Feature

Interview: Chicago International Film Festival Artistic Director Mimi Plauché

The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival runs October 12-26

North America’s longest-running competitive film festival, the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival begins on Thursday, Oct. 12 at the AMC River East 21 (where almost every CIFF screening will, once again, be this year). It kicks off with a star-studded screening of the highly anticipated historic drama Marshall, with stars Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Jussie Smollett, and Sterling K. Brown scheduled to attend with director Reginald Hudlin, producer Paula Wagner, and grandson of Thurgood Marshall, John Marshall. The film follows a young Thurgood Marshall, who would go on to become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through career-defining cases as a lawyer for the NAACP (a full review will appear here later in the week; the film opens theatrically on Friday, October 13).

Marshall opens the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival

As is the case with every major film festival, the CIFF programming team had to strike a careful balance between true international cinematic discovery and a few recognizable titles and name talent to bring in audiences who are on the lookout for celebrity or two. Playing to its strength as a directors’ festival, CIFF remains focused on both new and established directors, and the number of filmmakers coming in from around the world is impressive. And as it does every year, the festival picks a genre spotlight to program; this year’s is International Film Noir, with a 10-film slate featuring a variety of takes on corruption, crime, and shadowy morality.

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 returns for its third year in a row. 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. 19-22), and will include a Keynote Conversation with Paramount Pictures President Marc Evans on Oct. 21.

Since I last sat down with Mimi Plauché in 2016, she has been elevated within Cinema/Chicago, the Festival’s presenting non-profit organization, from Programming Director to Artistic Director, while founder and one-time Artistic Director Michael Kutza has become the organization’s CEO. As we do every year, Plauché (who has worked for CIFF since 2006) and I go over the highlights and special events of this year’s festival, which continues through October 26. As always, she is a knowledgeable guide through the nearly 140 films from dozens of countries. Take notes, and don’t be afraid to see something you’ve never heard of before—that’s the point of a film festival, right?

Third Coast Review: You were officially named CIFF’s artistic director earlier this year. How is your role different than during previous festivals? And how is Michael [Kutza’s] role different, as well?

Mimi Plauché: We’ve been working together…this is the 12th festival now, so we’ve been working together for over 11 years. I think part of it is, there’s been a shift over time, but the biggest difference this year is—and of course, Michael continues to participate on the programming team—but he has focused a little bit more on branding and some other aspects of the festival. And this year, I’ve really taken over finding films, working with my programming team to watch and select films, so it’s been a bigger shift in that direction. He’s still watching films and recommending them, and of course, he’s participating in programming meetings where we discuss films, but the bigger part of the process lies under me now.

Cinema/Chicago Artistic Director Mimi Plauché

3CR: Yeah, it’s not like he’s taking a backseat. He still seems very much a part of the process.

MP: Yeah, and again, we were focusing on where his chief interests lie, and programming is always collaborative. He’s always loved Eastern European cinema, so as we were finding films, making sure that he was part of seeking films from that area because that’s where his interests were. But we also attended festivals together, and he went on his own as well.

3CR: Have there been any other significant changes to the way things worked during this most recent cycle?

MP: The biggest thing is adding Alissa [Simon] as a programmer. That was the biggest one, and, as I said, a shifting of who’s responsible exactly for what. Her strengths lie in Northern Europe and Middle Eastern. I told her I wanted more films from Central Europe as well this year.

3CR: I remember last year we talked about, in addition to the chosen themes of this year, we talked about unintentional themes that crop up among your selections. Did you have anything like that this year?

MP: I think one thing is, which is not unexpected at all, since I’ve been doing this, the last 12 festivals, there have always been films, whether they’re documentary or fiction films, about immigration. What we were finding this year is that’s definitely still the case, maybe even more, including stories of refugees but from different perspectives, both in terms of what we programmed and what we were seeing from Northern Europe.

There’s a Finnish film and a Danish film. The Finnish film is the Aki Kaurismaki one [The Other Side of Hope], and a Syrian refugee is one of the main characters. It’s really about the relationship between the refugee and a Finnish man who is a little bit of a huckster, but they develop an unexpected and lovely relationship. And it’s a way of looking at the refugee crisis through a different set of eyes, and of course, it’s Kaurismaki’s always-sympathetic lens, but the anti-refugee, anti-immigrant violence and sentiment is never far away.

