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.
* 11:30am Man Without a Cell Phone Dir. Sameh Zoabi. 2010. 83mins. Israel/Palestine. Jawdat (Razi Shawahdeh), a young Arab-Israeli man, goes from aimlessly chasing girls to joining his curmudgeonly father (Bassem Loulou) in taking a political stand over a cell-phone tower erected near their family farm. The film is full of laughs and heart.—Jessica Johnson
11:45am Shorts 1: City & State Various dirs. and years. 80mins. This series of shorts focuses on local filmmakers. Not reviewed.
* Noon 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
Noon Social Media: Spreading the Word Learn how various social media can be utilized in funding and promoting a film.
12:10pm 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.
12:20pm Best Intentions Dir. Adrian Sitaru. 2011. 105mins. Romania. A man grapples with what to do after his mother suffers a stroke in this reportedly real-time thriller. Not available for review.
* 12:30pm 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
1:20pm 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.
* 1:45pm Amador Dir. Fernando Léon de Aranoa. 2010. 112mins. Spain. This movie has all the raw ingredients of a moving film. But Magaly Solier’s intense portrayal of a woman hiding an unwanted pregnancy from her husband—and struggling with the financial realities of not being able to leave him—allows an additional sense of empathy without the tinge of moral condemnation Hollywood would have layered in.—Amy L. Hayden
1:50pm Shorts 2: Pen & Paper Various dirs. and years. 87mins. Animation rules the day in this program of shorts. Not reviewed.
2pm His Mother’s Eyes Dir. Thierry Klifa. 2011. 105mins. France. Angling for a scoop, conniving writer Mathieu entangles himself in the complicated familial history of his boss, a popular news anchor. The performances are sturdy—Catherine Deneuve is her typically beguiling self, and newcomer Jean-Baptiste Lafarge has a boyish charm—but the melodramatic material hinges on too many conveniences (a stolen wallet) and contrivances (an 11th-hour coma).—A.A. Dowd
* 2:30pm Love Always, Carolyn Dirs. Malin Korkeasalo and Maria Ramström. 2011. 71mins. Sweden. Using Carolyn Cassady as a starting point to penetrate the legends of Jack Kerouac and especially Neal Cassady, this lovely documentary offers a portrait of the artists as oft-failing family men. Despite Carolyn’s conflicted feelings about the writers she loved, her affection for them persists in a world where the Beats have become more moneymakers than culture-shakers.—Amy L. Hayden
3pm 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.
* 3pm Play Dir. Ruben Östlund. 2011. 118mins. Sweden/Denmark/Finland. With coolly distanced long takes that suggest a (slightly) more compassionate Michael Haneke, Östlund offers his version of an actual rash of racially fraught incidents in Sweden. The film follows a scam in which black teens successfully talk white kids into handing over their cell phones. Once the two groups of adolescents negotiate a fragile accord, the film becomes more conventional than it first appears, but this is still confident, arresting filmmaking.—Ben Kenigsberg
* 3:45pm 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
4pm Dekh Indian Circus Dir. Mangesh Hadawale. 2011. 103mins. India. Eager to secure a ticket to a traveling circus in town, two children fixate on an illicitly obtained wad of cash. Not available for review.
4:10pm Madame X Dir. Lucky Kuswandi. 2010. 100mins. Indonesia. A campy origin story about a transsexual superhero, this overlong movie suffers from a bloated setup. But when the awkward protagonist dons a Catwoman-like costume and becomes Madame X, the film’s B-movie sense of humor takes over and delivers frothy fun.—Jessica Johnson
4:15pm My Best Enemy Dir. Wolfgang Murnberger. 2011. 106mins. Austria/Luxembourg. If you can forgive the fact that it belongs to the dubious genre of “Holocaust comedy”—and yes, that’s a pretty big if—Murnberger’s WWII-era farce is good for a chuckle or two. As in The Great Dictator, there’s an ingenious mistaken-identity plot, this one involving an SS officer, his Jewish childhood friend and a rare, sought-after Michelangelo.—A.A. Dowd
4:30pm The Good Doctor Dir. Lance Daly. 2011. 93mins. USA. Doctor Orlando Bloom falls for his patient, which isn’t a good thing in the medical profession. Not available for review.
