A Night at The Cinema

9 October 2018

Tomorrow kicks off the 54th Annual Chicago International Film Festival, taking place at AMC River East 21 in Streeterville. Every year promises a broad, diverse selection of films, giving Chicagoans the opportunity to see some of the world’s best filmmaking and, in the process, contribute to the larger discussion and debate around cinema today. The addition of programs like Women in Cinema and Black Perspectives makes this year exceptional by highlighting the artistic vision and range of these unique communities.

The festival that has been enriching Chicago’s cultural life since its launch in 1965 is also the place where many of today’s celebrated filmmakers were initially showcased. Here’s a brief history of the festival and some of its landmark moments.

The festival that has been enriching Chicago’s cultural life since its launch in 1965 is also the place where many of today’s celebrated filmmakers were initially showcased. Here’s a brief history of the Chicago International Film Festival and some of its landmark moments.

The idea to create a festival that provided alternatives to the films coming from Hollywood was the brainchild of Michael Kutza, a native to Chicago’s West Side. At a young age he started to experiment with film by editing 16mm reels from his mother’s Bolex camera. He spent much of his teenage years in Europe, where noncommercial films were easily accessible, which gave him an appreciation of the vast world of filmmaking and artistry.

His dream was to find a way to bring these international films to Chicago. Once Kutza was back in the Midwest, news columnist and talk show host Irv Kupcinet introduced him to Colleen Moore, one of the few stars to successfully transition from silent films to talkies; Moore introduced him to the Hollywood elite and Chicago’s cultural society.

The festival that has been enriching Chicago’s cultural life since its launch in 1965 is also the place where many of today’s celebrated filmmakers were initially showcased. Here’s a brief history of the Chicago International Film Festival and some of its landmark moments.

Over the years, Kutza has remained at the helm, building on his commitment to create initiatives that expand the reach of the festival. Today, the festival offers discounted tickets to Chicago youth, along with a program geared toward future filmmakers called Cineyouth.

The festival debuted in 1965, showing eight films from 15 nations. The festival has always had a competitive aspect, awarding a Gold Hugo Award to the best feature, and silver awards for actors. Chicago critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were members of the jury for the 1970 film festival. For many filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrman, the festival has marked the start of long, successful careers. For its 54th edition, the Chicago International Film Festival will present 150+ films from more than 50 countries across the globe, bringing legendary actors, luminary directors and exciting emerging talent.

The Chicago International Film Festival runs from October 10 – October 21st. Tickets and festival passes can be purchased through the festival site, as well as times and film synopses. AMC River East 21 is located 322 East Illinois Street and can be accessed via the Red Line at Grand/State.