The Charmer screens at the Chicago International Film Festival

And the other is a Danish film called The Charmer, and it’s a story of an Iranian man living in Denmark who’s desperate to be able to stay, and he’s desperately seeking a woman who he can marry to maintain his status in Denmark. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s always with a twist, right? Another from the documentary perspective, there is a film about a family living in Mexico, and it’s called The Other Side of the Wall about undocumented workers—a family living in Mexico from Central America, and it’s about the children whose mother has been sent to prison and how are they gonna get by without the mother, and who’s responsible for what? Usually we’re seeing that story told about Mexicans living in the U.S., and it expands our notion, certainly on this side of the world, of what it means to see the flow of people, and being an immigrant and living undocumented in a different country, but from a different perspective.

3CR: Maybe it’s almost too soon for this, but I would guess there are films showing up on the festival circuit that have responded to the last year or so, politically.

MP: I think a lot of these films were at least written, if not shot, before all of the elections and other types upheaval, but it wasn’t that that came from nowhere. It was something that was being sensed.

3CR: Something to look forward to next year.

MP: Yeah!

3CR: So film noir is your primary themed program this year. I know when the Music Box Theatre did a film noir festival recently, they mainly focused on older films, but they did sample a couple of examples from other countries. Not including Touch of Evil, there are only three American films in your lineup, so you’re going for a more international flavor.

MP: Yeah, the idea was that. Going back to last year, we did the musicals, and everything is decided 11 months in advance. Or that’s when you really start talking about what those ideas are, and we have to wait and see what we’re seeing to make sure that we can do a fully-formed program of contemporary cinema in that category. And I think we were happily surprised last year with musicals, beginning with, of course, opening night [La La Land], but also what we were finding from around the world.

So again, we had made this decision of film noir, which is something that we were interested in. I know there’s resistance to calling film noir a genre, but there’s a motive and style of cinema. And with the rise of film noir before, what that was speaking to or reflecting in its time and thinking, “We’d seen enough before this to think we could do this program, but let’s see what we’re finding as we start programming for this year’s festival.” That was a fun challenge to be programming that way, whether it’s about architecture, film noir, musicals. And with musicals, the set of criteria was fairly straight forward with some exceptions, but film noir, because it’s international, we had to ask, what are the tropes that we’re looking for or the style or the themes? It was a constant and evolving conversation among the programming team about what actually fit in film noir and what didn’t.

3CR: Are there certain titles that stretch the boundaries more than others?

Control screens at the Chicago International Film Festival

MP: I would say that all of them we feel definitely have noir-ish elements, but there were ones that we had talked about for a long time, and then decided they did not fit closely enough. But some that were a little bit maybe more natural fits, like Control [from Belgium]. But others, like the Thai film Samui Song, while there’s noir-ish elements, there’s also this religious cult background, and that maybe stretches it a bit. But with the noir elements, we thought it was an interesting way to approach it. And it is funny, because Budapest Noir came our way, and it was just such a natural fit, of course.

3CR: Did you find you actually ended up having a lot to choose from, more than you could actually program?

MP: We did. We wanted to have a balanced program, so again, not too many policers, because that’s the easier story to program within the film noir context; we were looking for a wider variety.

3CR: One of the more intriguing entires in this category is the Errol Morris series “Wormwood,” of which you’re playing all six parts. Is it a drama or documentary?

MP: It’s a hybrid.

Wormwood screens at the Chicago International Film Festival

3CR: You’ve had his films before, but running a full series, I don’t know how often you’ve done that before.

MP: In my time, it’s only the second time we’ve done it, and the first time was the Red Riding Trilogy.

3CR: Which was definitely more movie oriented, but still a series.

MP: Right, a series and conceived for television even though they were quite theatrical, but television has moved since then in that direction.

3CR: You mentioned the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which you covered two years ago, and you’re doing some of these screenings in different venues.

MP: Two years ago, because it was the first time, we did maybe a more robust program within the context of the festival. That year, every Wednesday during the biennial, we did a screening at the Cultural Center, and we invited architects and designers, most of them were biennial participants, to select a film that reflected, as an architect or designer, their own philosophy or their approach to their work. So it was really an interesting selection of films because some were definitely more architecture oriented. There were a couple that were more strictly architecture films, and then one of the architects selected a Pasolini and another group selected Guy Maddin, thinking about his relationship to place. It was pretty eclectic.

