Cinema/Chicago, the “presenting” organization of the Chicago International Film Festival, annually invite members of the press to a breakfast where they announce their festival lineup. Programmers remark on a handful of titles, logistics get figured out, and everyone flutters about the stale pastries before and after the event. Every year I mentally keep track of the different variants wherein organizers deploy the word “rebrand”, all while musing how something could be re-anything when there’s not much of an identity in the first place. It was also the first year where a few of the colleagues that I call friends didn’t show up to the breakfast. I sympathize with why. There’s a certain masochistic agony associated with these things, where my thoughts tend to gravitate toward the films that are missing rather than what’s there. I’m not the only one who does this and I’m fairly certain that it’s not a healthy way of thinking, but it’s frequently unavoidable.
Part of me cites this disappointment out of some hope that it might inspire change? I’m grateful to be alive in a city that shelters such a passionate community of cinephiles; it’s a pocket of benevolence that engages with film in such a proactive and communal way. That kind of community is eerily out of sorts with the bill of goods sold by CIFF (or Chi Film Fest or whatever they want to go by now). Their preferred method of quote unquote curation is seemingly queued to arbitrary, with a particular preference for middlebrow Oscar-fare that has already had the benefit of being vetted and considered ad nauseam. But whatever Cinema/Chicago is doing is clearly working for them (frequent sell-outs of premium-rate screenings) even if it’s not working for me.
The 55th Chicago International Film Festival runs from October 16 through October 27. For a complete schedule, please refer to their website here. Below are some of the titles I had the opportunity to preview, updated regularly as the festival proceeds.