In October 2014, the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) celebrated 50 years of bringing new filmmakers, stories and perspectives to the attention of Chicago and the world. The festival is the longest-running, competitive event in North America, and highly respected. Each year the Cinema/Chicago, a not-for-profit arts and education organization contributes to the art of filmmaking by surveying the diversity of stories from around the world. It searches for not only the best in international cinema but also innovative work of new talent. Run by one of Chicago’s most active and colourful arts organizations, the main festival allows people from all backgrounds, to explore their love of cinema.
Chicago was named “Best Place to Live and Work as a Filmmaker,” by “MovieMaker” magazine, and is a centre for creative visual storytelling. It has an established reputation for both independent and big-budget film production and is a well-known film and television location. Some famous motion pictures that were filmed in the city include The Blues Brothers; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Home Alone; The Fugitive; I, Robot; Batman Begins; The Dark Knight; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Divergent and Transformers: Age of Extinction.
With approximately 120 films, from 50 countries, the festival is notable for embracing diversity in its competitive categories and highlight programs such as, Black Perspectives, Cinema of the Americas, ReelWomen, Out-Look and After Dark. 2014 saw an exploration of Scandinavian cinema. The festival program is rich with invention and creativity. It has many entries from local filmmakers, both new and returning. At more than half of the screenings each year, directors, producers, writers and actors introduce their stories and images to moviegoers. They also attend discussion sessions after the screenings, where film fans can learn more about the motivations behind the movie. The festival impact even reaches the Academy Awards, as the winner of the CIFF short film competition automatically qualifies for the Best Short Film category.
Filmmaker Michael Kutza started the festival in 1964. It was designed to give audiences access to films beyond the Hollywood blockbusters that dominated Chicago’s cinemas. With a real focus on international cinema, it still seeks to open viewer’s eyes to the possibilities of films that otherwise might have by-passed Chicago. For its 50th anniversary, the festival featured “anniversary screenings” not just classic festival films and favourites, but also new films from emerging directors. In the past, the Festival has served a platform for the discovery of directors including Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter, Susan Seidelman, Wim Wenders, Mike Leigh, Alan Parker, Michael Apted, and Peter Greenaway.