry rather than pyro-pubescent delirium...at first. Not always coherent, which is fine.
The Other Side of Hope (International Competition; Finland, dir. Aki Kaurismäki) -
Hats off to Kaurismäki for applying his style to more political subjects, even if it exposes his weaknesses.
The Workshop (International Competition; France, dir. Laurent Cantet) -
First hour repeats The Class's feat of nimbly managing a vibrant non-professional ensemble but second half stalls out.
November (World Cinema; Estonia/The Netherlands/Poland, dir. Rainer Sarnet) -
Starts with a monster made of axes and skulls lifting a cow high in the sky. Stays vigorously weird. Delicious monochrome.
Rogers Park (City & State/U.S. Indies; USA, dir. Kyle Henry) -
Loved its observant modesty. I preferred tone, tempo of first half to those of second. Strong cast, especially Sevigny.
Beauty and the Dogs (World Cinema; Tunisia/France/Sweden/Norway, dir. Kaouther Ben Hania) -
Beat by beat, could use more polish; cast a mixed bag. But core story is powerful and the staging is ambitious.
Blueprint (Black Perspectives/City & State/U.S. Indies; USA, dir. Daryl Wein) -
Psychologically and communally insightful local indie. Rough around some edges; story could use more room. Strong leads.
The Shape of Water (Closing Night; USA, dir. Guillermo del Toro) -
Del Toro's worlds feel both lushly and thinly imagined; his dreams are unique but I am squarely outside them.
Wind Traces (International Competition; Mexico, dir. Jimena Montemayor Loyo) -
Portrait of family grief shows technical and atmospheric promise but feels pretty underdeveloped on the story front.
The Rape of Recy Taylor (Documentary Competition/Black Perspectives; USA, dir. Nancy Buirski) -
Distills an important story. More effective as a short? Very moving interviews. Fresh takes on Rosa Parks.
Mudbound (Special Presentations; USA, dir. Dee Rees) -
Ambition, theme, logic all clearmaybe too clear? Lensing, acting can be thin, structure episodic. Still worth your time.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Special Presentations; USA/UK, dir. Martin McDonagh) -
Fierce moral premise diluted and distorted by compulsive, "comic" flippancy. Badly shot.
Sea Sorrow (Documentary; UK, dir. Vanessa Redgrave) -
Impassioned and urgent, at times disheveled. Paradoxes of high-born radicalism are evident but so is true conviction.
↑ To be clear, I'd recommend buying tickets to all movies above this line. ↑
Barrage (World Cinema; Luxembourg/Belgium/France, dir. Laura Schroeder) -
Occasionally exposes interesting mother-daughter tensions but Lolita Chammah is much too vague as the lead. Visually flat.
Paris Square (International Competition; Brazil, dir. Lúcia Murat) -
Passô's performance is strong, but little else jells in this fragmented film. Critiques racism; at times commits it.
Sicilian Ghost Story (International Competition/Spotlight: Film Noir; Italy, dirs. Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza) -
Starts in a heightened, folkloric style, overdone but unique. Steadily more mismanaged in look, sound, story.
Marshall (Opening Night; USA, dir. Reginald Hudlin) -
Disheartening that this is the case Hollywood chose to commemorate. Thurgood muted. Bad lensing. Boseman, Brown stranded.
The Confession (International Competition; Georgia/Estonia, dir. Zaza Urushadze) -
Dully picturesque for ages, blowing vague kisses at The Movies. Undermotivated freakout in last act. Bad on gender.
Samui Song (International Competition/Spotlight: Film Noir; Thailand, dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang) -
Sometimes the postman don't ring at all. No excuse for this lurid, literal retread; awkward and off-putting throughout.