From the Chicago International Film Festival press release...
The Chicago International Film Festival today announced this year’s winning films at North America’s longest-running competitive film festival’s 59th edition, running October 11 - 22, 2023. This year, 46 films competed for Gold and Silver Hugo Awards in categories including International Feature Film Competition, New Directors Competition, International Documentary Competition, OutLook Competition, and Short Film Competitions. The Festival also awarded the Chicago Award for an outstanding film in the City & State program, and the Roger Ebert Award, awarded to a film competing in the New Directors Competition in recognition of a filmmaker with a fresh and uncompromising vision.
The Gold Hugo in the International Feature Film Competition goes to Gábor Reisz’s coming-of-age story "Explanation for Everything," while Rodrigo Moreno’s fable "The Delinquents" picks up the Silver Hugo in the International Feature Film Competition. In the New Directors Competition, the Gold Hugo goes to Amr Gamal’s "The Burdened," and Ena Sendijarević's satire, "Sweet Dreams", picks up the Silver Hugo. Mohamed Kordofani’s exploration of shared humanity, "Goodbye Julia," wins this year’s Roger Ebert Award.
In the International Documentary Competition, Tatiana Huezo’s Mexican film "The Echo" wins the Gold Hugo, and "In the Rearview", a Polish-Ukrainian production about refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine wins the Silver Hugo. The Chicago Award goes to "We Grown Now", Minhal Baig’s film set in the Cabrini-Green housing project in 1992, the 59th Chicago International Film Festival’s Opening Night presentation.
“This year’s winning selections truly reflect a global perspective, giving audiences a glimpse into lives and lived experiences they might not have had the opportunity to explore before,” said Chicago International Film Festival Artistic Director Mimi Plauché. “Hailing from every region on the planet from Hungary to Mexico, Argentina to Yemen, Sudan to the U.S., this year’s Hugo winners tell the stories of a complicated, ever-evolving, and often surprising world, demonstrating the breadth of filmmaking talent both established and emerging across the globe.”
The full list of award winners at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival, accompanied by their official jury statements, includes:
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM COMPETITION
Gold Hugo - Best Film: "Explanation for Everything" (Hungary, Slovakia), Dir. Gábor Reisz
The Gold Hugo goes to "Explanation for Everything" directed by Gábor Reisz, for its brilliance in telling a multilayered story that encompasses its protagonist’s coming-of-age and the cultural changes of a country. Narrated with wit, charm, and intelligence, this beautiful story unfolds from an apparently insignificant accident. Superbly written, directed, and acted, this is a film that not only deals with the trouble of growing up, but also digs deeply into human nature when faced with the daunting challenge of making choices.
Silver Hugo - Jury Prize: "The Delinquents" (Argentina, Luxembourg, Brazil, Chile), Dir. Rodrigo Moreno
The Silver Hugo goes to "The Delinquents". A fable that takes you on an unexpected journey, the film is filled with invention and intellectual surprise. Joyfully playing with existing genres of film, it makes one constantly wonder: what kind of movie am I watching?
Silver Hugo - Best Director: Aki Kaurismäki, "Fallen Leaves" (Finland, Germany)
The Silver Hugo for Best Director goes to Aki Kaurismäki for "Fallen Leaves". For the great precision and intelligence of a mise-en-scène that is simple in appearance, absent of superfluous artifacts, and delves deep into the human soul. For the always loving and hopeful gaze with which he looks at both his characters and our difficult world.
Silver Hugo - Best Performance: Ilinca Manolache, "Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World" (Romania, Luxembourg, France, Croatia)
The Silver Hugo for Best Performance goes to Ilinca Manolache from "Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World", for creating an unforgettable, strong, tragicomic, and witty character that stays with the audiences long after the film is over.
Silver Hugo - Best Supporting Performance: Ece Bagci, "About Dry Grasses" (Turkey, France, Germany)
The Silver Hugo for Best Supporting performance goes to Ece Bagci from "About Dry Grasses" for the great intensity yet profound subtlety with which she interprets the memorable character of Sevim.
Silver Hugo - Best Ensemble Performance: The cast of "La Chimera" (Italy, France, Switzerland)
The Silver Hugo for Best Ensemble Performances goes to the magnificent choir of interpreters in "La Chimera". Each one offers a distinct voice as they all give invaluable performances in service of bringing a unique world alive.
Silver Hugo - Best Screenplay: Gábor Reisz and Éva Schulze, "Explanation for Everything" (Hungary, Slovakia)
The Silver Hugo for Best Screenplay goes to Gábor Reisz and Éva Schulze for "Explanation for Everything". This is a superb story that skillfully plays with expectations—turning its premise upside down without ever betraying the audience. The script manages to portray, in an intimate way, how a young boy becomes an adult while at the same time analyzing the very complex political circumstances of an entire country.
Silver Hugo - Best Cinematography: Hélène Louvart, "La Chimera" (Italy, France, Switzerland)
The SIlver Hugo for Best Cinematography goes to Hélène Louvart ("La Chimera") for the inventive and free-spirited method of filming a world of great beauty and for her skillful way of balancing light, color, and texture all in service of enhancing the essence of the story.
NEW DIRECTORS COMPETITION
Gold Hugo: "The Burdened" (Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia), Dir. Amr Gamal
A strong, beautiful portrait of complicated everyday lives in Aden, Yemen’s second city and a place the world seems to have forgotten. A struggling family has to deal with an unwanted fourth pregnancy and the effects ripple out through this delicate screenplay. Excellent and effortless storytelling, superb acting, subtle and sophisticated cinematography all recommend "The Burdened", but it is first and foremost a thought-provoking film on humanity and love in impossible situations. By directly addressing a range of contemporary world issues, it is a valuable reminder for us not to turn a blind eye.
Silver Hugo: "Sweet Dreams" (The Netherlands, Sweden, Indonesia), Dir. Ena Sendijarević
In this wickedly biting satire, a wealthy Dutch family attempts to maintain control of their Indonesian plantation amid anti-colonial peasant revolts and labor strikes in the waning days of Dutch imperialism. The death of the plantation owner exposes the tenuous and illegitimate hold on property and power that the colonial systems established. With beautiful cinematography, exquisite casting, and an evocative soundtrack, Sendijarevic exposes a bizarre world built on a house of cards. A dark fable which reverberates through time to where we are now.
Roger Ebert Award: "Goodbye Julia" (Sudan), Dir. Mohamed Kordofani
Amidst sharply divided religious and political factions in South Sudan, a minor car accident sets off a story of tragedy, empathy, unlikely friendships and redemption. With sharp but nuanced writing and directing, Mohamed Kordofani explores the shared humanity present in those who seem to have little in common. Kordofani’s expansive, confident storytelling gives this film a dramatic edge while consistently emphasizing the truth of our shared existences.
INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Gold Hugo: "The Echo" (Mexico, Germany), Dir. Tatiana Huezo
Tatiana Huezo presents an engrossingly cinematic and poetic portrait of modern family life in rural Mexico. Huezo's nuanced, observational storytelling weaves a rich tapestry of a family and community who live off the land in a mountainous terrain, herding sheep. The film is a meditation on cycles of life, birth, death, work, home, a deep and profound respect for nature, and the inevitable clash between cultural tradition and the modern world. Through the eyes of three generations, the film presents a deeply moving portrait that subtly reveals the flashpoints of struggle in everyday life, observations of shifting gender roles and the ever-encroaching pull of a world outside of their own. The power of the storytelling is in the smallest details, and Huezo’s directorial choices displayed an intentionality that elevated the narrative from thoughtful to profound. The textured cinematography and the immersive sound design create a cinematic landscape that is expansive and breathtakingly intimate.
Silver Hugo: "In the Rearview" (Poland, France, Ukraine), Dir. Maciek Hamela
In another stellar example of vérité storytelling, the ravages of war are written on the faces of evacuees as they flee their homes and lives amid escalations in the war in Ukraine, viewed through the ‘rear view’ perspective of our director as he drives group after group out of danger and into new and uncertain lives ahead. Views of the passing, war torn landscape outside the windows of the vehicle are continuous glimpses into the horrors of war that most people can only imagine. This emotionally-driven journey into the unknown for the film’s subjects, passengers of the camera-wielding caravan, captures the humanity of each face and the rawness of their experience in moments charged with fear, empathy, love, pain, grief and even, at times, humor.
Special Mention: "Four Daughters" (France, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Tunisia, Cyprus), Dir. Kaouther Ben Hania
We all felt that this film was formally inventive and appreciated the bold directorial perspective. The “writing” of the narrative in Four Daughters was a unique collaboration between the subjects, actors and the filmmaker–a co-created, singular portrait of a broken family coping with unimaginable loss.
Gold Q-Hugo: "Monster" (Japan), Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
A true gem, "Monster" cinematically reveals how false accusations on both the level of gossip and unjust stigma of homosexuality resonate to shape people's lives. Superb individual performances weave together to provoke the unstable positions everyone takes as they confront their own version of events. A visually gorgeous film of reversals and surprises, "Monster" unfolds the magic of personal truth in everyday life.
Silver Q-Hugo: "Housekeeping for Beginners" (North Macedonia, Poland, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo), Dir. Goran Stolevski
The demands of queer survival create a necessary confrontation with national, religious, and racial difference. More than a found family story, "Housekeeping for Beginners" shows how queer bonding can surpass the fractured legacy of the Balkans. A co-production of North Macedonia, Kosovo, Croatia, Serbia, and Poland, the producing alliance reflects the film's vision.
Special Mention: "Cardinal Sins" (Argentina), Dir. Juan Sebastián Torales
A Special Mention goes to "Cardinal Sins" by Juan Sebastián Torales, for its demonstration of characters that naturally defy and explore their own curiosities through the world. The scenes and dialogue are visually and linguistically chain-linked presentations of the adversities and pleasures that come from nascent desires.
THE CHICAGO AWARD
"We Grown Now" (U.S.), Dir. Minhal Baig
We could not think of a movie that deserved the Chicago Award as much as WE GROWN NOW, a rich, complicated and lyrical Chicago story. Set in the Cabrini-Green housing project in the early 90s, before and after the tragic shooting of seven-year-old Dantrell Davis, WE GROWN NOW is a film grounded in empathy, featuring two brilliant performances by child actors Blake Cameron Jones and Gian Knight Ramírez as best friends Malik and Eric. Writer/director Minhal Baig’s use of space, lighting, camera angles and sound to capture the heartbreak and joy of a community that is about to be torn apart, is masterful. Baig also presents a humane portrait of two monoparental families and the sacrifices they make to give their children a better life.
SHORT FILM COMPETITIONS
Animated Short Film Competition
Gold Hugo: "The Miracle" (Belgium, The Netherlands, France), Dir. Nienke Deutz
This short tells an interesting and empathetic story. The animation technique is inventive and flawlessly executed while being aesthetically beautiful and surprising. "The Miracle" makes excellent use of the medium to convey questions of family that are not often addressed and invokes humor to provide a hopeful outlook for those who for whatever reason do not have children.
Silver Hugo: "Maurice's Bar" (France, Israel), Dirs. Tzor Edery, Tom Prezman
"Maurice's Bar" tells a haunting historical story with bold yet elegant design. The visual composition of the short is exceptional. It incorporates beautiful use of visual metaphor and transitions in its storytelling. Its themes focus on the oppression of queer community and gathering spaces, a topic that is timely today.
Special Mention: "Battery Mommy" (South Korea), Dir. Seungbae Jeon
Documentary Short Film Competition
Gold Hugo: "Ethan Lim: Cambodian Futures" (U.S.), Dir. Dustin Nakao-Haider
This movie is a powerful portrait of preserving legacy through the art of food, an example of generational healing through honoring the memory and struggle of those who came before. It is also a touching, intimate account of a local family and their contributions to the regional food landscape that touches on Cambodian diaspora, potential futures, and community through its cuisine. The subject of this movie, Ethan, mentions that there is a difference between the food his family eats and the food they serve and that he centers their palate and their taste. His food is a direct connection; it holds history, and binds family. Sharing this food is an act of love and community. This documentary holds lots of ideas that are relevant to our region but also the larger immigrant experience in America.
Silver Hugo: "Is My Living in Vain" (U.K., France, New Zealand), Dir. Ufuoma Essi
This documentary is a unique, intimate lens into Black faith spaces that act as the glue for communities that have been disinvested in over decades. The film makes the viewer deeply feel the healing power of the churches, which are essential for healing. The collection of stories in this short allows us to settle into these religious spaces that hold black communities together and witness the effects of gentrification on these communities. The movie gives us time to really feel these spaces and emotions and see the stewardship and acts of love from the culture keepers who are nurtured and raised in these places.
Special Mentions: "Mountain Man" (Bhutan), Dir. Arun Bhattarai; "American Sikh" (U.S.), Dirs. Vishavjit Singh, Ryan Westra; "Chronicle of a Summer Day" (U.S.), Dir. No Credited Director
Live Action Short Film Competition
Gold Hugo: "A Real One" (U.S.), Dir. McKenzie Chinn
This short accomplishes a difficult storytelling feat: it convincingly interweaves accessible, laugh-out-loud comedy with stark dramatic realism. The direction impresses and fosters trust while exploring a disturbing scenario. The short is well produced with strong cinematography, a clever plot, brilliant acting, and compelling thematic content. "A Real One" shows us things we might miss in worlds we might not know, and resonates in our memory.
Silver Hugo: "The Heart" (U.S.), Dir. Malia Ann
The heart as a symbol represents our deepest emotions, feelings, and desires; our sorrow and pain. This short film brings us an absurd tale of a mother and son, wonderfully executed and cast with an especially unforgettable last frame. With a strong story and great cinematography, "The Heart" provides a glimpse of something stylistically new and exciting. When one does encounter something new, the uncanny feeling one experiences is usually situated in the heart, while the head catches up. Malia Ann’s brilliant short film is aptly named.