|Chicago Film Festival 2016
Main Competition Jury: Geraldine Chaplin (president), Chin Han, Yulene Olaizola Léon, Juan Taratuto, David Verbeek
Click here for my full write-up of the festival for Film Comment!
|Gold Hugo of the Festival:||Sieranevada, Romania, dir. Cristi Puiu|
|Silver Hugo:||The Salesman, Iran, dir. Asghar Farhadi|
|Best Director:||Sieranevada, Romania, Cristi Puiu|
|Best Actress:||Christine, Rebecca Hall|
|Best Actor:||Graduation, Adrian Titieni|
|Best Screenplay:||Graduation, Cristian Mungiu|
|Best Cinematography:||The Last Family, Kacper Fertacz|
|Best Art Direction:||The Last Family, Jagna Janicka|
DocuFest Gold Hugo*:
Samuel in the Clouds, The Netherlands/Belgium/Bolivia, dir. Pieter van Eecke
|Docufest Silver Hugo*:||Where You're Meant to Be, UK, dir. Paul Fegan|
New Directors Gold Hugo*:
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, Finland, dir. Juho Kuosmanen
|New Directors Silver Hugo*:||Fado, Germany/Portugal, dir. Jonas Rothlaender|
Q Hugo Award*:
Heartstone, Iceland, dir. Guðmunder Amar Guðmundsson
|Q Hugo Silver Hugo*:||Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo, France, dirs. Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau|
Paradise, Andrei Konchalovsky
|Roger Ebert Award:||Kills on Wheels, Hungary, dir. Attila Till|
|Audience Choice Award (Narrative)**:|| |
Lion, Australia/India, dir. Garth Davis
Moonlight, USA, dir. Barry Jenkins
|Audience Choice Award (DocuFest)**:|| |
I Am Not Your Negro, Switzerland/France/Belgium/UK, dir. Raoul Peck
* 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
Raising Bertie A (Documentary/Black Perspectives/City & State; USA, dir. Margaret Byrne) -
Personal and systemic travails of poor black teens and their rural community, conveyed with candor and compassion.
Moonlight A (Special Presentations/Black Perspectives; USA, dir. Barry Jenkins) -
Black men, queer and not, claim space at the unlikely cross of Malick, Wong, Denis. Focused, elliptical, frank, oceanic.
Do Not Resist A (Documentary; USA, dir. Craig Atkinson) -
Brilliantly mixed and shot documentary. A case against police militarization as hard and compact as a blood diamond.
Fire at Sea A (Documentary; USA, dir. Gianfranco Rosi) -
Direct chronicle of refugees' ordeals is predictably harrowing. Quotidian survey of their destination oddly haunting.
24 Weeks A (Main Competition; Germany, dir. Anne Zohra Berrached) -
Layered, moving drama about a mother-to-be contemplating an abortion refuses to simplify dilemmas or sell out characters.
Starless Dreams A (Documentary; Iran, dir. Mehrdad Oskouei) -
Documentary about teenaged female prisoners in Iran all the more haunting for its varied and lively depictions.
Elle A (Special Presentations; France, dir. Paul Verhoeven) -
A combustion engine. Pure bad taste is its fossil fuel, but it's hard to be angry because it produces such unexpected art.
The Salesman A (Main Competition; Iran, dir. Asghar Farhadi) -
Complex story about sexual assault and mercenary prosecution is also a deft meditation on identity as a performance.
Neruda B+ (World Cinema/Cinema of the Americas; Chile, dir. Pablo Larraín) -
Martyrdom and persecution, reciprocally embellishing each other. Larraín's heady concepts as twisty and tight as a knot.
Wolf and Sheep B+ (New Directors Competition; Afghanistan, dir. Shahrbanoo Sadat) -
Afghani woman's tantalizing debut merges documentary and dreamscape elements into a coherent and controlled whole.
