Chicago International Film Fest pulls out all the stops for 40th anniversary celebration

The glitz and glamour of the Chicago International Film Festival (Oct. 7-21) ratchets up to ultra high as it celebrates its 40th anniversary, founded by artistic director Micahel Kutza, marked with more premieres, more star presentations, more special presenations and more parties than ever before.

Out of the 1,500 submissions received, 111 features and 54 shorts from 44 countries will screen. Of these two are world premieres, 13 North American premieres and 22 U.S. premieres.

Opening night (Oct. 7) is the premiere screening at the Chicago Theatre of “Kinsey,” starring Liam Neeson as Afred Kinsey, the pioneer sexual behaviorist of the late ?40s, directed by Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters”).

Annette Bening and Christopher Walken will appear on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, respectively, at special presentations at Northwestern’s Thorne Auditorium. Bening will accept in person a Career Achievement Award at an Oct. 8 special presentation of her new film, “Being Julia,” about the amorous indiscretions of the 1930s London theatre world. Director Istv?n Szab? also will be present.

Walken appears in connection with his new film, “Around the Bend,” co-starring Michael Caine, Josh Lucas and Steppenwolf’s Glenne Headly. After the screening Walken will discuss the film, an offbeat story of loss and forgiveness spanning four generations of a family of men.

Tom Hanks will host an on-stage tribute to Oscar- winning director Robert Zemeckis (“Forest Gump,” “Cast Away,” “Back to the Future”) at the festival’s Oct. 21 grand finale at the Cadillac Palace theatre.

Zemeckis and Hanks’ latest collaboration, “The Polar Express,” will be screened after the tribute. It’s the story of a man who journeys to the North Pole, discovering along the way that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.

Black Perspectives “Homecoming Celebration” Oct. 16 at Thorne Auditorium honors Chicago natives Irma P. Hall, Harry J. Lennix and Robert Townsend with Career Achievement Awards.

“Focus: Chicago & Illinois” competition for the festival’s Chicago Award screens features, documentaries and shorts. They include “Boricua,” director, Marisol Torres; “The Journey,” Ligy J. Pullapally; “Lipstick and Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling,” Ruth Leitman; and “Outing Riley,” Pete Jones.

Two discussions with international industry experts take place at Thorne Hall. On Oct. 9, “Specialty Films: Finding a Home in the U.S.” with acquisition and distribution executives from Fox Searchlight, Wellspring and Miramax. On Oct. 10, “Illinois’ Own: Making it in the Midwest” with local filmmakers, at Borders, 2817 N. Clark St. On Oct. 16, “Critical Mass: Globalization and Film Criticism Today.”

Other special sections: New Directors Competition; Critic’s Choice; Late Night Insanity; Documentary Competition and Salute to TV.

Films will be screened at AMC River East 21 theatres, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema and Thorne Auditorium. Single admission tickets are $6, $11, $15 and $20; passes range from $60 to $300.

Tickets through Ticketmaster, 312/902-1500 or 312/332-3456; see