Dispatch: Chicago International Film Festival Ends With Announcement of Award Winners, Closing Night Feature

The 58th Chicago International Film Festival ls history now with winners announced and Closing Night over. Last night’s closing feature at the Music Box Theatre was Noel Baumbach’s White Noise, based on Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel, which won the National Book Award for Fiction.

The festival announced the winners of its 2022 edition in categories including International Feature Film Competition, New Directors Competition, International Documentary Competition, OutLook Competition, and Short Film Competitions, as well as the Chicago Award for an outstanding program in the festival’s City &Of  State program, and the Roger Ebert Award, awarded to a film competing in the New Directors Competition in recognition of a filmmaker with a fresh and uncompromising vision.

Of the major Hugo Awards, the Gold Hugo in the International Feature Film Competition goes to Godland, Hlynur Pálmason’s critique of the destructive impact of colonial endeavor. The film was inspired by a collection of wet plate photographs of rural Iceland taken by a priest in the late 1800s, and follows an arrogant, naïve Danish priest on a mission to establish a remote parish for homesteaders in Iceland.

The Silver Hugo in the International Feature Film Competition was awarded to Close, which also received the Gold Hugo in the OutLook Competition, which reflects the perspectives of LGBTQ+ individuals. Director Lukas Dhont’s film takes viewers into the world of Leo and Remi, two 13-year-old best friends, as their friendship is tested by the social pressures of the new school year. Falcon Lake and Alis took Gold Hugos in their competitions as well.

In the New Directors Competition, Charlotte Le Bon’s  Falcon Lake, a rumination on unrequited young love takes the Gold Hugo; while Ann Oren’s Piaffe takes the Silver Hugo. Piaffe follows an introverted Foley artist who, while working on a commercial, is invigorated when her body begins to transform in unexpected, intoxicating ways.

This year’s Roger Ebert Award, presented in the New Directors Competition, goes to two films: A Piece of Sky, directed by Michael Koch, and Katrine Brocks’ The Great Silence.

The Chicago Award goes to King of Kings: Chasing Edward Jones, a life story of an African American powerbroker who built a multimillion-dollar empire running Policy, the illegal lottery, on Chicago’s South Side in the 1930s and ‘40s, directed by his granddaughter Harriet Marin Jones.

Here’s the full list of award winners, as listed by the Chicago International Film Festival. We’ve posted capsule reviews of many of these films throughout the festival.

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM COMPETITION

Gold Hugo

Godland Vanskabte Land (Denmark, Iceland, France, Sweden)

Dir. Hlynur Pálmason

Through the epic story of a small cast of characters, the film explores complex themes including colonialism, religion, civilization, the survival of the fittest and nature versus nurture. Working against the extraordinary backdrop provided by the breathtaking but unforgiving Icelandic landscapes, Pálmason, his brave cast of Danish and Icelandic actors and the entire crew went on an almost unprecedented journey to paint an extraordinary picture of the complexity of the human soul, which might fear God and want to do the right thing but which still has to battle every day to keep its baser instincts in check. 

Silver Hugo Jury Award

Close (Belgium, France, The Netherlands)

Dir. Lukas Dhont

Close is a sensitive, humanistic film celebrating our human instincts for contact and affection, amidst overwhelming pressure to conform. It takes us on a harsh, visceral journey through which it captures a very specific coming-of-age period, where social expectations can brutally castrate your instincts to be yourself, love freely or just not label things. Luckily, the film also takes us through a process of healing and courageous rediscovery.

Silver Hugo, Best Director

Maryam Touzani

The Blue Caftan (France, Morocco, Belgium, Denmark)

Maryam Touzani takes us on an intimate journey about love without labels, delicately embroidered in intimate spaces that are nonetheless constantly flooded by the sounds of the medina and society at large. Here, the main characters develop a path to redemption and honesty, full of humanity and beauty.

