Chicago International Film Festival 2011: A day-by-day guide to week two
We review the second week's titles in a comprehensive roundup.
All screenings take place at the AMC River East 21 (322 E Illinois St) unless otherwise noted.
For advance tickets, call 312-332-FILM, go to ticketmaster.com/chicagofilmfestival or stop by the festival office (30 E Adams St, Suite 800). For passes, go to chicagofilmfestival.com.
10:30am CineYouth: Best of the Fest Various dirs. and years. 95mins. This program consists of award-winning shorts from CIFF’s parent organization’s CineYouth festival, a series held in May that showcases work from filmmakers 21 and under. Not reviewed.
11:30am If Not Us, Who? Dir. Andres Veiel. 2011. 124mins. Germany. After Carlos, The Baader-Meinhof Complex and Good Morning, Night, we’ve reached a quota for biopics on post-’60s radicalism. This slick, politically disinterested entry, focusing on Red Army Faction founding figure Gudrun Ensslin, lacks a clear outlook.—Ben Kenigsberg
11:50am Loverboy Dir. Catalin Mitulescu. 2011. 94mins. Romania. So Romania does make bad films. A lothario in trouble with the cops for various and sundry seduces a virginal lass, then falls for her—but of course, he’s bad news. This unfocused drama barely establishes what’s at stake until the last scene.—Ben Kenigsberg
Noon Inshallah, Football Dir. Ashvin Kumar. 2010. 83mins. India. A Muslim Kashmiri teen attempts to obtain a passport from the Indian government to play soccer in Brazil, but his efforts are hampered by his father’s former militancy. The story has little room to breathe under the weight of the complicated conflict in the region, which requires so many explanatory title cards that the film becomes wearying to watch.—Laura Baginski
Noon New Models of Distribution If you want to learn about VOD, you could read our weekly On Demand section. You could also attend this panel.
12:10pm The Destiny of Lesser Animals Dir. Deron Albright. 2011. 89mins. Ghana/USA. This policier about a Ghanaian cop attempting to buy his way back to the U.S. after being deported is more interesting for its ideas about brain drain than its crime elements. Writer Yao B. Nunoo, who also stars, presents a sincere if unsubtle look at a country where the younger generation is more inclined to leave than fight for improvement.—Alison Willmore
12:30pm The Silver Cliff Dir. Karim Aïnouz. 2011. 82mins. Brazil. After her husband abruptly leaves her, a dental worker (Alessandra Negrini) goes on an impromptu excursion. This Brazilian feature sometimes plays like a gentler version of Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman in its sensual, often wordless depiction of a character’s dissociative state, but Aïnouz can’t quite tie it together (which may be the point).—Ben Kenigsberg
* 1pm Nobody Else but You Dir. Gérald Hustache-Mathieu. 2011. 102mins. France. A crime-fiction writer with Ellroy-esque aspirations begins investigating the supposed suicide of a small-town weather girl, a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. Quirkier touches, like beyond-the-grave narration from the victim, scarcely upset the delicate balance of low-key comedy and superior murder-mystery mechanics.—A.A. Dowd
1:15pm Return Ticket Dir. Teng Yung-Shing. 2010. 85mins. China/Taiwan. Executive producer Hou Hsiao-hsien’s stamp seems clear in the opening scenes, which offer an interesting sense of dislocation as a twentysomething woman (Qin Hailu) returns to Shanghai looking for work. The movie takes a mawkish turn once she signs on for an ill-fated scheme involving a beat-up bus, but the sense of economic anxiety is potent.—Ben Kenigsberg
2pm Carol Channing: Larger than Life Dir. Dori Berinstein. 2011. 88mins. USA. The actor-comedian perhaps best known for Hello, Dolly! gets profiled in this documentary. Not available for review.
* 2pm The Turin Horse Dir. Béla Tarr. 2011. 146mins. Hungary. What is base will always triumph over what is noble, so you might as well stop eating your potatoes and die. That’s the not-much-abridged philosophy of Tarr’s latest, although the eponymous animal, a horse once hugged by Nietzsche, understands it more quickly than the humans. Focusing on the daily routines of the equine’s owner and his daughter, this relentlessly bleak, almost self-parodic film is punishing even for someone who loves Tarr’s 7.5-hour Sátántangó. And yet, on a visual and conceptual level, it inspires a grudging admiration.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 2:10pm Good Bye Dir. Mohammad Rasoulof. 2011. 104mins. Iran. Arrested along with Jafar Panahi, Rasoulof takes on Iranian bureaucracy with this oblique, clandestinely completed, intermittently gripping feature, which follows a pregnant lawyer (Leyla Zareh) as she attempts to obtain a visa and perhaps an abortion, but finds herself unable to do much without her husband’s approval.—Ben Kenigsberg
2:30pm Shorts 6: A Question of Timing Various dirs. and years. 75mins. Despite a title that suggests a focus on time, this program of shorts is basically a grab bag. Not reviewed.
