Chicago Critics Film Festival returns to Music Box Theatre

‘The Lost Daughter’

The Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), the Chicago-area print, online and broadcast critics group that celebrates the art of film and film criticism, announces the first six films selected for the 2021 Chicago Critics Film Festival.


First titles include highly anticipated films like the Chicago premiere of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s THE LOST DAUGHTER, Venice Film Festival winner for Best Screenplay, starring Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson.

Passes are now on sale for the event, November 12-14 at Chicago’s historic Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.). More information on the first selected films, plus festival passes, is available here

Chicago Critics Film Festival

With these initial selections, festival programmers present some of the most acclaimed yet-to-be-released films of the year, making Chicago a must-screen destination for films that audiences will be talking about for months to come. The early selections also include the much-acclaimed RED ROCKET, the latest from writer/director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine); the award-winning THE NOVICE, heralding the new filmmaking talent of writer/director Lauren Hadaway; and JOCKEY, starring the ever-captivating Clifton Collins, Jr. in a career-defining role. Additionally, Jane Campion’s masterful new film, THE POWER OF THE DOG, will screen in sharp, vibrant 4k; and prolific documentary producer Douglas Tirola takes the helm for the definitive new film on Leonard Bernstein, BERNSTEIN’S WALL.

The first six films selected for the 2021 Chicago Critics Film Festival are:

  • BERNSTEIN’S WALL (documentary; written and directed by Douglas Tirola) 
    • A complex look at one of the greatest figures in 20th century classical music, Leonard Bernstein, whose passion and creativity guided him well beyond the concert hall.
  • JOCKEY (co-written and directed by Clint Bently)
    • An aging jockey (Clifton Collins, Jr.) aims for a final championship, when a rookie rider arrives claiming to be his son.
  • THE LOST DAUGHTER (written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal; pictured)
    • A woman’s beach vacation takes a dark turn when she begins to confront the troubles of her past.
  • THE NOVICE (written and directed by Lauren Hardaway)
    • Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan) plays Alex Dall, a queer college freshman who joins her university’s rowing team and undertakes an obsessive physical and psychological journey to make it to the top varsity boat, no matter the cost.
  • THE POWER OF THE DOG *presented in 4k* (written and directed by Jane Campion) 
    • Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil sets out to torment them—until he finds his own dominance threatened.
  • RED ROCKET (co-written and directed by Sean Baker)
    • Mikey Saber (Simon Rex) is a washed-up porn star who returns to his small Texas hometown, not that anyone really wants him back.

The festival’s remaining film selections, as well as screening dates/times, will be announced October 21st; filmmakers and special guests scheduled to attend will also be announced in the coming weeks. The best way to ensure access to every aspect of the week-long event is to secure a festival pass, just $100 and available online here (link will be live as of embargo lift). For the 2021 Critics Fest, organizers have established the following protocols to keep staff, volunteers and patrons safe: proof of vaccination will be required (a negative COVID test will not suffice as substitution); all state, local and venue mask mandates at the time of the festival will be enforced. Theaters will be booked to full capacity.

The Chicago Critics Film Festival annually features a selection of acclaimed films chosen by members of the organization, a combination of recent festival favorites and as-yet-undistributed works from a variety of filmmakers, from established Oscar winners to talented newcomers. It is the only current example of a major film critics group that hosts its own festival. Follow the CFCA and the festival on Twitter at @chicagocritics and@criticsff and on Facebook here. The Chicago Critics Film Festival and the CFCA also gratefully acknowledge the support of festival sponsors.


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