Michael Kutzawho founded the Chicago International Film Festival almost six decades agotold stories about his long, award-winning career in the film industry Sept. 14 at Center on Halsted and signed copies of his new memoir, Starstruck.
In Starstruck, Kutza explains how he was able to bring a film festival to Chicago and walks readers through everything it took to facilitate the event as its relevance grew year after year.
Kutza, interviewed by writer/filmmaker/former longtime Windy City Times movie columnist Richard Knight Jr., described various encounters he's had with the movie stars and politicians, from Judy Garland to Mayor Richard Daley, that he expands upon in his memoir.
Kutza explained his decision to publicly come out for the first time in his book and spoke for the first time about losing his partner of 12 years at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis. He said he wouldn't have been able to make the same connections with donors for the film festival if he'd been open about his sexuality earlier in his career.
While curating the annual festival, Kutza frequently sought out and screened movies with queer characters and themes which helped increase LGBTQ+ visibility before it was widely accepted, Knight explained.
"One thing I've learned about having boards of directors, they help you raise money, but they don't really care what you're showing people because they want to make money," Kutza said. "They'll help you because they believe in the cause, but no, I never got too much pushback [for the queer films we chose to show]."