* 2:45pm Chronicle of My Mother Dir. Masato Harada. 2011. 119mins. Japan. So indebted is contemporary art cinema to the films of Yasujiro Ozu that the late director is basically his own genre at this point. Harada’s drama, about a family coping with the worsening dementia of its eldest matriarch, even name-drops Tokyo Story. No hollow tribute, the film applies the master’s techniques to its own unique treatise on the generational divide.—A.A. Dowd
* 3:30pm Buddha Mountain Dir. Yu Li. 2010. 101mins. China. Three provincial, irresponsible, party-hearty slackers clash with their abusive landlady, a retired opera singer whose prickly exasperation masks deep grief over her son’s death. Surprisingly more playful than melodramatic, this emotionally perceptive drama of loss and connections is, across-the-board, fabulously acted.—Aaron Hillis
3:40pm Léa Dir. Bruno Rolland. 2011. 93mins. France. A college student takes up stripping to pay for her grandmother’s nursing-home expenses. The story is treated with an almost perverse avoidance of the most obvious scenes to dramatize (skip the girl telling granny it’s off to the home, but repeatedly return to shots of our heroine wearily riding the train to school). This elliptical approach never lets us get close enough to what is at stake for Léa.—Hank Sartin
4:15pm Valley of the Forgotten Dir. Maria Raduan. 2010. 72mins. Brazil. Raduan charts the land rivalries in Brazil’s Mato Grosso region, where the indigenous population fights for property ownership rights with private-sector-sanctioned squatters, who the film argues are essentially placeholders for an eventual government takeover. A pointed but brief bit of muckraking, dealing with issues applicable beyond Brazil, this documentary has so much ground to cover that it really calls for a three-part miniseries.—Ben Kenigsberg
4:30pm Almanya: Welcome to Germany Dir. Yasemin Samdereli. 2011. 101mins. Germany. A German boy of Turkish extraction becomes curious about his roots, leading to a family trip. Not available for review.
4:30pm Shorts 5: When Worlds Collide Various dirs. and years. 83mins. The shorts in this lineup come from around the world, but beyond that there’s not much of a theme. Not reviewed.
* 5pm Turn Me On, Dammit! Dir. Jannicke Systad Jacobsen. 2011. 76mins. Norway. A refreshingly frank, funny portrait of awkward teenage sexuality, this Norwegian comedy follows the highs and lows of 15-year-old Alma, who struggles with small-town boredom, raging hormones and a thwarted crush by finding solace in a phone sex line.—Alison Willmore
* 5:30pm Sacrifice Dir. Chen Kaige. 2010. 132mins. China. Chen (Farewell My Concubine) serves up a solid, satisfying, slightly choppy martial-arts revenge picture. A warlord gains license to wipe out an entire clan by framing it for a noble’s murder, then hunts down an infant, the sole survivor. The film might have had even greater impact at a longer length.—Ben Kenigsberg
5:50pm Innocent Saturday Dir. Aleksandr Mindadze. 2011. 99mins. Russia. Communist party officer Valery (Anton Shagin) witnesses the wreckage of the explosion at Chernobyl, and while he tries to leave the city with his girlfriend before panic sets in, mundane circumstances prevent their escape in this sluggish and meandering film.—Jessica Johnson
6:10pm Holidays by the Sea Dir. Pascal Rabaté. 2011. 77mins. France. Rabaté pays homage to M. Hulot’s Holiday director Jacques Tati—right down to the focus on vacations. Not available for review.
6:15pm Sadermania: From Fanship to Friendship Dir. Adam Gacka. 2011. 85mins. USA. Through sheer stalkerish persistence, Hulk Hogan fanatic Chris Sader insinuates himself into the life of his pro-wrestling idol—and what do you know, the Hulkster digs having a fawning sidekick to pal around with him. Though Gacka seems to think he’s made some uplifting testament to the transformative power of superfandom, his documentary works best as a portrait of life-consuming hero worship and the mutually parasitic relationship it births. The film’s attempts to frame Sader’s own small-potatoes wrestling career in cathartic big-fight terms are just sad.—A.A. Dowd
6:40pm David Is Dying Dir. Stephen Lloyd Jackson. 2011. 90mins. U.K. Narcissistic, abusive hedge-fund manager and all-around prick David shares his tale of woe (he’s HIV positive) with a shrink, triggering a series of shaky handheld flashbacks and gratuitous art-film flourishes (recurring images of David as a child in clown makeup). It’s intense, but the main character is such a monster it’s hard to invest much in his fate.—Hank Sartin
7pm Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel Dir. Lisa Immordino Vreeland. 2011. 92mins. USA. Lisa Immordino Vreeland traces the career of her grandmother-in-law, the influential Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor. Not available for review.