So this year, what we decided to do is make the program within the festival a little bit smaller, but then do a little bit more expanded, more architecturally specific programming throughout the biennial, and to bring in other cultural partners. So, through CAB, we decided to work with the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, with the Jen Jensen documentary [Jen Jensen: The Living End], because they’re doing an exhibition there, and that’s where Jen Jensen’s office is, where we’re in the park. So, they’re restoring those, and that’s part of the biennial. So, thinking about different partners, we thought what a great way to bring together our two spotlights—we’re doing a panel on the architecture of noir—and with each one, we’re bringing in different partners to participate in the conversations.

3CR: Let’s talk about tributes real quick. I think I’m counting three.

MP: For now, that’s where we are [since this interview, the festival has announced an additional tribute to Alfre Woodard].

3CR: Of the ones you’ve announced, Vanessa Redgrave is the one I’m most looking forward to, and I love that you’re playing Blow Up in addition to her film [the documentary Sea Sorrow].

MP: Yeah, it was a really interesting way that that came about, because the new restoration of Blow Up premiered at Cannes, and we started talking with the Italians about doing something around it and got really excited about that, and we thought it would be really nice if we could have someone from the film in with it and make it really special. So we started talking about Vanessa, but then of course, Vanessa has her directorial debut as well this year, so it was a very happy coincidence. Any excuse to have someone like Vanessa Redgrave for a tribute [laughs]. One of the things that’s quite nice about this is, we’re able to celebrate her talent and her career as an actress, while also celebrating something that she’s very passionate about, and her work as an activist as well.

Vanessa Redgrave is slated to be honored at the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival

3CR: Patrick Stewart is another tribute centerpiece. How did you land on him?

MP: We started again talking early in the year with his reps about the possibility of doing a tribute to him, with Logan coming out earlier in the year. So that conversation started really early around that, and we’re thrilled with it. It all worked out.

3CR: Michael Shannon’s always a great guy to have around.

MP: Yeah, I think he’s in and out of town because of his theater company. But, again, I think anytime that we can showcase all of the immense and varied talent that’s coming out of Chicago, that’s always for us a bonus when we do a tribute. So when we find those little connections and can showcase the creativity of Chicago artists, we love that.

3CR: I think you mentioned during the press conference that in the New Directors competition, there’s a high percentage of female directors?

MP: Yeah, I think seven of the 16, so just under half. It wasn’t deliberate. I would say, I’m always aware and conscious of how many women are represented in the festival and in which way, as filmmakers or writers, producers, or female-centric stories. It’s something I have an awareness of, I’m thinking about balance, but we were really close to the end of finalizing the New Directors competition, and I was like, “Wow” when I counted.

And even just the fact that three of them are coming out of South American countries and thinking about how talent is being nurtured in different places and the strength of the storytelling. One of the things that I thought was quite interesting about it, is that two of the films, especially Hunting Season for sure, are more male-centric story. I feel like, more often, you see a man telling a woman’s story. Hunting Season is about a father-son relationship. Yeah, so that was just something that also really struck me with the women in the New Directors competition.

3CR: In addition to shifting of duties among the staff, did you notice any adjustments on maybe a smaller-level, changes this year to the way you selected film or the types of films you chose?

MP: We have two animated films—and I think this is particular to Asia, but not just Asian because of [festival selection] Mutafukaz—is the number of films that are, rather than based on novels, based on graphic novels and thinking about the rise of that. In Japan, that happened a long time ago. The impact that different narrative art forms are having on cinema as well.

Another thing I noted when we were talking is interesting stories that are based on people’s own experiences, whether it’s the writer, director, or as in Ali’s Wedding, it’s the writer-actor in it. When you really do think about the idea of “stranger than fiction,” you feel sometimes you just really couldn’t make this up. To me, that’s also been interesting, because sometimes it’s something we discover after we’ve programmed the film, if the film doesn’t reference it directly in some way or the way in which the personal is actually speaking to larger issues.

With Ali’s Wedding—they do say it’s the first ever Muslim rom-com—it deals with the question of immigration and being a refugee in a culture where you’re, to some extent, stuck between your heritage culture that you’ve grown up in with your family and, in this case, the community of the mosque and that outside culture, which is always so close by and having to make tough choices on a personal level.

Ali’s Wedding screens at the Chicago International Film Festival

3CR: Moving forward from this year, do you have any ideas for ways to grow, or ways to change that are maybe a little more dramatic?

