MOVIE: FORMAN VS. FORMAN
DIRECTED BY: JAKUB HEJNA; HELENA TRESTIKOVA
Director Milos Forman passed away last year and he's always been a director that surprised me. He's made, arguably, some of the best films in the history of cinema, a career that is more precise than perfect. His style from film to film is almost unrecognizable, considering One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest feels like a completely opposite film from Amadeus, and Forman won the Oscar for both. In Forman vs. Forman, you get the full, behind the director look at who Forman was as a person. Complete with at home videos of Forman, walking around his home, sitting down for interviews, and pictures of his past relationships, this is a documentary that packs a lot into it. Unlike last years William Friedkin documentary, which was more of a biography than anything personal, Forman vs. Forman gives insight into the life that Forman lived, his parents being kidnapped and murdered during the holocaust, his decision to leave his two children behind in Czechoslovakia, and his success as an artist.
MOVIE: BY THE GRACE OF GOD
DIRECTED BY: FRANCOIS OZON
I have not seen every film by Francois Ozon, but what I have seen has often been a mixture of the erotic, controversial, and intrigue, but his newest film, By the Grace of God, is a procedural picture and just might be his most by the numbers yet. I call it a “baton story”, where it begins with one character, passing from one and to the next, all of them reaching for a common goal. A film such as Spotlight or 120 BPM will be similar comparisons, but Ozon does a spectacular job of keeping his focus on the end result. This is a film with a catharsis for those that have been sexually abused. Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud) is a church going, family man, and his faith is a major part of his life. But when he finds out that Cardinal Barbarin, a priest from his parish when he was a child, has resurfaced in the private eye, it sparks a reminder of the sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of this man. His courage to speak up, will ignite a chain of men, all much older now, dealing with their trauma of being abused by this person of the church. The cast is a collection of French actors, many that I have not seen before, which created an authenticity for the story. This is an honest, in-depth study of how individuals deal with their past traumas, how the church saw nothing wrong with the predatory behaviors of their priests, and how one person speaking up can give courage to those who had no voice before.
MOVIE: JUMP SHOT: THE KENNY SAILORS STORY
DIRECTED BY: JACOB HAMILTON
Seems like a silly question to ask “who invented the jump shot?” Hasn't it just been a part of basketball from the beginning? Like many things in the world, there is an origin story to everything, and the life of Kenny Sailors is worthy of being told. The point guard from Wyoming did it all, playing basketball, married for 60+ years, children, a marine fighting during WWII, and yes, Kenny is the first person to raise up from his feet and shoot a basketball. Jump Shot: The Kenny Sailors Story is not just a documentary about the man, but it follows the path the game took after Sailors boldly shot from outside the lane. Director Jacob Hamilton has a strong collection of stars, including Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Dirk Nowitzski, and so much more to pay honor to Kenny Sailors, a man who embodied why basketball is a game we love so much. He competed, he loved the university of Wyoming, and the entire state of Wyoming loved him back. Jump Shot is not just a good documentary, it shows there is still plenty of good people as well.
DIRECTED BY: CARLO SIRONI
The hidden gem of CIFF this year is Sole. An Italian film, and the first feature from director Carlo Sironi, and it is legit amazing. Some may find the pace boring, too languid to appreciate, but I was sucked in from start to finish. It's a film about a man named Ermanno (Claudio Segaluscio), who is without much of a family, has a gambling problem, and drinks with his degenerate friends. In Italy, surrogate motherhood is illegal without consent from both a mother and father, this is where Ermanno's uncle Fabio, who's wife Bianca cannot have children, pays Ermanno to pretend to be the father for pregnant stranger Lena (Sandra Drzymalska). A large majority of the film is a blank stare, two people that have no idea what they're doing with their lives, and as Sole goes along we see how these two people grow up fast, finding out that maybe they have a different purpose in life. The cinematography by Gergely Poharnok is excellent, with shades of blue and red, while the direction from Sironi has the grace of a veteran. Sole might be my favorite of the fest.
I didn't plan it this way, but here I am, covering the 55th Chicago International Film Festival, taking place October 16th to the 27th, and I have stayed away from all the big name movies playing this year. You could go to the opening night and see Edward Norton's Motherless Brooklyn, or stand in line for James Mangold's racing drama Ford v Ferrari, or the newest family drama from Noah Baumbach in Marriage Story, and on and on. Those movies will be the talk of the town, but honestly, that's not what the Chicago International Film Festival is about anymore. Those big movies have already screened at the major festivals and had plenty of coverage, so I am here to tell you about movies that will just pass by if you don't go and see them. I found myself watching more documentaries than I typically would, but this years festival has an interesting collection of movies that surprised me more than I have been in past festivals. Without further ado, here is my preview of movies you will want to see at CIFF 55: