Chatting with Mimi Plauché About the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival

2016_09_ciff North America's longest-running competitive film festival, the 2016 Chicago International Film Festival, begins on Thursday, Oct. 13 at the AMC River East 21 (where every single CIFF screening will be this year), with the Chicago premiere of the highly anticipated and critically praised (by me as well; full review later in the fall) La La Land, with writer-director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) and co-star Rosemarie DeWitt in attendance at the screening. This melancholy musical, complete with singing and dancing from stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is a stunning, ridiculously entertaining, and emotionally stirring work that is easily one of the best films of the year. On top of that, the film fits in nicely as the centerpiece for CIFF’s focus on musicals this year, featuring 11 additional titles from all over the world. As is the case with every big-city film festival, Programming Director Mimi Plauché, founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza, and their team had to strike a careful balance between true international cinematic discovery and peppering in a few recognizable titles and talent names to bring in audiences on the lookout for celebrity or two. Still, CIFF remains a festival that focuses on new and established directors, and the number of filmmakers coming in from around the world is impressive. I'll have a full-fledged CIFF preview piece a little later this week, but I did want to mention that the highly successful Industry Days is returning this year after its debut (at this scale) in 2015. The event was created to pair up-and-coming filmmakers with industry professionals in the hopes of trading and honing ideas and getting that first film made. This year, Industry Days spans four days (Oct. 20-23), and producer and Chicago native James D. Stern will receive a tribute at the event and take part in a conversation about his experiences in the film business, on October 20. As I do every year, I sat down with Plauché, who has been working at CIFF since 2006, to talk about the highlights and special events of this year's festival, which continues through October 27. As always, Plauché is a great guide through the more than 140 films from dozens of countries. Take notes, and don't be afraid to see something you aren't familiar with—that's the point of a film festival, right? 3CR: Let’s start with La La Land. I think it’s such a great choice, it’s almost obvious, which is not something I’d ever accuse CIFF of doing for its opening night films in the past, but this one just seemed like almost a no-brainer. Which came first, booking this movie or deciding that musicals were going to be a big theme this year? Mimi Plauche: Last year, there was a film that came to us about a week after we closed the program, which is in this year’s program, called That Day We Sang, and Michael is such a huge musical fan. Over the years, I’ve always tried to find a musical here and there, knowing that he loves them, but also that we have audiences that love musicals. We’ve found some really fun, unexpected stuff over the years. One year, we had Made In Hungaria, which is a Hungarian musical set in the ’50s. We just had a bunch of different, more classical musicals and more experimental stuff. So anyway, we saw That Day We Sang, an incredibly charming, British musical. It’s a BBC production, and it was directed by the renowned theater director Victoria Wood and stars Imelda Staunton, who’s amazing in it, and Michael Ball—really great performances and a lovely story, great songs and dance sequences. After festival was over, Michael continued to think about That Day We Sang. So he was like, “We’ve been doing these spotlights for years now, and it all started when we got an Academy grant, and we had written it around doing spotlights on regions of the world." We had a three-year grant from them. It was really exciting. The idea of that was to highlight regions of the world that we’ve always had a couple of films from every year, but how do we really highlight what’s happening there, because there’s interesting stuff happening in the three locations that we’ve chosen—South Asia, Middle East and then Africa. They were incredibly successful, which was great. So the year after that was the 50th anniversary, and we thought we’d continue on with the region and ended up thinking, how do we tie this in with the festival and the festival’s history? We had a long, great history of showing Scandinavian films ever since the beginning, with awards going to Scandinavian films. The year after that was last year, the 51st, and we had been approached right after the 50th anniversary by the Architecture Biennial people: “We would love if you want to do a program around architecture and film,” and we just thought that was a great opportunity. We refocused the spotlight to make it more thematic rather than regional. That was a fun challenge for the programming team, and it also ended up being incredibly successful in terms of drawing in new audiences and expanding the types of programming we were doing and finding some really great films that may not have been programmed otherwise, because we weren’t looking for them. So after that ended, Michael said, “If we’re kind of doing something thematic, I would love to think about doing the genre of musicals as a spotlight. What do you think?” And I said, “I think that’s a great idea, but let’s hold off with making a final decision until we get a better sense if there are going to be enough from around the world that we can program.” With architecture, I knew we would be able to find stuff, but musicals—are there enough international musicals? We could have easily done a retrospective musicals section that was international and would have been great, but it would be really exciting to try to find contemporary musicals from around the world. The festival program is usually films that have premiered or are brand new, but premiered since the last festival. For the spotlights, we’ve always taken a little bit more leeway with that, so we expanded that to two years, and let’s see what we can find. Most of them are actually from this past year, but there’s a couple that we reached a little bit further back for. I started writing to my contacts in different parts of the world saying, “Any musicals on your radar that have just come out or that you’re anticipating for this year?” We just started getting feedback. And in Berlin at the Market when we do our meetings just being like “hey, got any musicals?” Some people would be like, “I don’t think so,” but then a month later, I’d get an email from somebody saying, “Oh my gosh, I have a musical for you.” We looked at more than ended up in the program. To go back to La La Land, when we were going to L.A. to talk to the studios about films for this year, Lionsgate said, “Yeah we’re excited. Let’s talk. We want to just put La La Land on your radar.” We thought “How perfect is that?” We had already programmed a lot of the musical section and, of course, once we saw it, it was a no-brainer. 3CR: How long ago did they say that to you? MP: I want to say mid-July. 3CR: You’re right, it wasn’t on anyone’s radar until that first trailer came out, which would have been right around then. MP: Right around then, yeah. So we’re like, “Sounds great. Let’s take a look and set up a screening.” We fell in love with the film, and it’s the cherry on top of the musical section. That’s how Trolls came about—we were talking with Fox, and Michael said, “You got any musicals?” And they said, “Actually…” So it’s a really fun addition to the musicals program. 3CR: Isn’t it Michael that loves 3D? MP: Michael adores 3D. 3CR: Is Trolls the only 3D this year? MP: It is the only 3D, yeah. 3CR: I’m curious about King of Jazz. You said you could have made the musicals selections very retro heavy if you wanted to, but this is the only one you got that’s older. MP: Right. And it was on our radar because it’s a new restoration, and I think it was it at MoMA in early in the spring. So it was on our radar from that. It just seemed like, again, not an obvious choice but a really interesting addition, and also something that maybe is not on a lot of people’s radar. They maybe haven’t seen it yet, and with the new restoration it seemed like a really interesting choice, with the advent of talkies, this is one of the earlier films that is bringing the music and the dance and the revue aspect. 3CR: I wondered if it was included because it’s jazz themed, as is La La Land. MP: That’s a happy coincidence. One of the things I love about the musicals section is that it’s all different types of musicals, so we have That Day We Sang, or even La La Land, which are more traditional musicals, but then we have Junction 48, which did premiere in Berlin and is an amazing film; it’s a hip-hop musical. There are so many great films where music’s at the center, but it’s the way in which the hip-hop is used and integrated into the story, so it’s almost always in the context of a show, but it’s telling a story that they’re experiencing and living, so I think it fits really well into the musicals section. We ended up with one biopic, Elis—the Brazilian music in it is just fantastic. Or something like the Finnish film Urban Family, they had all these different Finnish composers each write a song for it. And it felt like a festival film in terms of the story that it was telling, and that it had this unexpected musical aspect to it. Belgian Rhapsody is just a really fun film that has a political aspect to it. And then Game On—we had seen a couple other films like this—but the Polish film Game On, they use songs that are already Polish hits that were integrated into the story. Then of course we knew we had to have a Bollywood film, and Mirzya is one of the most highly anticipated Bollywood films of the fall. 3CR: You mentioned at the press conference that the unintentional theme that cropped up this year is the dysfunctional family, which is a common theme in a lot of festivals that I’ve been to. MP: It is. Yes, I think we felt like when we were watching films at Cannes, it was like one dysfunctional family after another. But it’s nice too, because I feel like the musical section is a nice counterpoint to that, even though there’s maybe a couple dysfunctional families in there . But I feel like we ended up with more comedies than usual. That’s something that’s always in the back of our head—Chicago is such a great comedy town, and we understand that a lot of festival films, not just ours, tend to be heavier. It’s always great to find those comedies from different parts of the world. 3CR: What are a couple of titles that you think qualify as these great comedies. Laughs are something I don’t usually go to this festival for. MP: One that I absolutely adore is Panamerican Machinery, a Mexican comedy. Super quirky. I think it was, for me, just so unexpected. We have two Mexican comedies this year, and I think we had four French comedies. Panamerican Machinery is set in a factory that makes heavy machinery, and the way that it’s set up, it’s like the happiest place in the world to work. You feel like you’re transported into a different world where the workers all love their jobs, they all get along, you know, life is good. Over the intercom system, there are encouraging messages sent. 3CR: I already don’t trust it. MP: And then everything does fall apart, but in a very funny and unexpected way. Super quirky, comedy—a French/Belgian co-production—is Arctic Heart, which stars Guillaume Canet, and it has a science theme. It’s these research scientists who have found that there’s this part of the penguin genome that prevents them from becoming ill, and they’re trying to figure out how to extract it so that humans can take advantage of this benefit, and this young intern comes to work at the research facility and falls in love with the lead scientist, and then discovers one way to help him in his endeavor is to give her body up to science. So definitely some laugh-out-loud moments with very silly penguins in it,  but also it’s a heartfelt romantic comedy as well. Like Crazy is an Italian comedy that’s in competition, and I saw that with a really large audience. One of the things that was actually great about Cannes this year is that I saw a number of laugh-out-loud comedies, and this was one of them. It definitely takes you on a ride with two women who are institutionalized for mental illness—different illnesses, different social and cultural backgrounds. The older one, played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, has been there for a while and is a bit delusional, comes from an upper-class background. When the younger one who’s in her 20s comes in, she takes her under her wing, and the two manage to escape and they take her on a wild ride. It’s a lot of fun. You see the picture, and it looks a little bit like Thelma and Louise, and perhaps it’s not quite that dark, but a relationship is built between the two women. 3CR: Do you notice year to year that there are micro shifts that you make in terms of the types of things you emphasize in the overall program? Maybe you felt like everything was too serious one year, and you keep your eyes a little more open for lighter fare. MP: We do. Part of it, of course, is what we’re seeing every year, but we do reflect each year on what we’ve done the past year, and think about, is there a different type of balance that we can find that might work better for the festival? So it’s something that we are always thinking about. When we first started talking about the musicals section, Michael said, “Let’s bring some lightness and joy to the festival.” When we do find a great comedy, it’s like “This is such a great addition to the program.” One of the last films that we programmed, I think I saw actually the last day in which I was really watching stuff for programming, is a comedy called Lost In Paris, and it had been on my radar, and then finally it finished. It’s by Abel and Gordon, which is a duo who have been working together. I guess she’s originally Australian, and he’s either French or Belgian. I’m a tough one for comedies, but I was laughing out loud and delighted by it. It’s a bit Tati-esque, but I feel like there’s a risk when you do something along those lines, because it’s hard to pull that off, and I just think it’s beautiful, charming, and very funny. 3CR: One way that the selections might change slightly from year to year is bringing in new programmers, and Alex Vásquez is new to the team this year. MP: Absolutely, but we do program as a team, so there will be micro shifts because of that, but nobody’s programming solo. So we’re not giving over the section, but he’s responsible for researching or tracking down stuff and doing initial recommendations, first eyeballs on stuff, unless of course we’ve seen it somewhere else. Like Raw, which premiered at Critics Week at Cannes. 3CR: Oh, yeah. I was telling Alex, this year I’ve seen the fewest number of After Dark selections. I’ve seen two of them, but more importantly, I’ve heard of almost all of them. MP: Yeah, there are a lot of hot new titles, which is fun. I challenged him to do that too. Let’s find some of the new, great stuff, whether it’s played somewhere or not. Prevenge was probably one of the last additions, and we’re so excited about it. Amok is an international premiere—not necessarily like a traditional genre film, but it has that flavor of Fight Club meets City of God. I think Autopsy of Jane Doe is amazing. It’s just a lot of fun. One thing Alex definitely brought to this year is, he definitely has a higher tolerance for the blood and gore, but I think also he’s a huge, huge, huge martial arts film buff and aficionado. He was so excited about Headshot when he first found it. Not that we haven't had some martial arts films while I’ve been here, but I think that’s something he definitely wanted to find for the After Dark program. 