The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

From the silver screen to the city streets

Opening Night Block Party kicks off 59th annual Chicago International Film Festival
Una Cleary
Living Thing band preforms at the Chicago International Film Festival Block Party. Among food venues, and the red carpet the outdoor venue provides live music for attendees.

The Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) brought the lights, cameras and action from the big screen to the Southport corridor for their Opening Night Block Party Oct. 11. 

The second annual event helped celebrate the film festival’s 59th year in Chicago, kicking off 11 days of international film screenings and industry events outside the Music Box Theatre. Party attendees saw featured short films on an outdoor screen, live music from Chicago artists, a red carpet for filmmakers and enjoyed food and crafts from local vendors.

“It’s great being outside and seeing a lot of people and a lot of excitement going around,” said CIFF volunteer Hugo Nugraha. “It’s an odd and interesting experience because I go to the Music Box quite often but I’ve never seen this much energy outside the theater.”

We Grown Now” marked the festival’s opening night screening and the film’s U.S. premiere, with an in-person Q&A from director Minhal Baig afterward. The film tells the story of 12-year-old boys Malik and Eric experiencing childhood in the infamous Chicago Cabrini-Green housing complex in the early 90s. 

Festival attendees Forrest Parks and Rosalba Garibay viewed the screening after learning about the movie from friends and professionals in the city’s film industry. 

Parks and Garibay said they wanted to support more projects from filmmakers of color in the city, leading them to Baig’s social media promoting “We Grown Now.” Garibay said Chicago’s untold stories and histories need to be shared internationally, not just within the surrounding communities. 

(Right) Claude-Aline Nazarine-Miller, director of 376 Days (Nick Cave:Keep it Movin’) and Alan Cave pose at the Chicago International Film Festival’s Block Party red carpet on Oct. 11. The short film take viewers on an intimate exploration of artist Nick Cave’s life. (Una Cleary)

“To have stories right here from home feels really important,” Parks said. “I’ve always seen really beautiful, impactful stories that aren’t told on the mainstage or the big screen. To have a festival that’s world-renowned here in Chicago means we’re seeing and sharing all of these stories that need to be heard.”

DePaul junior Audrey Webber attended the Opening Night Block Party and said there were noticeably more people and vendors than last year’s event. As a film major with a concentration in cinematography, Webber said the party helped give them insight into the film industry they hope to work in after graduation.

“It’s really nice to have bigger events like this that bring attention to the filmmaking community in the city, especially as it’s getting built up right now,” Webber said. “For this only being the second year [of the block party,] it’s pretty impressive for what they’re able to put together.”

This is Nugraha’s first time experiencing the block party but his third year volunteering at CIFF. Besides working the booths, interacting with vendors and meeting movie-goers in the theater, Nugraha said CIFF gave him a better understanding and appreciation of film festivals and international movies.

The Music Box theatre in Lakeview showed the viewing of “We Grown Now,” at the Chicago International Film Festival Block Party on Oct. 11. (Una Cleary)

“I feel like being in the [United States], people here only watch Hollywood movies,” Nugraha said. “Then I come here and I get to meet so many people who only watch international movies. It’s really nice being able to interact with those kinds of film people and see their outlooks on different things here and abroad.”

The block party did not give all community members a reason to celebrate. Lakeview resident Meredith Miklasz walked past the Music Box Theater on their way to the Southport Jewel Osco, unaware of the celebration. Miklasz said the road closures and sidewalk blockades marking the block party boundaries interrupted their routine trip to the grocery store. 

“I’m all here for the arts and film but it’s kind of confusing that there was no signage to warn residents that live in the area,” Miklasz said. “It’s just a question of why here and why now on a Wednesday night when I just want to cook pasta.”

Miklasz said the event seemed interesting, but the Lakeview neighborhood might not be the right place to showcase the international element of the festival due to its majority white demographic. 

“It’d be cool to bring the arts to a less white, Caucasian and affluent neighborhood,” Miklasz said.

According to a Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning study, the Lakeview neighborhood’s racial makeup is nearly 76% white. The same data set determined that only 33% of Chicago’s population is white. 

“Maybe do it somewhere different that deserves the spotlight and where the community actually needs the money and publicity of such a cool event,” Milklasz said. “Chicago is such an amazingly multicultural city and we have tons of neighborhoods that reflect that internationalism more.”

CIFF volunteer Lily Wood said that her second year working at the festival allows her to watch great movies and network with industry professionals. Wood is a sophomore at Columbia College majoring in film and said she volunteered for more than 40 hours during last year’s festival. She said seeing more international movies lets her compare filmmaking styles from different countries as she learns from filmmakers who speak at the various screenings.

“The festival has definitely opened my eyes to films in different countries,” Wood said. “It’s fascinating to see the directors, getting to know their process and how that differs from country to country.”

The festival runs from Oct. 11-22 at various movie theaters across the city, including AMC Newcity, the Gene Siskel Film Center and the Chicago History Museum. This year’s film lineup boasts screenings of Studio Ghibli’s new movie “The Boy and the Heron,” “Saltburn” from director Emerald Fennell and “The Bikeriders” with Austin Butler and Tom Hardy.

“I’ve been living in Chicago for six years now and it’s hard to miss the film festival,” Nughara said. “The block party and festival are great ways to meet people from different parts of the world and to watch different types of movies than what I watch on a regular basis. It’s something new every time.”

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