Silver Hugo, Best Performance

Vicky Krieps

Corsage (Austria, France, Germany)

Vicky Krieps’ interpretation of Empress Sissi is unpredictable from the first second to the last. Krieps is fierce, surprising and full of hurt. She manages to vibrate positivity despite all of the restraints put on her character and it is impossible to look away. A brilliant acting performance!

Silver Hugo, Best Ensemble Cast Performance

Denis Ménochet, Marina Foïs, Luis Zahera, Diego Anido, and Marie Colomb

The Beasts As bestas (Spain, France)

Rarely do we witness such authentic and powerful performances from an entire cast of actors. Characters unflinchingly grind at each other and yet, when you least expect it, the ones you learned to despise suddenly bring you into their worlds, making you understand their hardships and anger at the world. Where lesser performances would have left us in polarized good vs. evil tropes, here the masterful actors bring us into their hypnotic interpretations like virtuoso violinists, which makes us feel their inner struggles like an emotional symphony.

Silver Hugo, Best Screenplay

Alice Diop, Amrita David, Zoé Galeron, and Marie N’Diaye

Saint Omer (France)

A brave story about motherhood and xenophobia, told through a surprising yet very effective parallel narrative where what is said in one story might be felt in the other.

Silver Hugo, Best Cinematography

Maria von Hausswolff

Godland Vanskabte Land (Denmark, Iceland, France, Sweden)

The way Maria von Hausswolff captures the austerity of Iceland’s unforgiving landscape is stunning. It goes further than artistry: the camera confronts the dangerous terrain in ways that makes the audience feel every bit a part of the journey. Every frame simultaneously captures the possibilities of life at its most mundane and its most treacherous.

Silver Hugo, Best Production Design

Marcela Gómez (Production Designer) and Daniel Rincon (Art Director)

The Kings of the World Los reyes del mundo (Colombia, Norway, Luxembourg, Mexico, France)

The film is a road movie through forests and across paths paved and unpaved, with the various and incredibly detailed interior locations offering shelter from the harsh outside world in different ways, even if finding definitive shelter might forever prove elusive for the film’s young protagonists.

AWARD FOR CINEMATIC BRAVERY

No Bears (Iran)

Dir. Jafar Panahi

A special award is given this year for cinematic bravery to Iranian director Jafar Panahi for his film No Bears. This multi-layered and sophisticated narrative probes how real fiction can feel and how made-up or fictional reality sometimes seems to be. It brings the central idea that fear gives power to others and that, inversely, bravery is about owning your own power, to thrilling cinematic life.

NEW DIRECTORS COMPETITION

Gold Hugo

Falcon Lake (Canada, France)

Dir. Charlotte Le Bon

Charlotte Le Bon’s film respects the point of view of the protagonist without condescension, conveying the youthful maturity of the characters with energy and poise. Featuring unexpected moments of humor and repose, this warm coming of age story offers keen observations about the complexity of emotions that come with adulthood.

Silver Hugo

Piaffe (Germany)

Dir. Ann Oren

The audacious, unconventional Piaffe’s emphasis on the texture and process of cinema can be seen both in its aesthetic and its engaging characters. Ann Oren’s work is a sensual journey into the erotic and unpredictable. The extraordinary sound design and use of overexposure in particular encourage a new faith in the power of cinema.

ROGER EBERT AWARD EX AEQUO

The Great Silence (Denmark)

Dir. Katrine Brocks

The Great Silence uses sharp editing and incredible acting performances in its meditation on a kind of empathy that leads to forgiveness. The creative use of genre informs a serious, respectful treatment of religion, and the nuances of grace and regret are explored in a refreshing departure from the usual tropes. Brocks’ film also gives us a wonderfully superior Mother Superior! 

A Piece of Sky (Switzerland, Germany)

Dir. Michael Koch

A portrait of devotion and profound love that demonstrates the power of empathy and its capacity to deepen commitment, Michael Koch’s work chronicles the protagonist’s coming to terms with her husband’s transformation with unflinching certainty and compassion. The stunning choral works that punctuate and structure the film add to the gravitas of the protagonist’s abiding love and compassion.

INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Gold Hugo

Alis (Colombia, Romania, Chile)

Dirs. Clare Weiskopf, Nicolás Van Hemelryck

Clare Weiskopf and Nicolás Van Hemelryck’s film brilliantly crafted a cinematic experience in which the rhythm of the edits is unpredictable and rich. The premise of the film – displacing the protagonists personal experience with a third person testimony about a fictional surrogate – allows for documentary to slip into fiction, and for first person singular experience to open to that of the first person plural. As we sit down, we look into the eyes of a group of young girls who speak about Alis. Is she real? Is she not? We hear her experiences – her upbringing, her struggles, how she feels, what she believes, and through the plural, diverse and inconsistent image of her, we too imagine and construct the portrait of her witnesses.

Silver Hugo

The Natural History of Destruction (Germany, Lithuan ia, The Netherlands)

Dir. Sergei Loznitsa

Sergei Loznitsa has accomplished a pure cinematic experience that displaces our political positions, and compels us to empathize with the German citizens living through the war they instigated. By means of meticulous and slow editing, a complex array of scenes, rich with nuanced sonic detail, unfold in front us. The archival black and white images are breathless and relentless: they confront us without buffer with the horror of the war machine, to which there are no winners and everyone is a victim. The rare and strategic placement of speeches, as well as the occasional leak of color into the scenes, punctuate the otherwise non verbal stretches of accumulating horror: we witness war from all angles.

CHICAGO AWARD

King of Kings: Chasing Edward Jones (U.S., France)

Dir. Harriet Marin Jones

King of Kings is a good story, not well known outside its community. The story of Policy, the forerunner of the lottery, and the Jones Brothers, was exceptionally well told, through a personal lens unveiling knowledge with creativity and the beauty of craft. It was a hard choice among a group of captivating feature length films.

HONORABLE MENTION

Matriarch (U.S.)

Dir. Donald Conley

Matriarch presents the complicated simplicity of life at a time when we are all grappling with death all around us. It built a case for beauty as we reach the inevitable conclusion of our days and the possibilities of family, hope, and love.

OUTLOOK COMPETITION

Gold Q-Hugo

Close (Belgium, France, The Netherlands)

Dir. Lukas Dhont

Close tells a story of specificity and universality with extraordinary nuance and originality. Through the lens of an adolescent relationship and tragedy, the film offers depth and accuracy in its exploration of potential first love, which as a child can’t quite be articulated, and the pressure at a young age to conform to peer group expectations of masculinity or face homophobia amidst a more conservative academic culture. Lukas Dhont beautifully juxtaposes a free and sensitive friendship with the suppression of emerging identities, and depicts the consequences of such conformity.  

Silver Q-Hugo

Paloma (Brazil, Portugal)

Dir. Marcelo Gomes

Marcelo Gomes offers an important look at an unapologetic and uncompromising trans woman living with authenticity in an often-unforgiving milieu of rural Brazil. In Paloma, played front and center by the sensational trans actress Kika Sena, Gomes presents a refreshing, lead trans character who demands to be loved and accepted for who she is, a heroic woman fighting for change and personal liberty—the simple ability to be married to her partner in a church wedding. A rich, multifaceted character not merely defined by her transgender identity, Paloma is a persevering wife, mother, worker, friend, and dreamer who is relatable to all of us.

SPECIAL MENTION

Alis (Colombia, Romania, Chile)

Dirs. Clare Weiskopf, Nicolás Van Hemelryck

A Special Mention goes to ALIS by Clare Weiskopf and Nicolás van Hemelryck, for its affecting personal histories conveyed by a handful of young women, many from the streets of Bogotá, residing in a group home where they’ve formed a safety net of unexpected family. Through transparent and candid testimonials, the filmmakers elicit uncommonly rare honesty and vulnerability from their subjects and a natural, raw realism that draws us into their stories, which present a portrait of community born from hardship where friendship, love and creativity prosper.

For more information, including the awards for short films, visit the festival’s website at https://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/.

Nancy S Bishop
Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at nancybishopsjournal.com, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.

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