The International Film Festival turned 57 in 2021. While it was scaled down from previous years, much of the festivities seemed just like old times.
On Oct. 13-24, North Americans longest-running competitive film festival held screenings (for more than 80 films), various red-carpet events and audience discussions. Festival attendees had options to see movies in theaters, at a drive-in or from their homes (streaming remotely).
Opening Night After Dark programming included a screening of Halloween Kills at the Music Box Theatre on Oct. 13 and continued the next night with Broadcast Signal Intrusion, set in Chicago. "Intusion" star Harry Shum Jr. said on the red carpet that he wanted to work with director Jacob Gentry after viewing his previous work. He described out actor and castmate Madrid St. Angelo as "wonderful" and said he appreciated the energy the entire cast brought to the project.
Shum went on to say he loved his time on Glee, still speaks with past cast members regularly and would like to work with Ryan Murphy again in a future project. "I just spoke to Amber Riley and Chord Overstreet," Shum said. "I am so happy to see the trajectory and success of their careers!"
Jesse Mossdirector of Mayor Pete, the documentary following Pete Buttigieg on his historic presidential campaign trailsaid he was intrigued with the current U.S. secretary of transportation from the beginning. Moss said, "He cut through all kinds of lines in American life, but I didn't expect him to run for president so soon. Producers Dan Cogan and Jon Bardin told me Pete was open to making a film. I first said no, but they forced me to reconsider. I am glad they did. We took a leap and Pete let us in. We went on a rocket ship ride from five people working for him to five hundred!"
Moss added, "The film is a great window into presidential politics and America now, but what is the heart of the film is the relationship between Pete and Chasten, their marriage and how they redefine their roles, both publicly and privately."
When asked if others might come out after watching the doc, Moss answered, "What inspired me was their message of inclusion and generosity. You see Chasten open up to gay kids in Iowa and Pete telling his painful story about being closeted in South Bend. On the big stage, they tell people if you are gay or felt you haven't belonged, there is room for you in the campaign they were building. I think we really need that message of inclusivity in this country, so we can begin to heal." Amazon Prime releases Mayor Pete to its platform on Nov. 12.
British actress Rebecca Hall was given an Artistic Achievement Award on Oct. 20 at the screening for her directorial debut of Netflix's Passing, a story about two Black friends in which one passes as white.
When asked about the two leads possibly being lesbians, Hall stated, "One of the remarkable things about the book is that it is subtle but also suggestive. It is dealing with far more than racial passing. They can't show their true expressions of themselves because they feel they have to perform a certain way, whether that is with race, gender or sexuality. It all falls into this story."
Hall was aware that "passing" is also a description used in the transgender community. "There's a small nod to that in the film, but you have to keep your eyes peeled, " she teased.
The next day Kenneth Branagh was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Belfast at the festival. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy took home the Silver Q-Hugo Award in the OutLook category. Other standout LGBTQ+ films in the festival included the Chicago feature Acts of Love, Leonardo Brzezski's Wandering Heart and the animated documentary Flee.
The film fest concluded with a presentation of King Richard on Oct. 24 with film star Aunjanue Ellis in attendance.
For more information on the future of the Chicago International Film Festival, visit ChicagoFilmFestival.com .