3CR: Henry: You have the Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer event , which is great. Did that come about because they were restoring it? Obviously it has Chicago roots as well. MP: Yeah, it has Chicago roots. The company that’s doing the restoration and distributing it is a Chicago company. We world-premiered the film. It just all came together that way. When the conversation started, we said, “Hey, we world-premiered it; we’d love to world-premiere its restoration too.” Of course John is still here, so it all worked out, and we’re really excited about it. 3CR: Let’s talk about some of the other tributes and older titles. I’m most excited about Geraldine Chaplin. It’s funny how each new generation of filmgoers discovers her though some other means, and she’s been around for so long. Now even modern audiences. She’s been in horror films, Spanish-language films, she’s been in some great stuff. MP: And I think that’s one of the things that’s so fantastic about her is that she’s not only a great actress, but she’s a risk taker, she’s fun. She doesn’t do what’s expected. A couple of years ago, she actually won the best actress prize for a Dominican/Mexican film called Sand Dollars. We were working on her coming in that year, and she couldn’t make it in, and we didn’t know that she was going to win the award. Michael had the opportunity to meet her. We were thrilled to get her. She’s so dynamic. Like I said, she works all the time still, and I think makes such interesting choices with the films she’s working on. She’s actually going to be on the jury this year, and the tribute was always part of what we wanted to do with her. I think it’s going to be an extra-special event. Unique is what I mean, in that it’s going to be at the Essanay Studios, which is where her father Charlie Chaplin shot his first film ever in the U.S. before he decided it was too cold and dark in Chicago. With Peter Bogdanovich, we knew that they were going to finally release the documentary about him , which focuses on They All Laughed. You have Wes Anderson in there, and Tarantino in the documentary talking about how this is really one of the most overlooked masterpieces in American film history. So we thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could bring him in to talk about his career? He’s been to the festival once before, and it was the same year we did a musical retrospective as well. It was a while ago. It was in the early ’80s, I think. And actually we are just about to make the announcement that we’re actually going to be showing They All Laughed. They’re creating the DCP just for this, so that’s going to be an addition to the schedule. So it’s going to be the Director’s Cut. 3CR: I want to ask about Steve McQueen being here, because it’s not a lifetime achievement award… MP: It’s an artistic achievement award, and usually with Black Perspectives, we work with a committee to think about who we’d like to honor each year. When we’ve honored directors in the past, it has often been directors who have a big film coming out that year. Or we’ve done actors and we’ve done both established actors as well, it’s been fun catching actors when they're on the rise like Anthony Mackie, the year that we did that. So we had been talking about Steve for a couple of years, and this year seemed being the 20th anniversary it seemed like a great year to do it. He has a connection to both Chicago and the festival. With Hunger, it won best film that year, and Michael Fassbender won best actor in it, and then of course we’ve shown his other work. He’s not in Chicago, but I think he’s going to be shooting here in the future. 3CR: I’ve heard people say they’ve seen him around in the last few months [he’s been in town co-writing (with Gillian Flynn) the script for his next directing effort, Widows. MP: Also with the Art Institute a couple of years ago doing the first retrospective anywhere of his work as a video artist, I think he also feels a connection to the city as well. When he accepted our invitation, we were just thrilled. While a lot of the program is focused on African-Americans, I think with Twelve Years a Slave especially, he’s firmly placed himself in the American pantheon of great directors who are going to continue to do the great work. Again with his connection as a festival alum and award winner, I think for us it’s extra meaningful to be bringing him back. I always love these conversations, because there’s always some unexpected side of the honoree that’s revealed or you learn about their process. It’s going to be an extended, sit-down conversation with him. I do have to say one thing about him too: In the year that he won for Hunger, he wasn’t here, but he gave me his phone number to call him and tell him about the award, and I’ll never forget when he told me that I was going to be responsible for a lot of drunken men in Belfast that night, and I said I take no responsibility for drunk Irishmen. So it was fun to have him. 3CR: Also as part of Black Perspectives I’m really excited that Daughters of the Dust is coming back, and that writer-director Julie Dash is coming back. MP: It’s so interesting, because again this is fortuitous in that we started really early on. We said, “It’s the 20th anniversary. what are things we would like to do?” before knowing what’s available. We always like to do some panel discussion or other types of discussions that addresses an issue to the African-American filmmaking community, or something that’s happening right now. So the two topics we came up with were: 25 years ago, there was this huge explosion of African-American cinema, and wouldn’t it be great to do a panel that would reflect on the new wave and then what’s happening now? Especially with all of the controversy around the Academy Awards, which took the brunt of it, but with film awards, and the film industry not being as open to African-American talent as TV has become. So let’s really look at what’s happening right now, but also looking at this history behind it, and there was this moment 25 years ago where there were so many I think possibilities, and how have those been fulfilled or not fulfilled? So we were talking about that, and Daughters of the Dust was one of the films on our list, and Julie was one of the filmmakers, and we found out about the restoration, and it was an easy choice to make then. 