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Here's the Deal with CIFF

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 19, 2007 1:00PM

2007_9ciffno1.jpgA few days ago we unwittingly created a monster when we expressed our frustration about having to wait to see the schedule for this year's Chicago International Film Festival, which runs October 4-17. Well, we finally have a copy of said schedule in our hot little hands. What follows is a very brief, cursory summary of what you can expect this year (the full schedule will be online within the next few days).

Regardless of what shenanigans might or might not be going on behind the festival's scenes, this year's lineup looks remarkably strong. Opening Night will see the U.S. premiere of The Kite Runner, directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Stranger Than Fiction) from the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini. That's a definite coup for CIFF. Roger Ebert will be on hand to receive a special honor. The Closing Night movie is The Savages, starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman. We loved Tamara Jenkins' earlier film The Slums of Beverly Hills, whose lip sync sequence left us breathless with laughter. Another solid get.

Incidentally Philip Seymour Hoffman is also in Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, a suspense thriller co-starring Ethan Hawke. There seem to be a lot of crime movies and paranoiac political thrillers this year. Noise (from Australia), Eye in the Sky (Hong Kong), and the American Home of the Giants sound like variations on the crime-gone-wrong setup, while other movies involve surveillance cameras (like Look and the aptly-named Surveillance) and conspiracy (Heartbeat Detector, Black Butterfly and The Aerial). Surprisingly there are few movies dealing with the Iraq War (one of which is a Hollywood movie, Grace is Gone with John Cusack).

2007_9ciffno2.jpgIt's very heartening to see several films from Africa on the schedule, an entire continent with films that remain all but unseen even on art-house screens. Dreams of Dust, about the brutal existence of gold miners in Burkina Faso, is definitely on our must-see list. Another must-see is the documentary A Walk Into the Sea, which sketches the mysterious life of Danny Williams, a young filmmaker who was part of Andy Warhol's circle until he disappeared in 1966. In the "Restored & Rediscovered" sidebar is a special, once-only screening of Renoir's masterpiece The River. It's a film with color cinematography so beautiful you might begin to levitate in your seat. And in the "Late Night Screamings" series is Chicago-native Stuart Gordon's (Re-Animator) queasy new film Stuck, a blacker-than-black horror comedy about a young woman driving home one night who accidentally hits a homeless man — and leaves him stuck in the windshield of her car.

There are 160 movies unspooling this year, and we just don't have the space (or stamina) to tell you about any more of them just now. But check back here for reviews and updates over the coming weeks, and we'll do our best to keep up.

CIFF runs October 4-17 at various theaters (mostly the Landmark Century, River East 21 and the Music Box). Full details, including ticket info, right here.