Panamerican Machinery B+ (World Cinema/Cinema of the Americas; Mexico, dir. Joaquin del Paso) -
Sort of a Lanthimos take on Mexican factory-floor malaise, or High-Rise with more tricky feelings and tones.
Crosscurrent B+ (World Cinema; China, dir. Chao Yang) -
Mark Lee Ping Bin, who deserves a Nobel in cinema, shot this agnostic epic about poetry and industry in modern China.
Kati Kati B+ (World Cinema/Black Perspectives; Kenya/Germany, dir. Mbithi Masya) -
Finally, a fresh take on how the afterlife might look and feel, and a welcome case of African film in speculative mode.
A Quiet Passion B+ (Special Presentations; UK, dir. Terence Davies) -
Divisive for good reasons, but I segued from deep frustration to finding it Davies's boldest and best in 25 years.
Sieranevada B+ (Main Competition; Romania, dir. Cristi Puiu) -
Pulls into its lane early. Course stays pretty consistent but the cast and camera negotiate it expertly. Very assured.
A Mere Breath B+ (Documentary Competition; Romania, dir. Monica Lãzurean-Gorgan) -
Coolly watchful camera sees a family held together and pulled apart by father's faith that God will heal disability.
Samuel in the Clouds B+ (Documentary Competition; Bolivia, dir. Pieter Van Eecke) -
Mutedly scary climate-change chronicle, as an aging Bolivian ski-lift operator sees the sun bake his slope.
Girls Don't Fly B+ (Documentary Competition/Black Perspectives; Germany/Austria, dir. Monika Grassl) -
Inspiring tale of outside-the-box philanthropy becomes one of cynical exploitation. Sad, but sharp and observant.
Malaria B (World Cinema; Iran, dir. Parviz Shahbazi) -
Lovers-on-the-run drama builds impressive tension and rich character detail, especially around its edges. Why not released?
Paradise B (Main Competition; Russia/Germany, dir. Andrei Konchalovsky) -
Retains a noble austerity despite some showy directorial conceits. A few generic turns and figures. Vysotskaya very good.
The Swedish Theory of Love B (Documentary Competition; Sweden, dir. Erik Gandini) -
Drolly undermines myth of Sweden as an unusually socialized society, with melancholic undertows as well.
Kékszakállú B (World Cinema/Cinema of the Americas; Argentina, dir. Gastón Solnicki) -
Rides a line between dull and slowly engrossing, enigmatic and insubstantial, but I appreciated its formal innovations.
Santa y Andrés B (New Directors Competition/Cinema of the Americas; Cuba, dir. Carlos Lechuga) -
Before Night Falls, minus flash or flesh. Kiss of the Spider Woman with fewer fantasies. Smart political two-hander.
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds B (Documentary; USA, dirs. Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens) -
As fun as you want a Debbie Reynolds-Carrie Fisher hangout to be; poignant, too, on aging, fame, and mental illness.
Layla M. B (Main Competition; The Netherlands, dir. Mijke de Jong) -
Not novel filmmaking but captures radicalism and ambivalence in its teenaged Dutch-Moroccan heroine. El Koussour great.
I, Daniel Blake B (Special Presentations; UK, dir. Ken Loach) -
"I, Ken Loach, have never wavered in my politics and maybe I don't modulate each scene but this is who I fuckin' am."
Being 17 B (World Cinema/OutLook Competition; France, dir. André Téchiné) -
Didn't love the lighting. Plot forced at times. Core cadre of actors and sensitive script and direction still carry it.
Raw B (After Dark; France, dir. Julia Ducournau) -
Premise and style both present as tours de forcemaybe too self-consciously so. Very compelling surface. But what lies beneath?
Mirzya B (Special Presentations; India, dir. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra) -
Extravagant and dopey more than once, but if this is your aesthetic, the sounds and spectacles are riveting on a big screen.
Among Wolves B (Documentary Competition/City & State; USA/Germany/Bosnia Herzegovina, dir. Shawn Convey) -
Pushed my thinking about bikers more than about Bosnia. Resonances definitely accrete; still needs trim and focus.
