The Fifty-First annual Chicago International Film Festival Red Carpet Review - Great Films Ahead

Festival Staff on Opening Night

Christopher Abbott and Josh Mond on Opening Night, Photo credit: Robert Martinez

The Fifty-First annual Chicago International Film Festival opened Thursday night, October 15, 2015, with a walk of dignitaries at Roosevelt University’s  Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, Chicago. Sometimes known as “Chicago’s 8th wonder of the world”, and completed in 1889, the structure was designed by the brilliant team of architect Louis Sullivan and engineer Dankmar Adler.  Down the red carpet strolled a cast of festival dignitaries and guests, jurors and youthful award winners, directors, actors and sponsors. The assembled press had the opportunity to question them; some of their responses follow:

Festival Artistic Director Michael Kutza, who founded the first festival in 1964, was asked whether he ever dreamed that someday it would grow to become internationally acclaimed and become the longest running and oldest competitive film festival in North America. He exclaimed, “No way!” Kutza, himself a filmmaker, said that “this is a director’s festival, with the filmmakers as the stars”.

Michael Kutza and Agnes Varda on Opening Night, Red Carpet

Mimi Plauche’, programming director of this year’s festival, advised that the festival screened 2500 films before narrowing the selections down to 400. She wouldn’t, of course, actually name her personal favorite, but did note that sometimes a film shown by an industry newcomer surprises everybody, and mentioned that one of the most cinematically lovely films submitted would be shown in the Spotlight: Architecture+Space+Design program, put on in conjunction with Chicago’s Architectural Biennial. The Spotlight will feature a discussion with architect Helmut Jahn, who, predictably, was questioned about his much-criticized Thompson Center, which he designed, and which currently faces sale or demolition. Jahn stated that “Governor Thompson made the right decisions at the time’, and further stated, “I am not a janitor”.

Helmut Jahn on Opening Night, Red Carpet

Agnes Varda, a renowned French director and visual artist, sometimes called “the grandmother of the French New Wave”, and in town since October 8 as part of a week-long celebration of her work at the University  of Chicago, was thronged by the reverential press. She recalled that when she screened her own first film, there were only 6 “indie’s” shown that year; at the most recent Sundance Festival, there were 4000 such submissions. She called the festival “a feast of film”, and said she became determined to appear after seeing the festival’s iconic logo, the eyes of silent screen legend, Theda Bara.

Chaz Ebert on the Opening Night Red Carpet, Photo credit: Robert Martinez

Chaz Ebert, wife of beloved Chicago-based film critic Roger Ebert, (deceased 2013), who was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, and the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, was asked what she would look for in a film to win this year’s Roger Ebert Award, Presented to an emerging filmmaker competing in the New Director’s Competition, whose film presents a fresh uncompromising vision, this award was created in 2014. She replied at length, eloquently and emphatically, stating that she herself wants to celebrate those works of art that demonstrate a triumph of the human spirit, films that inspire hope, and further empathy and compassion.

Terisa Griffin Opening Night Performance

The runway event was followed by a musical performance by Chicagoan Terisa Griffin, whose musical beginnings were rooted in rhythm and blues, as well as a montage of upcoming film highlights, a screening of “Mia Madre”, starring John Turturro, and a cocktail reception at Hotel Wit.

Festival Jury on Opening Night, Red Carpet

The festival will run through August 29, including a four day Industry Days Program, which will run October 22 through 25. All 120 films open to the public will be shown at the AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois Street . Individual tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster. The Festival Box Office is open Monday through Friday, 10 AM to 6Pm; the Festival Hotline # is 3123323456. Get your tickets early!


CineYouth Winners Jordan Blazak and Alan Dembec

Photo credit: Timothy M Schmidt unless otherwise indicated











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