MP: I think there’s always something we’re trying to do. And growth doesn’t necessarily mean bigger, right? To me, it’s about being stronger and how do we best serve the audience? We’ve always primarily been an audience festival, but we’re not just that. So it’s about serving the Chicago audience, but also about serving the Chicago filmmaking community. I’ve always been very interested in strengthening how we’re serving the films that we’re showcasing and the visiting filmmakers that are coming in. And so, how do we as a festival become increasingly a better platform or springboard for those films and the filmmakers. It can be anything from networking while they’re here. We’ve made subtle shifts every year in Industry Days.

Industry Days is something I wanted to do for a long time. Last year was the second year, and the attendance doubled over the first year, and so this year, we were thinking about, “This is where we are. What do we want industry days to become, and how do we get there?” That’s been an evolving conversation as well, particularly as the Chicago filmmaking community continues to grow and get stronger, connecting us with that community.

I would say one of the bigger changes that I’ve been focused on, which we see with the Architecture Biennial, is continuing to increase our partnerships with other institutions in the city. Those are ongoing conversations, and I think each year we partner with different organizations in different ways. One-off partnerships are fine, but ideally we would be establishing long-term relationships with other organizations and institutions and establishing ourselves. We’ve been year round forever, but as a known, year-round organization, not known just for the festival or summer screenings, but what we’re doing throughout the year.

3CR: Here we are: the moment of truth. What are your favorites films in the festival that people might not be naturally drawn toward, but they should absolutely try to see?

MP: There’s actually a second-look feature in our international competition. This seems to be happening every year, for the last several years, where we’ve closed the program and we’re done and we’ve gotten pretty far along with the scheduling, and then something that was not on our radar comes in, and it’s the type of thing where normally we would say we’re done and we can’t look at it. But there might be something about that specific film that impels us to be like, “We’re tired. We’re done, but let’s take a look.” And this year, for me, that film was Wind Traces, which is by a Mexican director, Jimena Montemayor.

I always feel that, after watching hundreds and hundreds of films over however many months and feeling like you’re finished, if there’s that film that can move you or surprise you… I watched it really early in the morning, which is when I tend to like to watch films, and I had sent it to another programmer and also to Michael, and wrote to them pretty early after I finished and I’m like, “Have you watched this yet?” And they’re like, “No.” And I was like, “You should.” [laughs]

There’s a certain quality to the storytelling, and the way that the images and the atmosphere contribute to the storytelling that is really striking. It was something that wasn’t even on my radar at all. She’s a filmmaker whom we haven’t shown, and I love watching the evolution of filmmakers, but when it’s a filmmaker whose work we haven’t shown—we had worked with the producers before, so the connection was made—but for me, Wind Traces is definitely a stand out.

Wind Traces screens at the Chicago International Film Festival

In our New Directors competition, there’s Charleston. We have a great history with Romanian cinema. Last year, four of the big prizes in the International Features competition went to two Romanian films. For us this year, this was the Romanian film; this is Andrei Creyulescu’s first feature. We did show a short of his Ramona, which won an award at the festival. There is something wry and funny, but it has a dark side too. Anything that has a musical dance sequence in the middle…[laughs]

Another one in our New Directors competition is Killing Jesus, by a young filmmaker from Colombia, Laura Mora. This is based on her own life experience, which again, I found out after and was blown away by it. It’s the story of a young woman whose father is assassinated, he’s a professor, and she decides that the police have been ineffective in trying to find the killer. So she doesn’t know who or why or what, and she’s determined to figure it out, and so she chases down her father’s murderer.

3CR: I wanted to ask you about one I remember you bringing up during the press breakfast: They.

They screens at the Chicago International Film Festival

MP: That’s another one from Anahita Ghazvinizadeh—we showed her short film Needle, and this is her directorial debut. We have two films by filmmakers who are locally based but are from other places [Ghazvinizadeh is from Iran]. In the case of They, she shot in Chicago. In the case of Oblivion Verses, it’s a filmmaker [Alireza Khatami] from Iran originally, who teaches at DePaul, and shot his filmed in Chile, which I think speaks to what’s happening in Chicago right now in terms of the filmmaking culture.

Someone called [They] an anti-coming-of-age story. They [the lead character] is stuck in this transitional moment in their life and is having to make major life decisions at a moment when, for anyone at that age it would be complicated and difficult and you’re in the middle of growing up, but having to make all of these other decisions too, and is surrounded by people in flux and doesn’t necessarily have the support that They needs.