3CR: When people are restoring something that you really want, it makes your programming a little bit easier. MP: Well, it was one of five films—probably even one of the top three films—that we were talking about “Wouldn’t it be nice to bring Julie in to show the film?” And again, then we just found out about the restoration, and it made it a really easy choice and we’re really excited. One of the other things that came out, with the Chicago connection, is that one of the actresses in it is Cheryl Lynn Bruce, and she’s a big actress in the Chicago theater scene. So when we were confirming all the details around the film, we said, “It’s fantastic Julie can come in with it. Do you mind if we reach out to Cheryl Lynn to see if she can participate in the Q&A?” They said, “That’s great, but Julie really wants the art director involved too.” And I said, “Who’s the art director?” And I looked it up and it said Kerry Marshall. And I said, “Kerry James Marshall?” He had this major exhibition at the MCA, and I did not know that he had this history. He’s done art direction for a couple of different films, so they’re both going to be at the screening as well. It’s great to have those extra Chicago connections with that as well. The other panel that we had decided to do, which has just become more and more relevant, was thinking about the role that film and visual media in general have played in the Black Lives Matter movement. Again, we started talking about that, not that it wasn’t already on people’s radar, and of course it’s a really important topic and issue in February and March, when we started talking about it, but it’s just became that much more timely and relevant. We’re partnering with Black Cinema House and presenting that panel this year. 3CR: I noticed that, with the exception of some of the panels and at least one of the tributes, every one of the screenings this year is at River East. So you’re not bothering with outside venues any more. That’s got to be a relief. MP: Yeah, and when we made those decisions to go other places, they’ve usually been for very targeted and specific reasons, so I don’t know that we won't do it again. It’s always in the context of what we’re doing that year and whether it makes sense to do off-site screenings or events specific to what we’re doing. 3CR: I have to imagine when you set up a screening at, say, the Chicago Theatre, it’s four times the work for a single screening as it would be at River East. MP: They’re beautiful venues, but they’re not pre-equipped to play movies, even though it was originally a movie palace. Putting in the screen and the projector has its own challenges. When we talked with some of the studios, that when you talk about certain cities and talk about where you have to play your film, in Chicago, it’s AMC. So it is the theater in Chicago that everything comes through. But they also do play a lot of the Indian and Chinese cinema, so it’s a venue for some international work as well, and the quality of the projection is great, the theater team, the projectionists, we like working with them. 3CR: Because these huge chains are now getting into international cinema, because the cities they’re in have those communities, does that in any way impact the things that become available to you? Does it make your job easier because people in international circuits have their eyes on Chicago a little bit more than they used to? MP: I don’t know that it has that big of an impact. I would say one of the nice things internationally, this is our 52nd year, and the festival has a history that speaks for itself, so I’m not often introducing the festival to a filmmaker or a producer. A lot of the countries have film commissions. The festival has these established relationships and a reputation that precedes me going and talking to anyone, which is fantastic. One of the things I think has a positive impact is that the theater is already drawing a diverse audience into it. With the festival, you’re talking about being introduced to films you wouldn’t see normally. I think that’s one of the strengths of the festival in Chicago is that we have audiences that will of course come to the niche that feels like the natural niche for that particular audience member, but a lot of people will take a chance then and say “I’ve never seen a film from this country before.” I’ve had people come up to me after—we showed an Egyptian film a couple of years ago, and it drew a pretty large young Egyptian crowd, which was so interesting, and it’s really exciting because we’re reaching a new audience, but one of the audience members came up to me after I had done the Q&A and she said, “That was such a great experience. We don’t often get to see our own experience represented on the big screen in the U.S. But I love all this other stuff that’s happening in the fest too, so I can’t wait to check out other films in the festival.” So I think there’s a great crossover appeal as well. 3CR: Okay, it’s the moment of truth as always: give me a small handful of off-the-beaten-path titles people should keep an eye out for. Is there like a particular country that you’ve got in this year that maybe has been severely under represented in the past? MP: One is Amok. I think we actually had a Macedonian film last year, though, which was unexpected. Alba, which is Ecuadorian, and it’s by a young director. That’s in our New Directors competition. I’d love to talk about a couple that caught us by surprise. In our New Directors competition, there is Are We Not Cats. It’s dark and quirky, but also funny. Again, there’s a romance at the heart of it that’s