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Chicago Film Festival 2017
Main Competition Jury: Anne Zohra Berrached, Nick Davis (!), Leticia Dolera, Daniel Dubiecki, Tzi Ma

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 genre—narratively, spatially, and politically—but 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.

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.

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.

They (New Directors/OutLook/City & State; USA, dir. Anahita Ghazvinizadeh) - Equally bold and delicate—itself a feat. Young trans protagonist retains watchful reserve but is very much part of the world.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 clear—maybe too clear? Lensing, acting can be thin, structure episodic. Still worth your time.

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.

Marshall (Opening Night; USA, dir. Reginald Hudlin) - Disheartening that this is the case Hollywood chose to commemorate. Thurgood muted. Bad lensing. Boseman, Brown stranded.

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