* 7:15pm The Slut Dir. Hagar Ben-Asher. 2011. 88mins. Israel. An impressive debut feature by Israeli actor and filmmaker Ben-Asher, who plays the eponymous lead, The Slut follows an earthy and sexually insatiable single mother of two young girls who is drawn into an affair with a good-looking returning local. The movie is revealing for what it says about sexuality, desire and severely regimented faith.—Patrick Z. McGavin
7:30pm An Evening with Anthony Mackie The Hurt Locker, Night Catches Us and She Hate Me star discusses his career. Chase Auditorium (10 S Dearborn St).
* 8pm Chico & Rita Dirs. Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba. 2010. 94mins. Spain. This lush and nostalgic animated gem from Spanish artist and designer Mariscal and director and music producer Trueba feels like a perfect melding of two distinctive sensibilities. A potted history of the golden age of jazz in the 1940s and ’50s underscores a passionate, globe-hopping love story. There are moments when the references tend to overshadow the romance, but the film is too charming overall for one to care.—David Jenkins
8:15pm Here Dir. Braden King. 2011. 110mins. USA. Here explores the complicated relationship between an American satellite cartographer (Ben Foster) in Armenia and his beautiful, haunted guide (Lubna Azabal). Chicago-born independent filmmaker King’s frequently audacious commingling of narrative and experimental modes has a probing, sensual texture that transcends its sometimes indifferently structured story.—Patrick Z. McGavin
* 8:40pm Natural Selection Dir. Robbie Pickering. 2011. 90mins. USA. When her husband suffers a stroke at a sperm bank, a sexually repressed and barren housewife (Rachael Harris) goes on an interstate journey to find his son. A warmly witty tale of liberation, this film is bolstered by the talents of its leads.—Jessica Johnson
8:50pm Andrew Bird: Fever Year Dir. Xan Aranda. 2011. 80mins. USA. Sub out the eponymous Chicago-area musician for just about any other folkish troubadour and you’d be looking at pretty much the same, thoroughly ordinary rock-doc. Fans will eat up the reluctant-genius mythologizing. The indifferent and/or uninitiated may wonder why this wasn’t just slapped on a DVD and packaged as a “special supplement” to Bird’s latest album.—A.A. Dowd
9:15pm Joint Body Dir. Brian Jun. 2011. 86mins. USA. Mark Pellegrino brings uncommon sensitivity to the stock role of a just-released convict trying to turn his life around. The actor is better than the material, which devolves into a rote sins-of-the-past melodrama, complete with resentful cop brother, estranged teenage daughter and saintly stripper sidekick.—A.A. Dowd
9:40pm Snowtown Dir. Justin Kurzel. 2011. 120mins. Australia. In a rundown community, a boy is gradually drawn into the orbit of a charismatic stranger, whom Australian audiences will identify more quickly than outside viewers as the country’s most notorious serial killer. Wallowing in squalor without offering much insight (a friend who walked out before the murders mistook it for a Harmony Korine knockoff), Snowtown may be based on a true story, but that doesn’t make it profound.—Ben Kenigsberg
10:15pm Rabies Dir. Aharon Keshales. 2010. 90mins. Israel. Billed as Israel’s first slasher horror-comedy, Rabies overturns genre conventions to entertaining effect, setting a group of unconnected cops, a park ranger, tennis players and runaway siblings loose in a forest preserve with a psycho. The film’s unusual rhythms should be enough to keep audiences on their toes.—Alison Willmore
10:30pm Haunters Dir. Kim Min-suk. 2010. 114mins. South Korea. This refreshingly low-key superhero gloss pits emo psychic supervillain Cho-in (Kang Dong-won) against slacker pawnshop employee Kyu-Nam (Koo So), who is impervious to Cho-in’s mental mojo. Unable to sustain the oddball character drama of its first half, the film strains for a Hollywood-style grandeur beyond the means of its humble setup.—R. Emmet Sweeney
10:45pm George the Hedgehog Dirs. Wojtek Wawszczyk, Jakub Tarkowski and Tomasz Lesniak. 2011. 80mins. Poland. This profanity-filled animated yarn about a horny, booze-swilling, skateboarding hedgehog throws a lot of crazy elements at the wall (genetic engineering, neo-Nazis, exploding sex shops), but none of it really sticks, and the attempts at South Park–style satire simply fall flat.—Jessica Johnson
11pm Shorts 3: Midnight Mayhem Various dirs. and years. 100mins. As one might expect, this late-night shorts program has a horror theme. Not reviewed.
11:15pm Cold Sweat Dir. Adrián García Bogliano. 2010. 80mins. Argentina. The chilly perspiration of the title is actually nitroglycerin, liberally applied by a pair of crazed, aging revolutionaries to the glistening skin of several unlucky ladies. The move-and-you-explode set pieces are reasonably suspenseful, but this is otherwise forgettable claptrap, hampered by ill-defined heroes and a grating techno score.—A.A. Dowd