by Pouya G. Asadi
Let’s face it, this year’s CIFF is going to be incredible. Not only do we have the Chicago Premiere of the new Elijah Wood killer flick (Maniac), we have the new horror film from 2010 Golden Palm winner Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul with his highly acclaimed Mekong Hotel. Speaking of horror, CIFF’s After Dark category is ultimately 100% this year, looks like there will be 8 heavy hitters ranging in all mediums of horror. Another highlight would be David Cronenberg‘s son Brandon’s directorial debut, Antiviral. The brilliance doesn’t stop, we’re happy to report that all the categories in this year’s festival are strong on their own. Lots of big flicks in Main Competition as well as New Directors Competition, Documentaries, World Cinema and the like. What I am most impressed about this year is the level of strength in the Black Perspectives (CIFF category founded by Spike Lee in ’97) as well as the handful of stunners in the Spotlight Middle East section. Anything from films on South African conflict to the everyday hardships in present day Iran. This is a year to learn from the films of CIFF. Look at these films as cinematic lectures, not so much as popcorn-feeding entertainment. If you’ve been keeping up with this year’s festival circuits you will be pleasantly surprised at what all is being covered and screened at CIFF this year.
Beyond the Hills
Director: Cristian Mungiu
This is a picture perfect film on the realities and non-realities of everyday life. It is told through the eyes (and lenses via Director of Photography Oleg Mutu) of a 20-something Romanian nun. Sister Voichita has a lifelong friend visiting her at her monastery, where she and 9 other nuns live under the rule of “Papa,” their priest.
In Their Skin
Director: Jeremy Power Regimbal
In Their Skin starts off with a bang and retracts into a slower tension-building home invasion style horror film. British actor James D’Arcy proves to broaden his boundaries with his character of next-door neighbor “Bobby.” Further inducing the fear in the audience is the brilliant photography by cinematographer Norm Li.
The Last Sentence
Director: Jan Troell
This B&W feature is camera-intensive study of the bourgeoisie and specifically the alcoholic tendencies of famous Swede journalist Torgny Segerstedt. This true-story biographical tale of love and lust in the years leading up to WWII is a touching yet brutal story of greed and miscommunication.
Director: Rodney Ascher
Room 237 is the most entertaining and thought-provoking documentary I have seen concerning the world of cinema. This film specifically deals with The Shining by Stanley Kubrick, but the documentary itself shows footage from Kubrick’s entire filmography. Theories and quasi-ridiculous claims take up the entire 100 minute lecture in this brilliant documentary on the nuances of Kubrick’s filmmaking.
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Antiviral is perhaps the most potent and satirical film to ever be shown at the Chicago International Film Festival. It is nothing short of a masterpiece, a gigantic caricature of our current media-obsessed society. Antiviral is the feature film debut from newcomer filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg. Cronenberg’s vision and directing paired with the death-defying perfect acting of Caleb Landry Jones in the lead role collides into a magnificent sci-fi gem.