Caplan’s Algren doc one of five local films at CIFF

Nelson Algren

The 50th Annual Chicago International Film Festival, running Oct. 9-23, showcases five locally made features, with docs on Chicago writer Nelson Algren and a photographer challenging beauty standards, and narratives about a bike messenger race, dark family secrets, and sex addiction.

COLUMBIA COLLEGE PROFESSOR Michael Caplan (Stones from the Soil) premieres his documentary Algren, about Nelson Algren (The Man with the Golden Arm, Chicago: City on the Make), the empathetic, acerbic mid-20th century poet of Chicago’s Polish immigrants, gamblers, hookers, and hoods in the West Town neighborhood where the writer lived, drank, and gambled for decades.

Caplan’s film features the photography of Algren’s comrade Art Shay and music by Wayne Kramer of the MC5.  It screens Oct. 14 at 6 p.m., Oct. 20 at 12:15 p.m., and Oct. 21 at 8 p.m.

JOANNA RUDNICK’S KARTEMQUIN FILMS production On Beauty is about disillusioned former fashion photographer Rick Guidotti and the women he now photographs, who have genetic conditions like albinism and Sturge-Weber Syndrome. 

Rudnick is the Emmy-nominated director of In the Family (about a genetic test that told Rudnick of her elevated risk for breast and ovarian cancer).  On Beauty plays Oct. 18 at 1:15 p.m.

STEPHEN CONE (The Wise Kids, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party) tracks the chance encounter between a housewife in a sex addiction support group and an aspiring youth pastor in This Afternoon.  With Roni Geva, Sean Gallagher, Nikki Pierce, Bryan Hart, and Stephen Cefalu. 

It screens Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 12 at 12:15 p.m., and Oct. 13 at 1:30 p.m.

GRAND VALLEY STATE assistant professor and Columbia College alum Marie Ullrich’s The Alley Cat stars Jenny Strubin as a bicycle messenger torn between family turmoil and the messengers’ annual renegade bike race across the South Loop. 

Ullrich expanded the film from her own 2010 short Faster!, also starring Strubin, a selection of CIFF, Cannes Short Film Corner, and the BFI London Film Festival. 

Ullrich produced The Alley Cat with Kathryn Henderson.  The Alley Cat plays Oct. 18 at 9:15 p.m., Oct. 20 at 4:45 p.m., and Oct. 21 at 3 p.m.

JOSEF STEIFF’S DRAMA The Other One stars Grace McPhillips as a woman whose husband was killed in a mass shooting at the high school where they both taught, who returns home to care for her ailing mother, where she uncovers a dark family secret.

With Nancy Sellers, Jesse Bob Harper, and Cait Bidwell.  Steiff wrote, and directed a segment of, the 2007 omnibus comedy SoulMaid produced by the now-disbanded nonprofit production company Split Pillow.

All screenings are at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois St.