Chicago Int’l Film Fest releases 54th annual lineup

Carey Mulligan in "Wildlife"

Carey Mulligan in “Wildlife”

Big-budget premieres,
exquisite docs,
thoughtful shorts,
special events, and a
deep well of unsung gems
create the “stunning variety”
of this year’s program

The Chicago International Film Festival announced the majority the films screening over its 54th annual run at the AMC Theaters earlier today. Culling from more than 6,000 submissions — the highest in the event’s history — the October 10-17 program combines some of the year’s most talked-about films with a canon of unsung gems.

It all begins with Director Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy on opening night.

The “inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery” starring veteran actor Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet will screen after a press line and a welcome presentation that begins at 6 p.m.


Closing night features Director Jason Reitman’s “The Front Runner”, a “thrilling drama that follows the rise and fall of Senator Gary Hart, the overwhelming front-runner for the 1988 Democratic Presidential nomination.”


“Wildlife,” this year’s Centerpiece film stars Carey Mulligan as a wife who responds to her husband’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) “crisis of confidence” in a manner that “disrupts the values and expectations of a 1960s nuclear family.”


Besides the big-budget attractions, the program features hundreds of additional selections stirring notable enthusiasm among founder Michael Kutza and the staff of who presented with him this morning.

Shoplifters, the 2018 winner of the Cannes Palm d’Or, is the story of “an unconventional family of miscreants who take in an abandoned five-year-old girl.” It screens at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday the 16th and 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday the 17th.

Transit imagines a fascist invasion of France in a film that mesmerizes viewers and transcends the limitations of setting. According to Artistic Director Mimi Plauché, Transit “really sticks with you … you cannot tell if it’s past present or future.”

The Raft is a Swedish documentary about five men and six women who sailed a small boat across the Atlantic as part of a “radical social experiment” in 1973. According to Documentary Programmer Anthony Kaufman, who hinted at a sort of “mutiny” that overtook the vessel, the trip “doesn’t go as planned.”

These are just a few samples from a deep well of films grouped into dozens of programs including Shorts, New Directors, Black Perspectives, Virtual Reality, and Spotlights on Comedy and Women in Cinema. There are also events like Industry Days, a “hub for filmmakers to connect, share ideas and inspire each other” that includes a Q&A with director Steve McQueen.

It is such a stunning variety that, at least for now, we’re going to focus on the stuff coming out of Chicago.

Films from Chicago
An Acceptable Loss | Director Joe Chappelle
When former U.S. security adviser Elizabeth Lamm (Tika Sumpter) leaves public service to take a position as a university lecturer, the sins from her past come back to haunt her. The U.S. President (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her Chief of Staff pressure Lamm to remain loyal to their administration, even as a mysterious student begins stalking her. This political thriller from Chicago writer-director Chappelle (The Wire) is an entertaining mix of Scandal and All the President’s Men.
Saturday Oct 13 | 4:00 pm
Monday Oct 15 | 1:00 pm


The City That Sold America | Director Ky Dickens
From “Whass-up!” to the Marlboro Man, Spuds Mackenzie to orange juice for breakfast, Chicago’s advertising companies have given birth to some of the most seminal marketing campaigns ever. This snappy jingle of a documentary reveals, with intriguing insights and wistful nostalgia, the confluence of Chicago’s creative talent—from Leo Burnett to Bob Scarpelli—and the transformative ways that they’ve shaped popular culture. With post-screening panel.
Thursday October 11, 5:45 pm
Saturday Oct 13, 11:30 am


Olympia | Director Gregory Dixon
Making her dazzling feature debut, Chicago writer-actor McKenzie Chinn stars as a struggling artist, navigating work and romance in the Windy City. When her boyfriend asks her to drop everything and move cross-country, she soon discovers that her biggest obstacle may be herself. Featuring quirky animation and a revelatory central performance, Olympia is a heartfelt story for anyone who’s ever felt adrift on the rough seas of adulthood.
Monday October 15 | 5:30 pm
Tuesday Oct 16 | 8:30 pm


The Feeling of Being Watched | Director Assia Boundaoui
The ramifications of Boundaoui’s story are darkly troubling, yet The Feeling of Being Watched avoids feeling overly portentous(Variety). In this real-world conspiracy thriller, filmmaker Assia Boundaoui seeks the truth behind long-running FBI surveillance targeting Arab-Americans in Chicago’s Bridgeview community. During her investigation, she uncovers thousands of redacted documents, wary neighbors, and a pre-9/11 probe code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” A timely and unsettling portrait of pervasive prejudice and paranoia in America’s Muslim neighborhoods in Arabic with English subtitles. With post-screening panel.
Thursday October 18 | 5:30 pm
Friday October 19 | 3:30 pm


Widows | Director Steve McQueen
Widows is directed by Academy Award-winner and 2016 Festival honoree Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and co-written by bestselling Chicago-based author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl). The film is a blistering, modern-day thriller set against the backdrop of crime, passion, and corruption, telling the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set and filmed in Chicago amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Oscar®-winner Viola Davis, also a Festival honoree), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.
Saturday Oct 13 | 7:00 pm


What They Had | Director Elizabeth Chomko
Made with genuine feeling and smooth professional craftsmanship (The Hollywood Reporter). From first-time writer/director Elizabeth Chomko, What They Had centers on a family in crisis. Bridget (Hilary Swank) returns home to Chicago at her brother’s (Michael Shannon) urging to deal with her ailing mother (Blythe Danner) and her father’s (Robert Forster) reluctance to let go of their life together.
Monday October 15 | 8:30 p.m.


To view the full festival schedule and purchase tickets, click here.

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