really endearing as well. It’s about two people who don’t quite fit in finding each other. Another one, the Polish film The Last Family is based on a real painter and his family, but there’s just some moments in it that like…you’re watching it patiently, and it’s so beautifully made, and the acting is amazing, then you get to these moments in the film where you’re thinking “This is amazing.” And I don’t wanna give anything away. Another one that I quite liked in the International Competition is Layla M. Again, part of it is the timeliness of it. The young actress who plays Layla is superb. And it gets into the emotion and the psychology of a young woman who, because of her religious and cultural background, has been treated like an outsider. She’s very intelligent, culturally engaged, but then becomes radicalized. I think the way that her journey unfolds—and you see her making decisions she makes and her experiences—it’s really intelligent but emotionally engaging as well. Then there’s Heartstone. There are a number of filmmakers in here, not just the ones in the New Directors competition, where we have shown their shorts before. Every once in a while, we’ll get the feature not knowing we’ve shown the short, and we love the feature and program it. This for me was one that I was really anticipating because I’ve loved his short films, and we’ve shown two that won awards at the festival. I think there are just so many interesting filmmakers doing work in Iceland right now, and I think he’s a rising star. Again, I do feel like we see a lot of coming-of-age stories, but there’s something about both the atmosphere of this one, the storytelling, the rhythm, and it’s so emotionally charged. There’s an emotional truth that really stuck with me. Another nice one is Finals, from a filmmaker whose first film we showed as well, and this will be a world premiere. His first film was a comedy. This is a straight-up drama, so a little bit unexpected. He co-wrote it with Kiarostami, which is meaningful, but also really so many of the Iranian filmmakers are such great storytellers with such layers and nuances. With a second or third watching, you take so much more away from them. I was quite taken with Karl Marx City. I think it’s a personal doc that also obviously has much greater historical and political implications. With the personal story at the heart of it, it just really hooks you and brings you in. 3CR: Always happy to see Steve James and Charlie Siskel represented again. MP: Of course. American Anarchist actually reminded me a bit of an Errol Morris film, in that he’s engaging as a filmmaker directly with the subject, getting at things that are complicated. The subject of the film is so complex, and Charlie does such a great job of drawing out those complexities and never trying to simplify it on any level, allowing them to all co-exist. One film that we have the international premiere of is The Daughter. I thought Michael hit it on the head when he said, “It reminds me of Bergman, both in the story and the way that it’s told.” It’s a small family drama that has a dark heart at its center. I also really like Harmonium, the Koji Fukada one. He often looks at a common theme in Japanese literature. There’s a play by a guy named Abe Kōbō from the ’60s that deals with this similar subject. His earlier film was called Hospitality, and it deals with the same theme of what happens when you invite a stranger into your home, especially as the host, you’re meeting certain cultural expectations or norms, and the guest isn’t always responding in kind. So in Harmonium, he explores those relationships and becomes on the twisted side of it, and Tadanobu Asano is great in it, of course. He’s always fantastic. Kaleidoscope I think that will be up your alley too. Toby Jones is great in it, and it definitely has a hint of Hitchcock. I think actually you might like Soul on a String as well. It is epic. And it has a touch of the Western. It’s borrowing from a lot of different genres. It’s a quest film, both spiritual and physical, with a touch of Buddhist philosophy thrown in. You haven’t seen The Oath have you? It’s Baltasar Kormakur’s latest one, and he acts in it as well as directs it, and he’s amazing; he gives a great performance. It’s about a father whose daughter has fallen in with the wrong crowd, and he decides that he needs to rescue her at any cost, but kind of every step that he takes is a bit of a misstep, and it’s about to what lengths will you go to protect and save your family? Zoology, I knew the premise before I watched it, but the way in which the story is told is really great. It’s about a woman who works at the zoo and connects better with the animals than with the humans at the zoo for good reason. She lives at home taking care of her mother and looking for a connection in life, and one day she wakes up to discover she’s grown a tail, which may be the best thing or the worst thing that’s ever happened to her. Women Who Kill. Again, it’s really great storytelling with a dark, subversive, but also comedic side to it. I guess of the Special Presentations, we’re big fans of Andrzej Wajda’s work and we’re really thrilled to be presenting the premiere of Afterimage. Throughout his career, he’s known for looking at people who take a stand against society and what the cost of that is. The lead actor is amazing. But it’s beautiful, just lush filmmaking and great storytelling. 3CR: Thank you for taking so much time to talk. You’ve filled my dance card once again.
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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.