The 50th Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) opened on Oct. 9, the day I rushed back from a 10-day trip to China. I cherished the hope of making it on time to cover the Red Carpet opening at the Harris Theater for Xinhua News, and had arranged for a colleague to pick up my badge. Although my flight arrived shortly after 4 p.m. and I cleared custom in record time, I found myself still in traffic on my way to the city at 6 p.m. when the celebration was supposed to kick off.
At 50, CIFF is the oldest film festival in the U.S., definitely something to be proud of. Over the years, the Festival featured many emerging directors who are now well known, with Liv Ullmann, who made her debut as director at the Festival, bringing her latest film Miss Julie to the opening evening. Kathleen Turner is here, too, presiding over the international film competition jury.
This year’s festival features more than 150 films from over 50 countries, among them, eight films from Asia. Most of the films are shown at River East AMC, with multiple screenings running simultaneously. The Festival will continue till Wednesday, October 22. In addition to showcasing a variety of films, the Festival also offers panels on filmmaking and distribution. Columbia College, the key presenter of the Festival, also offers a “Master Class,” accompanied with a film screening, in the afternoon of Wed., Oct 15.
I’ve been to the Festival almost everyday, attending panel discussions and talking with filmmakers after the screenings of their films. That’s one of the best benefit of attending film festivals—you have a chance to meet and talk with the people behind the scene. Grace McPhillips was one I
particularly enjoyed talking with. She is Executive Producer of The Other One, a locally made feature film. She readily shared information on the film’s budget, grassroots fundraising, and forms of in-kind donation that made the production of the film possible. I raised questions to her as a filmmaker, not a journalist, and was impressed by her openness and generosity. “Here is my card,” she said as we parted our way. “We can talk over coffee if you have more questions.” That shows so much of the spirit of the film festival.
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. The film was shown on national PBS in May 2014.