Mimi Plauché spoke with Solzy at the Movies about the 55th Chicago International Film Festival prior to the festival’s launch tonight.
One of my favorite films this year was a small little indie film premiering during the Slamdance Film Festival: The Vast of Night. When did this film first get on your radar?
Mimi Plauché: We were aware of it screening at Slamdance, but honestly didn’t catch it until after Amazon acquired it and shared the film with us. We were immediately taken with the filmmaking prowess and Spielbergian storytelling.
There’s more than a few films playing at the festival from Netflix, Amazon, and Apple Plus. With the changing landscape in cinema, do you expect any trouble down the line when it comes to playing these kind of films?
Mimi Plauché: No, not really, because the excitement of the festival offers these films the kind of buzz, publicity and attention that the streamers want for their titles.
While much attention will be placed on the Gala and Special Presentations, which under-the-radar film ought to get our attention?
Mimi Plauché: In the New Directors competition, Just 6.5 represents the best of contemporary Iranian cinema with its subtlety and texture within the framework of a crime thriller. I also love when we have returning directors, such as Franco Lolli (Litigante) and Shahrbanoo Sadat (The Orphanage), whose first films we also showed. I’d also call out A Thief’s Daughter, from first-time Spanish director Belén Funes; it is a beautiful underdog story about a young woman who is determined to get the best out of life in the face of innumerable obstacles. In the Global Currents section, people should check out Atlantics, from Cannes, which is a powerful, even mystical, story of labor and migration from the perspective of a young African woman and The County—I love Icelandic cinema—from another director whose work we’ve shown before, which follows a woman who decides she’s going to take a stand for herself and the community.
Among the documentaries, Waiting for the Carnival, is a shocking story about a small Brazilian town where everyone has set up their own factories to make jeans. Seahorse is a beautifully crafted, compassionate film that follows a British transgender man’s extraordinary journey to have a baby. We’re also very excited that acclaimed filmmaker Nick Broomfield will be in town to present My Father and Me, which is a touching and intelligent story of the tension between the director and his father, who was also an accomplished photographer.
One more I’ll mention: Those Who Remained, which is Hungary’s Academy Award contender, which is a very affecting story about a young woman and middle-aged man who are left alone because they lost family members to the Holocaust and find human connection in one another.
The comedy nerd in me loves that films like Jojo Rabbit and Knives Out were selected. What other comedies should Chicago film lovers keep their eye out for?
Mimi Plauché: The Twentieth Century is a wild, weirdly hilarious, and inventive Canadian film that’s a lot like Guy Maddin’s work–we called it in our program notes a “Dali-esque fever dream by way of Monty Python.” In our comedy program, you’ll also find everything from rom-coms with a twist (Bangla) to an off-beat Belgian comedy set at a naturist campsite (Patrick), and a deadpan Danish comedy set in a penitentiary (Out of Tune).
There’s a focus on production design this year. Can you talk about the program this year?
Mimi Plauché: I’ve wanted to do this for it for a long time, and it’s just come to fruition this year. Ever since we began collaborating with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, we thought about expanded programming around architecture and cinema — presenting films and programs that bring together the worlds of architecture, design and cinema beyond the amazing documentaries about designers and architects that we find for the program. This led us to thinking about the cinema’s relationship to architecture and design, that is the architectural language of cinema and the role that production designers play in world building. How does world building in cinema effect the way we experience both cinematic and real world spaces?
When it came to programming the fest, what was the most challenging part about putting together the schedule?
Mimi Plauché: Finding the right balance of films is always a challenge. The programming team is also looking at such a massive amount of titles–literally thousands of films–to try to pick the best ones. This takes patience, time, a sharp acumen, and a love of cinema. There’s always a push and a pull. We want to have a crosssection of films from different parts of the world; and also a variety of tones, types of stories, styles, and so on. There are a lot of factors that we’re constantly weighing as we make final selections.