In the docs, one of the things I love is, again also dealing with the immigrant experience, is Before Summer Ends. I feel like we have a lot of Iranians represented in some way at this year’s festival, and this is about three friends who have been living, studying, and working in France. One of them, after he’s finishing up his studies, he has decided that he’s going to return to Iran, and the other two can’t quite understand why he’s making that decision, but they decide they’re going to go on one last road trip together so the three of them can spend time together. It almost feels like fiction, but it’s a documentary following them on their road trip together. One’s looking for love. They’re all looking for something different. The way in which the intimacy of their relationship is caught on camera is quite moving.

Another doc is The Rape of Recy Taylor by Nancy Buirski, who did the documentary on the Lovings before the feature film last year. It’s such a powerful story, but also such an interesting way to approach telling that story. It’s about a very specific case of a young women in the south who has been raped, and there’s no justice for her in the community. But she looks at this one very particular case, thinking about it in the way that it’s such a widely recurring story in American culture, and that it’s not just specific to this one woman. One of the ways in which she is able to express this idea is by using elements from early “race films,” where this is actually a recurring theme. And as this story is being told, the images behind the voices are the images from these race films that are telling that story. That’s the story that’s being told in the African American community for African Americans at that moment, and it’s really powerful.

Another one where it’s an award-winning filmmaker with her short, coming back with her first feature is Oh Lucy!—the short had the same title. It tells the story of a woman who—I don’t think she’s having a mid-life crisis—she’s more in a permanent state of boredom and crisis, and ends up by chance taking English conversation lessons in Tokyo. She’s basically taken out of her element and this allows her to discover a different side of herself. In the meantime, she falls in love with her English-language teacher, played by Josh Hartnett, who unexpectedly disappears, and she decides that she needs to follow him back to the U.S. It’s funny and endearing, and there’s a lot of pathos in the film. So [director] Atsuko Hirayanagi will be coming in with that.

We have a large number of foreign language Oscar contenders this year [13, so far]. I think this year more than ever. I just booked Under the Tree [from Iceland].

3CR: You have a film by Nimrod Antal [the filmmaker of Hungarian descent who directed Kontroll, Vacancy, Predators].

MP: Yeah, so Nimrod’s coming in again. He was on the jury five years ago. We had showed Kontroll, then he was on the jury, and now he’s coming back in with The Whiskey Bandit. He went back to Hungary to make it.

We have another director who also went back to their homeland—Michael R. Roskam [Bullhead, The Drop] has returned to Belgium with Racer and the Jailbird.

Racer and the Jailbird screens at the Chicago International Film Festival

3CR: I always like to hear your thoughts on the After Dark program.

MP: I always have my head up and am actively searching films out, sometimes through my contacts, like Tokyo Vampire Hotel came through me, but I made sure Alex [Vazquez, After Dark programmer] watched it first. One I watched first because I wasn’t sure what it was, and then I watched it and I was like, “Alex, this is a great After Dark film” is Four Hands. That’s one of the unexpected outliers. It’s really a psychological thriller where two sisters, when they were young, their parents are murdered in front of their eyes. The “now” of the film is that the murderers are being let out of jail, which causes a psychological breakdown in one of the sisters. I don’t want to give too much away, but you’re never really quite sure who’s who, what’s happening, there’s an element of the supernatural.

The other one that I think is close to me because of my background in Japanese period film, is Blade of the Immortal [director Takashi Miike’s 100th film]. I just love that it so clearly referencing early samurai works and doing it in such a fun and playful and effectively bloody way.

3CR: Oh, your Special Presentation selections, are there any that you really wanted? For example, I’m really glad The Shape of Water [by Guillermo del Toro] is here.

MP: Oh, thrilled that The Shape of Water is here. And also, when we first started talking about Lady Bird [the directing debut from Greta Gerwig], before we had seen it, we have this history of showing, not just first features which we do, but also the directing debuts of actors. Sometimes, you’re a little bit hesitant, not to see it, but you don’t know what to expect. You don’t want your hopes to get too high, but Greta’s obviously done a lot of collaborative work with directors before, starting with Joe Swanberg here.

I did have a certain expectation for it, and it was just so nice when that’s fulfilled. So that was great. Last year with La La Land, everything seemed to easily fall into place, it was the natural opener. And the same with Marshall, we saw it pretty early, and while it is such an important story, it’s also just told and acted so well. You feel that it’s very timely and such a strong opener, so we’re really thrilled about that.