Karl Marx City B (Documentary Competition; Germany, dirs. Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker) -
Co-director investigates whether her late father was a Stasi informant. Alternates between the general and personal.
La La Land B (Opening Night; USA, dir. Damien Chazelle) -
Stone, Gosling are assets, increasingly. Really disliked the lighting and look. Chazelle shows off at his own expense.
Christine B (Main Competition; USA, dir. Antonio Campos) -
Solid, absorbing, but like Christine it works very hard at obvious goals without illuminating enough. Dizzia a standout.
Christine B (After Dark/Cinema of the Americas; Mexico, dir. Emiliano Rocha Minter) -
Salò meets The Descent? The ogre chapter of Holy Motors as Mexican horror porn? Gross, but stylish and pointed.
American Anarchist B (Documentary; USA, dir. Charlie Siskel) -
Documentary about William Powell, the author of the infamous Anarchist Cookbook, who is slowly grasping the scope of his book's influence.
93 Days B (World Cinema/Black Perspectives; Nigeria, dir. Steve Gukas) -
Big-budget, internationally funded Nigerian Ebola drama lands some strong emotional beats but often feels crude and hasty.
Staying Vertical B (World Cinema/OutLook Competition; France, dir. Alain Guiraudie) -
Another study of abject desire, but entropic where Stranger by the Lake was demonically controlled. I feel mixed.
Are We Not Cats B (New Directors Competition; USA, dir. Xander Robin) -
Marches to the beat of its ownlitterbox? That makes no sense. Often the movie doesn't, either. But it's unique.
Strike a Pose B (Documentary/OutLook Competition; USA, dirs. Ester Gould, Reijer Zwann) -
Meaningful to fans, and to the subjects. Moving tribute to living with HIV and surviving bad years. Otherwise? Fine.
Where You're Meant to Be B (Documentary Competition; UK, dir. Paul Fegan) -
Intended tribute to The Old Ways comes through in flashes but decks feel stacked, the direction too smug.
Ministry of Love B (World Cinema; Croatia, dir. Pavo Marinković) -
Peculiar Croatian comedy about investigating widows' claims on government funds feels a draft away from liftoff.
Heartstone C+ (New Directors Competition/OutLook Competition; Iceland, dir. Guðmunder Amar Guðmundsson) -
Sympathetically in touch with pubescent romantic and sexual confusion, but too vague in insight and style, and too long.
Finals C+ (New Directors Competition; Iran, dir. Adel Yaraghi) -
Iranian drama, coscripted by Kiarostami, strains for a level of multi-sided domestic tension that for me it rarely attains.
Prevenge C+ (After Dark; UK, dir. Alice Lowe) -
Pregnant Alice Lowe directs herself as a woman gestating an audible, murder-minded fetus. Yep. The fun slowly winds down.
Illegitimate C+ (World Cinema; Romania, dir. Adrian Sitaru) -
Romanian actors never let you down, but script and direction often did. Weird points of emphasis. Ending falls flat.
The Daughter C+ (World Cinema/Cinema of the Americas; Argentina, dir. Luis Sampieri) -
The protest of classed and gendered exploitation is so clearly conveyed as to risk seeming familiar and predictable.
The Darkness C+ (After Dark/Cinema of the Americas; Mexico, dir. Daniel Castro Zimbrón) -
Folks keep reproducing these restricted-location postapocalyptic mood-piece thrillers, and they're usually identical.
Fado C (New Directors Competition; Germany, dir. Jonas Rothlaender) -
Can't work out what the CIFF jury saw in this tale of extreme sexual jealousy, which seemed as narrow and stunted as its lead.
Festival titles I saw before CIFF: I Promise You Anarchy, Things to Come
Festival titles I saw after CIFF: Arrival, The Eyes of My Mother, Graduation, The Handmaiden, I Am Not Your Negro, Jackie, Lion, Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo, Paterson