Joy – The Hate U Give – Icebergs – La Chute (The Fall) – Jumpman – Birds of Passage – Alberto García-Alix: The Shadow Line

Chicago Film Festival 2018
Main Competition Jury: Pablo Berger, Diego Lerman, Asli Özge, Andrea Pallaoro, Regina Taylor


Click here for my full overview of this year's Chicago Film Festival at Film Comment Magazine.

Gold Hugo of the Festival:Happy as Lazzaro, Italy, dir. Alice Rohrwacher
Silver Hugo:Joy, Austria, dir. Sudabeh Mortezai
Best Director:Ash Is Purest White, Jia Zhangke
Best Actress:Ash Is Purest White, Zhao Tao
Best Actor:Before the Frost, Jesper Christensen
Best Screenplay:At War, Stéphane Brizé and Olivier Gorce
Best Cinematography:Birds of Passage, David Gallego
Best Art Direction:Birds of Passage, Angélica Parea
 
DocuFest Gold Hugo*:
 
[Censored], Australia, dir. Sari Braithwaite
Docufest Silver Hugo*:Ex-Shaman, Brazil, dir. Luiz Bolognesi
The Raft, Sweden, dir. Marcus Lindeen
 
New Directors Gold Hugo*:
 
The Third Wife, Vietnam, dir. Ash Mayfair
New Directors Silver Hugo*:The Mercy of the Jungle, Belgium/France/Rwanda, dir. Joël Karekezi
 
Q Hugo Award*:
 
Retablo, Peru/Germany/Norway, dir. Alvaro Delgado Aparicio
Q Hugo Silver Hugo*:Rafiki, Kenya, dir. Wanuri Kahiu
Q Hugo Special Mention*:Hard Paint, Brazil, dirs. Filipe Matzembacher, Marcio Reolon
 
Founder's Award:
 
Beautiful Boy, Felix van Groeningen
Roger Ebert Award:Little Tickles, France, dirs, Andréa Bescond, Eric Métayer
Audience Choice Award (Narrative)**: 
The Hate U Give, dir. George Tillman, Jr.
Audience Choice Award (International)**: 
Becoming Astrid, dir. Pernille Fischer Christensen
Audience Choice Award (DocuFest)**:United Skates, dirs. Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown
 
* 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 Vote for the Gold Hugo

Happy as Lazzaro (International Competition; Italy, dir. Alice Rohrwacher) - A kinder, gentler Time of the Wolf. Sounds like a paradox? Well, Rohrwacher sees things that you and I don't see.

Extremely Strong

ROMA (Gala Presentations; Mexico, dir. Alfonso Cuarón) - Cuarón's a prodigy of world-building. Strains a bit more at characterization. All holds true in this textured memory-play.

Shoplifters (Masters; Japan, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda) - Films are like families—each scene, each member stands delicately, distinctively apart, yet they're all tightly bound.

Shorts 3: Bad Don't Sleep – After Dark (Shorts; US/Greece/Canada/France, dirs. Miscellaneous) - Amazingly high quality! La Chute, Icebergs, Milk, Hair Wolf are all peaks. Rangy angles on fear and anxiety.

Joy (International Competition; Austria, dir. Sudabeh Mortezai) - With strong images and agile play with structure, shows personal and systemic sides of overlooked yet all-too-common dilemmas.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Gala Presentations; USA, dir. Marielle Heller) - So layered! Tonally adroit. Perfectly acted. Historically specific. Love of words as dangerous siren.

Highly Recommended

Ash Is Purest White (International Competition; China, dir. Jia Zhangke) - I dug the knotting-together of personal and national melodrama, even amid blunter moments. Zhao is remarkable.

Jumpman (International Competition; Russia, dir. Ivan I. Tverdovskiy) - Premise is so gutsy and edge-of-the-seat intense, it barely hurts the film that it doesn't push the story further forward.

At War (International Competition; France, dir. Stéphane Brizé) - Labor drama with deft character study. Lindon gives an oppositely but equally powerful performance to his last for Brizé.

The Hate U Give (Gala Presentations; USA, dir. George Tillman, Jr.) - Bold, admirably relentless commitment to ideas and worldviews it makes accessible to a wide audience. Go see it!