5pm The Three Musketeers Dir. Paul W.S. Anderson. 2011. 110mins. USA. The Resident Evil director’s efficient 3-D reworking of Alexander Dumas’s tale of 17th-century heroism, romance and friendship is notable only for its introduction of Gilliamesque, airborne war machines based on designs by Leonardo da Vinci. As the Duke of Buckingham, Orlando Bloom is acted off the screen by Milla Jovovich, whose Milady de Winter uses her feminine wiles and fighting skills to survive in a man’s world.—Nigel Floyd
5:15pm Love Is in the Air Dir. Simon Staho. 2011. 93mins. Denmark. Put fond memories of Dancer in the Dark out of your head; this Zentropa musical, about a wanna-be pop chanteuse trying to bed a megastar producer, is like Moulin Rouge! reimagined by a high-school drama troupe. The sets are hideous, the pop songs are mostly wretched, and the sex comedy is sub–Kevin Smith.—A.A. Dowd
5:30pm Karma Dir. Prasanna Jayakody. 2010. 88mins. Sri Lanka. Yes, this film is about karma, good and bad, from this lifetime to the next. Centered around an apartment complex, the movie is plodding, but it deals in universals: guilt over a mother’s death, life-altering choices, failed and unlikely romances. The last 15 minutes bring the indulgent image-making of the preceding hour and change into focus. At Doc Films, University of Chicago (1212 E 59th St).—Amy L. Hayden
5:30pm The Mole Dir. Rafael Lewandowski. 2011. 108mins. Poland. Accused of being a former Communist informant, a man flees Poland, leaving a mess behind for his friend. Not available for review.
6pm 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
* 6:20pm 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
* 6:30pm On the Bridge Dir. Olivier Morel. 2011. 96mins. France/USA. What begins as a probing examination of post-traumatic stress disorder eventually becomes something richer and thornier: a condemnation of the U.S. military’s failure to provide returning veterans the psychological assistance they need.—A.A. Dowd
6:45pm Romeos Dir. Sabine Bernardi. 2011. 94mins. Germany. After moving to Cologne, a female-to-male transgender youth falls for a new friend. Not available for review.
7pm An Evening with Braden King The video artist and director of Here (see Sat 15 and Mon 17) discusses his work.
* 7:50pm 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
8pm 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. At Doc Films, University of Chicago (1212 E 59th St).—Laura Baginski
8:10pm Sleeping Beauty Dir. Julia Leigh. 2011. 102mins. Australia. Australian novelist Leigh (The Hunter) makes the classic first-time filmmaker’s mistake of confusing coyness with subtlety in this tale of a college student (Emily Browning) who takes a sideline gig getting drugged and fondled in her sleep. Leigh withholds all detail and asks viewers to supply the profundity. The carefully composed images flirt with art-house cliché, though the oft-undraped Browning is a selling point.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:20pm Bonsái Dir. Cristián Jiménez. 2011. 95mins. Chile/France. A college student meets the love of his life, then reflects on their relationship in a novel he writes eight years later, in a whimsical romance that toggles between past and present. Chock-full of literary allusions, this year’s bid for an Y Tu Mamá También–style crossover hit is playful and often sweet, but it’s ultimately too slight to be memorable.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:30pm Amnesty Dir. Bujar Alimani. 2011. 83mins. Albania/Greece. Meeting at a jail when visiting for their respective conjugal visits, the spouses of two prisoners in Albania move into a relationship of their own. Such couplings are inevitably doomed, however, and Alimani’s padded feature debut settles this one in the grimmest, most convenient manner possible.—Ben Kenigsberg
8:30pm 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
8:50pm Sleep Dir. Katsumi Sakaguchi. 2011. 96mins. Japan. Sakaguchi’s film is a disturbing, borderline-surreal examination of how random acts of violence linger, in this case leaving a homeless family to make decisions out of desperation rather than logic. This off-putting movie’s quiet, Zenlike plodding through even the most lurid scenes is sometimes shocking.—Amy L. Hayden
9pm 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