Screens Monthly: Niche Film Festivals and Early Awards Contenders in Chicago Cinemas in November

Yes, we’re a week into November and you’re just now getting a Screens Monthly post with what to see in the cinema over the next few weeks. It’s already been one heck of a month, amiright? With the midterms and Daylight Savings time finally behind us, let’s focus on what we can control: how we spend our free time. Delayed as this list may be, there’s still no shortage of films to check out across the city, from niche film festivals to wide releases. What will you see this month?

Cold War
Image courtesy of Amazon Studios

November 3-18

30th Polish Film Festival in America – Currently underway, the 30th Polish Film Festival in America is an annual celebration of a vibrant filmmaking culture. Screenings and events run through November 18 and happen in both suburban Rosemont and right downtown at Facets. There’s a healthy slate to choose from, too, with dozens of films filling out the more than two weeks worth of movies; over thirty of them are documentaries, and there’s a sidebar dedicated to Georgian cinema, too. The highlight, however, is easily the Saturday, November 10 screening of Cold War (pictured above). The latest film from Pawel Pawlikowski (who won an Oscar a few years back for the hauntingly thoughtful Ida), it’s the story of star-crossed lovers in the years after World War II and it is breathtaking. Pawlikowski will be in town for the screening, too. Learn more about the Polish Film Festival and get tickets here.

November 9-11

Chicago Comedy Film Festival – After you get your foreign films fix at the Polish Film Festival, carve out a weekend for some laughs with the Chicago Comedy Film Festival, presented at Columbia College in conjunction with Second City. More than forty films are packed into the weekend, from micro shorts at just six minutes long, to feature films including Olympia (which premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival to strong reviews) and the Midwest premiere of Care to Laugh, about comedian Jesus Trejo as he balances a budding stand-up career with caring for his aging parents in suburban L.A. Comedy can be hit or miss, of course, so to help you know what you’re in for, each festival selection is thoughtfully paired with a well-known film or show. See the whole list and get tickets here.

November 10 (and 15)

Harold and Maude at Gene Siskel Film Center – Hal Ashby’s 1971 dark comedy Harold and Maude may not be for everyone. It’s absurd and macabre, as a teenager who stages suicides (Burt Cort) befriends a septuagenarian with energy to spare (Ruth Gordon). I first saw the film as a teenager, renting it to watch on my own after I’d heard people much smarter and cooler than me talk about how great it is. More than forty years after its release, it’s solidly in cult hit territory, one of those films that didn’t make much of an impact at first but is now a classic in its own right. The Gene Siskel Film Center screens it  twice this month, in conjunction with their premiere of Hal, the new documentary about the filmmaker. Get tickets here.

One Cut of the Dead
Image courtesy of Asian Pop-Up Cinema

November 14

One Cut of the Dead at Asian Pop-Up Cinema – Asian Pop-Up Cinema happens twice a year, in the spring and fall. It can be hard to keep track of what’s screening when, as the films are spread out over several weeks. But mark your calendars for the Closing Night selection for the latest season, One Cut of the Dead. The Japanese zombie comedy is a smash hit wherever it plays, from Fantastic Fest and festivals around the country to Japan itself, where it’s logged over 2 million admissions to date. Actor Takayuki Hamatsu will be in attendance for the screening, so far your only chance to see this one in Chicago. Learn more and get tickets here.

November 16 & 17

Cinekink Chicago – There’s a film festival for everything, they say, and kinky, sex-positive films are no exception. Based in New York, the Cinekink film festival makes it way to Chicago on November 16 and 17 for a few best-of-the-fest screenings at Edgewater’s Leather Archives & Museum. Two features and a series of shorts screen over Friday and Saturday night at the venue that’s hosted this touring festival for more than a decade; Fantasy, screening on Friday night, won Cinekink 2018’s Audience Award, meaning—like any good kink—it’s sure to please. Learn more and get tickets here.

November 20

Film Noir at Nighthawk Chicago – This Albany Park tavern and gathering place is a great spot to grab a coffee or a drink. It’s also doing some very interesting film programming, as Tuesdays in November are reserved for Film Noir classics and “Misfit Movies.” Mark November 20 on your calendar for a screening of the Alan Ladd / Veronica Lake classic This Gun for Hire, starting at 9p. That may mean you’re out past your bedtime on a school night, but for a great film screened in a cool venue, it’s worth it. Lear more here.

November 21 (Wide)

Green Book – Directed by Peter Farrelly, who’s better known as a producer on gems like There’s Something About Mary, this odd-couple road movie set in the segregated deep South took TIFF by storm earlier this year. It premiered late in the festival to rapturous reviews, then went on to win the festival’s Audience Award, often a harbinger of much success to come. If the trailer (embedded below) is any indication, all the early buzz is well deserved, as Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen—both impressive actors in their own right—spark a chemistry that should elevate a “based on a true story” yarn into a must-see cultural touchpoint for our times. Opens in select theaters in Chicago on November 16, and across the city on November 21.

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Lisa Trifone
Lisa Trifone