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6 Movie Summaries Review-Selections From Chicago's Ongoing Film Festival

By Debra Davy

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This reviewer recently viewed 6 films from 7 different categories as part of the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival. This article presents capsule summaries of these films.

Festival logo poster; image courtesy of Ollie Boyd


From the categories “World Cinema” and Black Perspectives”, from Nigeria, the film “93” Days, directed by Steve Gukas:

This movie is dedicated to Dr. Ameyo (Stella) Adadevoh, the Nigerian physician who discovered and quarantined the index case of Ebola in Nigeria, brought in by American-Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer. She and her colleagues at “First Consultants Medical Center”, by personally caring for this difficult patient helped  to contain the epidemic; Dr. Adadevoh and three others  gave their lives in the process. Starring Bimbo Akintola, Danny Glover, Gideon Okele and Bimbo Manuel, it is a heartwarming and engaging look at what can be accomplished when people from different countries and different political persuasions within the same country work together toward a common goal that is more important than any single person or faction.


Shot in and around the teeming city of Lagos, home to 21 million people, it portrayed with breath-catching pathos how “an event can change your life forever”. The audience suffers and rejoices along with the team of doctors, nurses, and helpers, played by Danny Glover as head of First Consultants. A core cast of Nigerian actors portrayed how these health care providers worked closely with the Lagos State Government, Federal Government, World Health Organization and other groups to avert catastrophe and support each other through quarantine and death. As was explained at the end, “Nigeria decided it would not fail”.

From "93 Days"


From the categories “Documentary and “Black Perspectives”, from the U.S., “Raising Bertie”, directed by Margaret Byrne:

Bertie County, North Carolina is home to an impoverished underclass living within a 100-mile radius of 27 different penal facilities. This lovingly produced yet unflinchingly shot film- compliments to director of photography Jon Stuyvesant- follows 3 young black men over a 6-year period, as they deal with the relationships between themselves, their community, their families, and their scant educational and employment opportunities. Made by Chicago’s own Kartemquin Films, it stars Reginald “Junior” Askew, David “Bud” Perry, and Davorite “Dada” Harrell, 3 young men coming of age in a difficult time and place. They make the most of their limited circumstances and remain true to themselves, their homes, their children and their ideals of love and work with dignity and fortitude. The film was shot prior to devastation in the area caused most recently by Tropical Storm Julia and Hurricane Matthew. Following the recent sold-out screening at the Chicago International Film Festival, the filmmakers discussed these recent tragedies and how to help with the post-flooding efforts.

From "Raising Bertie"


From the category “U.S. Indies”, from the U.S., “Middle Man”, directed by Chicago-based filmmaker Ned Crowley:

A nerdy accountant, played by Jim O’Heir, who has dreamed of becoming a comedian quits his job when his mother dies and goes to Las Vegas to make his dream come true. Unfortunately, he meets a homicidal hitchhiker who lures him into a killing spree filled with unexpected results- it makes him funny and brings him romance. Also starring Andrew West, Anne Dudek and Josh McDermitt, this is truly a black comedy. It provides sophisticated and dark humor at the expense of more than a few murders, most of which the audience applauds. Indeed, the movie opens with a quote from the vilified and infamous American comic Fatty Arbuckle, “no price is too high for a good laugh”. The  grimly madcap characters include a brilliant performance by Tracey Walters as a ventriloquist priest- the “dummy” is a  large Christ doll on a cross, and an equally stellar acting  job by Chad Donella as a nitwit sheriff’s deputy. There is a strong edge to the fun – the dialogue is witty and sarcastic in the extreme with a strong film noir flavor, and  the cinematography is almost blindingly stark- we are spared nothing. Also, the film is replete with an underlying acerbic look at what we will all do for our shot at fame.

From "Middle Man"


From the category “New Directors”, from the U.S.,Are We Not Cats”, directed by Xander Robin:

After losing his job, his girlfriend and his home on the same day, a young man suffering from an unusual habit meets a woman who shares his strange behavior;  they both eat their own hair.  However, while he chews on single strands from his beard, she strips them both all but bald, making herself very sick in the process. Starring Michael Patrick Nicholson and Chelsea LJ Lopez as two post-modern refugees from the popular crowd who discover a form of love and self-sacrifice in a hard and unromantic world. This is a surprisingly tender look at young “faceless” sex and love. Remarkably, in the space of slightly over one hour, we come to truly care about these people. The final events are bizarre and difficult to watch,  yet they leave us with a sense of real admiration for the integrity of this strange duo.

From "Are We Not Cats"


From the category “After Dark”, from the U.K, “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”, directed by Andre Ovredal:

Father and son coroners Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch conduct an autopsy on a beautiful young woman found at a mysterious homicide scene. What her body reveals is increasingly weird, and the premises are soon subject to a terrifying series of gory attacks. While the premise is fairly staid, unbelievable and all-too- pat- (a Salem-era young woman is tortured as a witch and wreaks a vicious revenge on the world)- the extremely vivid cinematography and effects produce a really scary and suspenseful vision of gruesome horror.

From "The Autopsy of Jane Doe"


From the category “Special Presentations”, from the U.K, “A Quiet Passion”, directed by Terence Davies:

A biographical account of the life of Emily Dickonson, starring Cynthia Nixon as the poet, Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff and Keith Carradine. This film was a poetic vision unto itself, a lyrical example of historical cinema at it’s best. Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography produced a crisp depiction of New England life. Cynthia Nixon led the cast with an incandescent portrait of a woman with an indomitable will who suffered the misogyny of the time in a particularly cruel way. Cast into self-imposed spinsterhood due to her inability to suffer the subjugation of marriage, she was also denied the comforts of recognition for her considerable genius. Carradine does a remarkable job as her stern but loving father who remonstrates with her forthright public comments on her very own brand of reloigius observance while allowing her to burn the midnight oil reading and writing. Kudos to Jennifer Ehle who portrays Dickinson’s beloved sister with a sweet yet knowing supportiveness. The remainder of the cast were uniformly excellent as well. The film should be considered a masterpiece in the great British tradition.

From "A Quiet Passion"


All films screened at the film festival were shown at the host venue, AMC River East 21, 325 E. Illinois Street.

The festival runs through October 27, 2016- there is still time to see some great movies! For information and tickets, go to the Chicago Film Festival website

All photos courtesy of Chicago International Film Festival-Cinema/Chicago









Published on Oct 26, 2016

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