3CR: The two I’m especially happy you’re playing, because I just missed them both at Sundance, are Mudbound and Call Me By Your Name.

MP: Those are both from earlier in the year, sure. Also, we’ve shown a lot of Ruben Ostlund’s work before, and definitely after The Square won Cannes, we wanted it. He’s such an interesting filmmaker in terms of the way that he challenges the audience and the way that he approaches his subjects. Again, this is another foreign film, but I saw Borg/McEnroe as a work in progress, back in January in Sweden. I always feel slightly hesitant; you don’t want your expectations to be too high for something that’s a biopic or a well-known story, and I’m always impressed, especially a sports film, where it’s telling a story where you know how it ends, and you still feel completely engaged by it.

3CR: I’m especially curious about this one because it’s coming more from the Swedish side of that rivalry. And the actor looks just like Borg too.

MP: Yeah, at the work-in-progress screening, the actor was like, “When I was first approached about the part, I was like, ‘What do you mean? I don’t look like Borg.’ And then I grew my hair long.” [laughs] And he was even surprised by that.

I haven’t really pointed out that many from the International Competition. We always have a number of returning filmmakers, but also I mentioned new filmmakers like the Wind Traces. So probably one of my personal favorites would be A Man of Integrity, the Mohamed Rusoulof film. And I didn’t realize that he shot it clandestinely in Northern Iran, which I’m not surprised by. I think that and the other Iranian film that we have in the festival, the No Date, No Signature.

A Man of Integrity deals with—it’s not a small problem, but on a very human level—a man who’s dealing with corruption and decides that at all cost he’s going to be ethical and hold to his own standards. And then looking at what the cost of that is, in a way that just maintains this fantastic tension throughout. There’s never anything simple, everything’s always complex in a way. It’s a beautiful complexity in terms of taking something that could be a simple story and peeling back all of the layers and all of the implications, all of the people involved, and what the ethical and moral questions at the heart of it are, and then what the consequences are as well.

A Man of Integrity screens at the Chicago International Film Festival

And then I also really like Paris Square for the way in which I think of a lot of cinema from maybe Brazil in particular, but it’s not specific to Brazil, looks at the clash between the classes. This one does it from such a unique perspective. It’s the story of an outsider—a Portuguese woman who’s gone to Brazil to study the affects of violence on society. She’s a university employee, a psychotherapist and decides to take on as one of her patients a woman who works at the university who is coming from a more violent background. And that woman wants to work through the residual affects of that violence on her life, but at the same time comes to realize in dealing with the doctor that you never can really leave the outside world behind, because so much of maybe what is at the root of the social issues is being played out in the room with the doctor, and it becomes the question of power and authority. Again, it’s just beautifully subtle in the way in which all of that is revealed.

3CR: You had mentioned Sicilian Ghost Story and how it was a different take on the mafia tale.

MP: Yes. And this is based on a true story of a young boy who is kidnapped by the mafia, and he is in this budding friendship/love relationship with a girl in town—they’re both quite young. And when he disappears, she becomes determined to find out what happened to him, at all cost. His father turned over state’s evidence, so she doesn’t realize what the larger implications are at first. All that she knows is that the love of her life is disappeared. Something’s wrong and nobody’s fixing it. There are these almost magical-realist elements to it, as the two—him in captivity and her on the outside—become determined to figure out what happened, to find out where he is.

You were asking about other themes, and maybe Sicilian Ghost Story touches on it in its way, but Thelma for sure does, this question of the supernatural, or something that can’t quite be completely explained away in a lot of the narratives.

3CR: I also have noticed this trend in horror and science fiction where it’s about, what would it be like if it actually happened? If it could actually happen, what would it be like? Whatever “it” is.

MP: Right. And even in Thelma, where you feel that maybe on some scientific level they’re trying to explain what’s happening with her, but you can’t [laughs].

Also, I feel that our Outlook competition is very interesting. Not intentionally, three of the films are French; two are local—Princess Cyd and They—and three are transgender stories, which very much speak to right now, even if it’s something like Golden Years, which is set in the past. We also have one that covers that intersection—like with Mr. Gay Syria—between the refugee crisis and LGBTQ rights, and how those are coming together.

3CR: So many choices in just two weeks. Thank you so much, Mimi.

The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival runs October 12-26, primarily at the AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois). For a full film list, more information and tickets, visit www.chicagofilmfestival.com. Watch this space for more on the festival as it unfolds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *