A preview of the Chicago International Film Festival

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






As the summer heat transitions to a cool fall breeze,  big name action-packed showings at your local theater begin to be replaced with more dramas, independent films and art-house flicks.From Sundance to Cannes, the award buzz surrounding films begin to grow as they make their way around every city and country, some premiering for the very first time.

This month Chicagoans will get their first look at a number of potential Oscar-nominated films as they premiere at Chicago’s International Film Festival, the oldest film competition in North America.  From major Hollywood studios to independently produced movies and international foreign language films, every lineup at CIFF has been a diverse and unique experience for every festivalgoer.  Here are five vastly different films premiering this month to check out before their late Oscar buzz draws crowds and prices up at the ticket stand.

All films will be screened at the AMC River East 21 at 322 E. Illinois St. Go to chicagofilmfestival.com for the full schedule.

(Photo courtesy of SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT)

(Photo courtesy of SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT)

La La Land 

Directed by Damien Chazelle

Possibly the most anticipated film playing at CIFF this year, the original musical “La La Land” has gained a wide range of recognition across the world after premiering at festivals in Toronto, Venice, and now opening Chicago’s own festival.  Directed by Damien Chazelle, whose previous film “Whiplash” gained award buzz after premiering at Sundance in 2014 and went on to win three Academy Awards returns again for his first musical.  The film stars Ryan Gosling as a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress, played by Emma Stone, as they both try to make it in the cutthroat world of the entertainment industry.  “La La Land” has earned a safe spot on every list of early Oscar predictions, and the musical is one to look out for in all categories from acting, directing, to original song.

(Photo courtesy of RVK STUDIOS)

(Photo courtesy of RVK STUDIOS)

The Oath

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

With the overwhelming amount of foreign films made that yet never reach American theaters, I’d guess the average American moviegoer has never seen an Icelandic-produced film before.  “The Oath,” directed by Baltasar Kormákur, would be a great place to start.  And though you may not have seen an Icelandic film before, odds are you have seen a film by Baltasar Kormákur, who directed last year’s “Everest,” and was also behind Denzel Washington’s “2 Guns” and Mark Wahlberg’s “Contraband.”  Known for his thrillers, Kormákur returns in “The Oath,” the story of a devoted family man who watches his daughter slip into a world of drugs and crime, and the drastic measures he takes to prevent it.  Besides being an example of Kormákur’s talent behind camera, the Icelandic auteur also stars in the film as well.

(Photo courtesy of TANGERINE ENTERTAINMENT)

(Photo courtesy of TANGERINE ENTERTAINMENT)

The Last Laugh

Directed by Ferne Pearlstein

The documentary category at CIFF is always one of the most interesting, as the films range from historical documentaries, to sports, biographies and as “The Last Laugh” does, comedy too.  Exploring the relation between humor and the Holocaust, “The Last Laugh” looks at whether it’s appropriate and acceptable to make jokes about one of the modern world’s worst horrific tragedies. The documentary not only looks back at films like “Life is Beautiful” and “The Producers” – which joke about Hitler and Nazi Germany – but “The Last Laugh” is also comprised of interviews with Mel Brooks, Rob Reiner, Larry Charles and many other prominent comedians who examine the boundaries, if any, that comedy has.

(Photo courtesy of A24)

(Photo courtesy of A24)

Moonlight

Directed by Barry Jenkins

Premiering under the festival’s Black Perspective category, “Moonlight” spans years of a young African-American man’s life as he struggles to discover who he is and come out to the world.  Carried by the breakout performance of Trevante Rhodes and the direction of Barry Jenkins, the film explores the love and pain of being gay in modern America.  Much like “La La Land,” after premiering at festivals in London and Toronto and gaining undisputable acclaim, “Moonlight” has proved itself to be a serious contender in this year’s award season for acting, directing and writing.  The film is not only one of the most anticipated dramas of the year, but a personal one for many who could connect a story so rarely told but widely experienced.

(Photo courtesy of PARAMOUNT PICTURES)

(Photo courtesy of PARAMOUNT PICTURES)

Arrival

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

If there’s a director on this list that could give Baltasar Kormákur a run for his money on thrilling direction, it’d be Denis Villeneuve, the man behind such tense and mysterious films like last year’s “Sicario,” “Prisoners,” “Enemy” and this year’s “Arrival.”  Closing out the film festival this year, “Arrival” stars Amy Adams as a linguist recruited by the United States military to assist in translating an alien message after their mysterious space craft appears on Earth.  Villeneuve has proved himself to be one of the decade’s most prominent directors when it comes to mesmerizing thrillers and “Arrival”, his biggest film yet, seems to fail to fall short of that.  Although “Arrival” may not be in major contention for the Academy Awards this year, the sight of a good orginal science fiction film is rare enough that it deserves a place on this list.