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Chicago Film Festival 1969

I don't know for sure, but I think Michael Kutza Jr. lives in his Old Town apartment. Just where is uncertain. Maybe a bed swings down out of the ceiling.

But right now there are all these films, thousands of them, hundreds of 60 second TV commercials alone, and the phone is ringing and it's Uri Zohar, who won last year's Best Director Award. He's calling from Israel and says he has a new film, and . . . Apparently, Chicago's film festival has arrived. This will be the fifth. They said there'd never be a second, or a third, or a fourth. But now, Kutza says, the Chicago festival has been officially recognized by the U.S. government and is the only tax exempt film festival in the world.

That's important, because cash awards are given in all of those categories, and this year the festival will fly in every director who can speak English. A discussion with each director will be held after his film, and scheduling will be more leisurely than in past Kutza says.

The festival will be held Nov. 8 to 19 at the Village Theater, Clark at North, which offers 200 more seats than last year's host, The Playboy. "This will give us more room," Kutza said. "Last year, we had to turn people away from seven performances. Our long-range goal is to build our own theater. But in the meantime, we seem to be outgrowing our temporary locations." Kutza has recently returned from his annual tour of major film festivals and film-producing countries, with a list of 20 to 23 feature films for this year's competition. In addition, there are categories for short subjects, industrial films, educational films, animated features, children's films, student films, TV commercials, and so on.

"We try to show every type of film there is," he said. "This year, for example, we'll even have some multi-screen films. We plan to install the extra screens in the Village for the occasion. They'll be in the industrial films category, however - and I know that's a deadly name. I wish people knew how interesting some industrial films are." For those who don't, there are other possibilities. Last year's festival provided the world premieres of two somewhat dubious films by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. This year, Kutza said, he hopes to snare the world premiere of a legendary 6-hour film made by John and Yoko during their sleep-in tour last spring.

"I saw a few minutes of it in London," Kutza said. "John and Yoko were in bed, playing guitars and wearing those dumb pajamas, and singing 'Give Peace a Chance.' Tommy Smothers and Timothy Leary were sitting on the bed and singing along. I can only imagine what the rest of the six hours is like."

The more conventional feature film entries will include five new movies from Yugoslavia. Last year's festival winner, "Innocence Unprotected," was from Yugoslavia, which has gradually replaced Czechoslovakia as the most interesting film producing country in the Eastern bloc. There will also be what Kutza describes as "the best Romanian film in some time," two Czech films, one from Bulgaria, and an animated Swedish film he waggishly called "I Am Curious (Yellow)." In addition, he said, five American directors will show their first feature films and discuss them with the audience. And on opening night, the veteran U.S. director George Pal will be guest of honor. Joining such past festival honorees as George Cukor, King Vidal and Otto Preminger. Pal is a pioneer of special effects and directed such as "Destination Moon," "War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine."

One of the novelties this year will be a competition in the Super 8 film process, run in co-operation with Bell and Howell. Like all the areas of competition, Kutza said, this one will have two students on the jury. If Cannes and Venice had thought of that last year, striking filmmakers might not have shut them down. Who knows?

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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