The Chicago International Film Festival — A Tenured Champion for Cinematic Excellence — Wraps 57th Iteration

With all due respect to Tinseltown, Chicago has made a few rather significant contributions to the endlessly inspiring world of film.

In fact, famed directors Martin Scorsese and John Carpenter’s breakthroughs share a common thread belonging to none other than Chicagoland.

Opening Night of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival at the Music Box Theatre. Photo by Timothy M. Scmidt.

Carpenter’s “Halloween,” now a worldwide, spine-tingling sensation, earned recognition at the 14th annual Chicago International Film Festival in 1978, while Scorsese’s “I Call First” was nominated for Best Feature at the 1967 festival. 

Chicago International Film Festival Artistic Director Mimi Plauché, BELFAST director Sir Kenneth Branagh, and Chicago International Film Festival Managing Director Vivian Teng. Photo by Barry Brecheisen.

Today, the event — founded in 1964 by filmmaker and graphic artist Michael Kutza — continues to showcase international and independent films, much to the delight of countless theater lovers.

This year, from Oct. 13-24, the 57th annual festival was presented in a hybrid format, bringing audiences together through virtual, drive-in, and in-person screenings and events. At many of the screenings, filmmakers, actors and other special guests from around the world joined in person or virtually to talk about their work and engage with audiences. 

This year’s festival expanded its physical location at the AMC River East in Streeterville to include partner venues in the Loop (Gene Siskel Film Center), Lakeview (Music Box Theatre), Pilsen (ChiTown Movies) and Bronzeville (Parkway Ballroom), and to serve 6,000 audience members in-person.

More than 52 festival films were available virtually and accessed by 18,000 film and culture lovers across portions of the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin). Further, audiences across the U.S. were able to access 10 short film programs.

This year’s special guests included:

Chicago International Film Festival Artistic Director Mimi Plauché, PASSING director Rebecca Hall, and Chicago International Film Festival Managing Director Vivian Teng. Photo by Barry Brecheisen.

Director Rebecca Hall (Artistic Achievement Award)

Director Kenneth Branagh (Lifetime Achievement Award)

Actor Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”)

Actor Harry Shum Jr. (“Broadcast Signal Intrusion”)

Director Mike Mills (virtually, “C’mon C’mon”)

Actor Bill Murray (virtually, “The French Dispatch”)

Director Jesse Moss (“Mayor Pete”)

Director Rebecca Halpern (“Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter”)

Director Holly Morris (“Exposure”)

Director Margaret Byrne (“Any Given Day”)

Directors Gordon Quinn and Leslie Simmer (“For the Left Hand”)

Pianist Norman Malone (“For the Left Hand”)

Farmer Lee Jones (“Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter”)

Chef Norman Van Aken (“Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter”)

Chef Carrie Nahabedian (“Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter”)

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. (“Punch 9 For Harold Washington”)

Champions of support

Director Holly Morris introduces her film at the World Premiere of EXPOSURE. Photo by Dan Hannula.

The 2021 Chicago International Film Festival raised over $22,000 with the aid of a $10,000 match by Make It Better Media Group

Make It Better Media Group, a media partner, and its Founder/Chief Visionary Officer Susan B. Noyes were among this year’s supporters, as were Paul and Ellen Gignilliat, and those behind the John and Jacolyn Bucksbaum Family Foundation.

Major festival sponsors and partners were Goldman Sachs and Xfinity, while festival sponsors were Baker Tilly, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, ComEd, Dark Matter Coffee, Goose Island, Hamilton Watch, Heineken 0.0, Panavision, Light Iron, SAGindie, Serafin & Associates, The Seeker, and William Blair. The official agency was Ogilvy and the official publicity agency was Acacia Consulting Group.

Chicago International Film Festival
Chef Norman Van Aken and Chef Carrie Nahabedian at the World Premiere of LOVE, CHARLIE: THE RISE AND FALL OF CHEF CHARLIE TROTTER. Photo by Timothy M. Schmidt.

Additional supporters were: Chicago Film Office, Consulate General of Canada; Canada Now, Consulate General of Italy, Italian Cultural Institute, Goethe-Institut, Camera Ambassador, Cinelease and HI Chicago. Additional media partners were CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM, WBBM and WTTW. The program is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events

Opening Night screening of THE FRENCH DISPATCH at the 57th Chicago International Film Festival. Photo by Timothy M. Schmidt.

Cinema/Chicago, the presenting organization of the Chicago International Film Festival, enriches the community through year-round programming devoted to international and independent cinema. It strengthens communication and inspires empathy among people of diverse cultures through artistic, educational and creative development programs that promote discovery and discussion, and inspire new visions of our shared future.

To donate today, visit The Chicago Film Festival website.

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