Chicago International Film Festival Turned 55

Sun. November 10, 2019 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

The Chicago International Film Festival turned 55 this year and is the longest running competition film festival in North America. More than 150 films were featured from around the world and directors, producers and actors walked the red carpet at AMC River East 21 on Illinois St. before many of the screenings.

Among them was the blues legend Buddy Guy for a new documentary titled The Torch. When asked to tell an Etta James story, he said, "

Before we had hit records, one time we were performing in Atlanta, Georgia and didn't get paid. We slept in the bed together and cried all night, because we didn't have any money. We had to wait for someone to send us a few dollars first to get back home. Before she died, she looked and me and said, "Good thing we didn't do nothing while we were there, because you would have been my son's daddy."

After she got famous, I was sitting in Chess Records and going to do a session with Muddy Waters. She walked in after she had made her third big record and I jumped up to greet her. She said, "Who are you?" We laughed about that before she died years later."

Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal came to town to promote the second feature he has directed called Chicuarotes. He was asked, "What did you learn from playing a trans drag queen in Bad Education?" He said, "Well, this was almost last century and such a long time ago [laughs]. It was wonderful and a joyful experience to discover a transgender character. We all have it inside us and it was really fun."

"Did you discover many gay fans after making the movie Y Tu Mama Tambien?"Bernal stated, "Yes, quite a lot. I was in the LGBT neighborhood Chueca in Madrid, Spain and having breakfast/ This guy came over to tell me he heard I liked girls. It's funny that it was the other way around, he thought I was gay and there was a rumor that I like girls. I told him, "Sorry to disappoint, but yes, I like girls!"

Bernal explained that he was very happy to receive a tribute at the film festival.

Award winners included Best Feature going to Just Mercy and the Best International Feature going to a gay film called And Then We Danced. The Audience Award for Best Documentary went to Ready for War and and Best Short Film went to All on a Mardi Gras Day. The queer feminist film Portrait of a Lady on Fire took home the Gold Hugo and Out-Look Competition Award.

For next year's film festival stay tuned to