Vox Lux (Gala Presentations; USA, dir. Brady Corbet) - Artpop². Unafraid. Tries to think historically about an era that repudiates history—without making pop something it's not.

Recommended

The Favourite (Gala Presentations; Ireland/UK/USA, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos) - Bold tone and craft, dumb lenses aside. I vacillated on the story's merits. Colman is amazing, diving ever-deeper.

Border (International Competition; Sweden, dir. Ali Abbasi) - I'm surprised at my own enthusiasm? It's a textbook case of committing to the bizarro story you're telling. I was so moved!

Birds of Passage (International Competition; Colombia/Mexico/Denmark/France, dirs. Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra) - A bold gangster drama, unique in many aspects, yet disconcertingly loyal to tropes you might expect it to contest.

Cold War (Masters; Poland/France, dir. Paweł Pawlikowski) - About art and money, East and West, earnest love and performative gamesmanship. It's chic but I didn't care all that much.

Widows (Gala Presentations; USA, dir. Steve McQueen) - Propulsive Chicago crime thriller; action climax goes off like an IED. Unevenly completes its passes at social critique.

Buy Me a Gun (World Cinema; Mexico/Colombia, dir. Julio Hernández Cordón) - Less Huck Finn, more Beasts of the Dystopian Wild. Collapsed world viewed inductively from defiantly odd perspectives.

Sorry Angel (World Cinema; France, dir. Christophe Honoré) - Honoré on another roundelay of connections, disruptions, shifting orientations. Deepens and solidifies as it continues.

Hard Paint (World Cinema; Brazil, dirs. Filipe Matzembacher, Marcio Reolon) - Study of depression, personal or urban, and a web-era allegory where desires and personal brands are sources of anxiety.

Sauvage (World Cinema; France, dir. Camille Vidal-Naquet) - Despite ultimately limited insights, offers a tactile, textured survey of a rough milieu, staged and acted with conviction.

Srbenka (Documentary Competition; Croatia, dir. Nebojša Slijepčević) - Not the first bold movie, pressing on raw nerves, of which you can't help imagining an even bolder, more trenchant version.

As I Lay Dying (New Directors Competition; Iran, dir. Mostafa Sayyari) - Carries Faulkner's legacy into unusual terrain, even/especially by Iran's standards. Style less distinct than story.

My Home, in Libya (Documentary Competition; Italy, dir. Martina Melilli) - On-screen text and other tricks feel rote at first but the encounter between Martina and Mahmoud keeps deepening.

The Shadow Line: Alberto García-Alix (Documentary; Spain, dir. Nicolás Combarro) - Interesting fusion of subject and maker's aesthetics. Neat study of photos both taken and not.

Boy Erased (Gala Presentations; USA, dir. Joel Edgerton) - Not a mold-breaker aesthetically, but a moving story with a deep acting bench. Ends on rare mix of anger and compassion.

Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland (Documentary; USA, dirs. Kate Davis, David Heilbroner) - Doesn't always exhibit perfect structure or story sense but trusts its own power.

Mixed Bags

Transit (International Competition; Germany/France, dir. Christian Petzold) - Experiments with deadpan surrealism, historical dislocation start strong but peter out. I've grown impatient with Petzold.

Rafiki (World Cinema; Kenya, dir. Wanuri Kahiu) - Still hard not to feel the first half sets up a more complex story than the second half delivers. But plenty to recommend.

What They Had (Gala Presentations; USA, dir. Elizabeth Chomko) - Camera feels flat and sound is worse, but the actors keep finding truths about this family, and families in general.

This Changes Everything (Documentary; USA, dir. Tom Donahue) - Formally modest doc about fighting sexist working norms in Hollywood hits a lot of its rhetorical targets.

Beautiful Boy (Opening Night; USA, dir. Felix van Groeningen) - Has some tough ideas for conveying addiction but directorial missteps increasingly unravel them. Actors look unsure.

Mario (World Cinema; Switzerland, dir. Marcel Gisler) - Liebe, Simon. It's fine, with a smart final shot, but if soccer's all risk and intricate maneuvers, why shouldn't cinema be?

Not Recommended

[Censored] (Documentary Competition; Australia, dir. Sari Braithwaite) - Strenuously claims to bring some critical or ethical frames to a fund of lurid footage that it mostly just recirculates.


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