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CIFF 2018: Preview of the 54th Chicago International Film Festival

Next month will mark the 54th year of the Chicago International Film Festival, continuing the gathering’s mission of introducing Chicagoland audiences with new favorites from all over the world. The festival starts on Wednesday, October 10 and ends on Sunday, October 21, with an exciting roster of movies that have played fests like Cannes or Toronto, along with titles making their U.S., international, or even world premiere. 

Three particularly major events for your calendar: CIFF starts with with a screening of the addiction drama “Beautiful Boy,” starring Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell. Reviewing the film from Toronto, Brian Tallerico said that the film includes "another phenomenal performance from Timothee Chalamet, nearly matching last year's turn in 'Call Me by Your Name.'" Director and co-writer Felix Van Groeningen will be there to present the film; there are two  (To get tickets for the Opening Night Gala Presentation of "Beautiful Boy," click here)

Then, on October 16, Carey Mulligan will come to the festival to present “Wildlife,” the latest display of her incredible acting talent, and also the directorial debut of Paul Dano. Brian Tallerico said in his 3 1/2-star review of the film that "Mulligan hasn't been this good since her Oscar-nominated work in 'An Education.'" Mulligan will also be receiving a special tribute to her career. (To get tickets for the Centerpiece presentation of "Wildlife" and Carey Mulligan tribute, click here)

The Chicago International Film Festival will end on Sunday, October 21 with a screening of “The Front Runner,” Jason Reitman’s film about Gary Hart’s scandal back in 1988. The film just played at Telluride and the Toronto International Film Festival, and will now play Chicago with Reitman in attendance. (Click here to read Tomris Laffly's interview with Reitman and his two co-writers about “The Front Runner" ; to get tickets for the Closing Night screening of "The Front Runner," click here)

This year’s International Feature Film Competition includes 16 films, and the latest from the likes of Jia Zhangke (“Ash is Purest White”), Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazarro”), Olivier Assayas (“Non-Fiction”), Christian Petzold (“Transit”) and more. The category will also feature Kent Jones’ Tribeca Film Festival favorite “Diane,” which will be having its Chicago premiere. 

Steve McQueen’s highly anticipated “Widows,” his first film after “12 Years a Slave” from five years ago, will be presented at the festival as part of its Black Perspectives programs, which features nine films and a program of seven shorts. The program continues the festival’s goal of “showcasing excellence in filmmaking from African American filmmakers and the African diaspora.” Along with “Widows,” the program will featured a special showing of George Tillman Jr.’s new film, “The Hate U Give,” a new film starring Tessa Thompson (“Little Woods”), a documentary about “roller-skating’s pivotal role in the African-American community” titled “United Skates,” a documentary about Sandra Bland (“Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland”) and more. 

The Black Perspectives program will also feature a tribute to Ruth Carter, the costume designer most recently behind “Black Panther” but who was nominated for an Oscar for her work on “Malcolm X” and “Amistad.” (Click here to read our interview with Ruth Carter about her work on “Black Panther”; to get tickets to the Ruth Carter tribute, click here) 

Among the festival’s speciality programs, the Masters program is an excellent place to see the latest from the most revered auteurs working today. Included titles are Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War,” Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows,” Avi Nesher’s “The Other Story,” and Mike Leigh’s “Peterloo.” There are also spotlight sections on Comedy and Italy. 

The festival is a great place to get a leg-up on Oscar contenders in the Best Foreign Language category. Along with Alfonso Cuaron's “Roma,” which is Mexico’s official submission for the category, there’s also Ali Abbasi’s “Border” (from Sweden), “Birds of Passage” (from Colombia) and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or winner, “Shoplifters” (from Japan). 

Fans of short films will have certainly have lots to choose from with the festival’s eight different programs. The different sections include: “Around the Corner — City & State”; “Outside the Lines — Animation”; “Bad Don’t Sleep — After Dark” (with a short by Dev Patel starring Armie Hammer); “In Real Life — Documentaries”; “Searchers — Drama” (featuring a short by Guy Maddin); “Laughing Matters — Comedy” (with a short starring Jason Schwartzman and Jake Johnson); “Beyond a Boundary — Black Perspectives,” and “Meditations — Experimental.” The latter features the latest short from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a short about “a sublimely orchestrated journey into the realms of sleep and landscape.” 

Keeping with the festival’s top interest in promoting women filmmakers, the festival’s “Women in Cinema” program is highlighting 36 features and 21 shorts directed by women. Included titles are: Elizabeth Chomko’s Chicago-shot “What They Had,” starring Hilary Swank and Michael Shannon; “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” by Marielle Heller; Julie Bertuccelli’s “idiosyncratic family drama” “Claire Darling” starring Catherine Deneuve and many more. 

The full schedule can be found at the Chicago International Film Festival's website here. Be sure to check back at often as we dive deep into one of world's finest festivals. 

The 54th Chicago International Film Festival runs from October 10-21. For more information, showtimes, and tickets, showtimes, click here

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is the former Senior Editor at and a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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