Dispatch: Chicago Film Festival opens with a week of tributes and films, live and virtual

This is the first weekend of the 58th Chicago International Film Festival, with films playing at AMC River East 21 and the Gene Siskel Film Center, plus one at the Chicago History Museum. A virtual selection of films and short films is also available via the festival’s streaming platform. This week, three special tribute events will honor Kathryn Hahn with a Professional Achievement Award, Anna Diop with a Rising Star Award, and Jonathan Majors with an Artistic Achievement Award. All festival information is here and tickets for in-person and streaming films are available here.

Hahn’s award will be presented on Tuesday, October 18 during the 8 p.m. program which will feature the screening of the film Centerpiece, Glass onion: a mystery at loggerheads. Hahn portrays Claire Debella, Governor of Connecticut running for the U.S. Senate. She is currently working on the Hulu limited series, The beautiful thingsbased on the novel of the same name by Cheryl Strayed.

Diop, a Senegalese-American actress, brings nuance and depth to her interpretation of Aïcha, an immigrant to New York, in NannyNikyatu Jusu’s thriller, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Nanny will open in theaters in November. The tribute presentation and screening of the film will take place at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 21 at AMC River East 21.

Majors will receive the Artistic Achievement Award on Saturday, October 22 with the screening of Dedication, in which he plays the first black in the history of the US Navy to become a fighter pilot. Majors caught the eye in the 2019 film, San Francisco’s Last Black Manthen in the HBO series, “Lovecraft Country”, as well as Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. The tribute presentation and screening of Dedication are at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at AMC River East 21.

The virtual festival offers a selection of 20 feature films and nine short films to audiences in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana through the festival’s online streaming platform and festival apps for Roku and Apple TV. Virtual screenings are chargeable and streaming films will be viewable until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, October 23. Virtual tickets are available on the ticketing page.

Here are some brief movie reviews to watch this week.

How to blow up a pipeline

A group of young environmental/eco-terrorist activists (depending on your stance on certain environmental issues) gather from different parts of the country at an oilfield in Texas with plans to blow up a major pipeline and disrupt the price of oil to attract oil. pay attention to their cause. Director Daniel Goldhaber (Cam) stages its film as a thriller heist, complete with flashbacks for each of its characters to better understand what made them want to take action, ranging from pollution actually giving one of the activists a rare and deadly disease to the government using eminent domain to seize property from a family that has been on their land for generations. They even devise a way where only a few of them take responsibility for the crime, if they succeed, which is never a guarantee considering how green everyone is in terms of committing acts destructive on this scale. Perhaps more annoying How to blow up a pipeline (Based on the book of the same name by Andreas Malm), as the title suggests, looks like an instructional video you might find on the internet, which makes us wonder if this film could also inspire young activists to improve their destruction game.

Standout players include band leader Xochitl (Ariela Barer), the sick gambler with nothing to lose (Sasha Lane) and Dwayne, the slightly older Texan who just wants to keep the land for his family (Jake Weary). There are also some nice twists and unexpected elements in the film involving the FBI that probably weren’t necessary, but add something substantial to the overall plot. The movie is meant to feel too fair and tends not to judge the players, their motives, or their actions. It’s a solid and surprising thriller. (Steve Prokopy)

The film will screen at 7:45 p.m. today, Saturday, October 15, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and at 8 p.m. Sunday, October 16, at AMC River East.

The lost king. Image courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival.

The lost king

Based on the true story of Philippa Langley (portrayed here by Sally Hawkins), The lost king follows a Scottish woman’s quest to find purpose in her life, after she is once again turned down for a promotion at her job. Lacking in self-confidence, recently separated from her husband John (Steve Coogan), and suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, Philippa attends a production of Richard III with one of her young sons and is intrigued by how Richard seems to be seen as a villain by Shakespeare simply because of his disability (he had a curvature of the spine), triggering in her the feeling that she is often dismissed for being somewhat physically fragile. In her free time, she begins to dig into Richard’s true history only to discover that he did not do most of the things he is accused of by historians of Shakespeare and Tudor Revisionists, and in fact, he probably did not usurp the throne and kill his nephews as is commonly believed. Soon she quit working and devoted herself full-time to this study, bringing her into contact with many like-minded people as well as some detractors. But the key to his research is to find out where Richard was secretly buried, so that his body can be properly buried as the rightful King of England.

Director Stephen Frears (High fidelity, The Queen) finds its Philomena writers Coogan and Jeff Pope. It adds some fantastic touches to The lost king by depicting Philippa having visions and conversations with Richard (in the guise of the actor she saw perform in the play), who gently encourages and guides her in her search for, well, him. The film is mostly lighthearted, but the search for Philippa through 500 years of twisted history is taken very seriously, despite an army of academics, bureaucrats and historians trying to discourage her (at first), and then to steal the credit from him once his work begins to pay off. But it’s also about a woman who finds the strength, in mind and body, to stand up for herself and her work, and that’s where the film excels in its storytelling. (Steve Prokopy)

The film will screen at 3 p.m. on Sunday, October 16 at AMC River East.

Alis

Alis is a documentary about Arcadia, a shelter for teenage girls in Bogota, Colombia, made up of short excerpts from interviews with around twenty girls. But in a larger sense, it demonstrates these girls’ troubled personalities and pasts, and their hopes for the future. When asked to imagine a new girl named Alis, they start with superficial descriptors, like “she’s blonde, she’s white, she’s pretty,” then move on to answering questions about boyfriends and girlfriends. Alis is bisexual and some of the girls fall in love with her. they love music and dancing too. The interviews are punctuated with everyday scenes from the girls’ lives, brushing their teeth, dancing or sorting through donated clothes.

Directors Clare Weiskopf and Nicolás van Hemelryck deftly up the intensity of the questions, asking questions about Alis’ family, his drinking, his drug use and his family life. As the girls talk about how Alis is abused at home and has to live on the streets and work as a prostitute, you realize the girls are mirroring their own lives in Alis’ stories. A girl says that Alis’ mother was raped and that Alis was the rapist’s baby, rejected by her family. Another says, “Her uncle raped her when she was 11,” and her tears show you how hard it was for her to say. When the girls are asked to consider Alis’ future, there is a faint glimmer of hope in this heartbreaking film, a moving portrait of girls becoming women. (Nancy Bishop)

Alis screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, October 20 at the Gene Siskel Film Center and 1 p.m. Friday, October 21 at AMC River East 21.

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