October 19, 2012

Chicago International Film Festival

Every year I vow to read the Chicago International Film Festival magazine early, make my picks and see a shitload more films than I normally do, like at least 10 or 20 of them, and every year I only see one or two or three or four and I'm so disappointed I didn't see more. So I vow to do it right next year. I just made that vow again. The season's not quite over and I could conceivably see a more before it ends on Tuesday. But sadly, I won't have time.
Here's what I've seen so far:

Kern  ** From Austria
A strange documentary about Peter Kern, a morbidly obese (and that doesn't come close to describing the massiveness of him) Austrian actor and filmmaker. Two people set out to create a portrait of his life but at the end of the film you don't know what he's made up and what is true. He's not someone I wanted to know, especially after seeing him naked, which had no purpose, in my opinion, but succeeded in grossing out the entire audience.

Kuma ***** From Austria
Wow. Powerful film with some unexpected twists, about a man who brings a young Turkish woman into his home, ostensibly as a wife for his handsome son, but really as a second wife for himself. Strange? Yes. His wife is dying from cancer and this young woman takes care of her (and him) and their children, and grows to love the family. The two women form an unlikely but close bond but twists of fate change everything for everyone. See it if you can. It's playing again on October 20 and 21.

Any Day Now ***** From U.S. 
DON'T MISS THIS FILM! It'll be in distribution in December. Low-budget, beautifully done film set in 1979 about a drag queen who takes in a Downs Syndrome boy who's been abandoned by his mother. He and his closeted partner end up fighting the legal system to keep the boy. It's a gripping story about love and what makes a family. Stunning performances by Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, and Issac Layva as the young boy.

A Secret World **** from  Mexico
Gorgeously photographed film about a young girl who feels like an outcast, and her journey to find her place in the world. This is a very quiet film, and slow-moving, but it all works. The actor who plays Maria is wonderful. It feels like you are watching her actual life, not a film. Beautifully done.

Numbered ***** From Israel
An emotional documentary that details the lives and memories of some of the survivors of Auschwitz, the only place where they tattooed numbers on the prisoners. For some the numbers are a medal, for others it is shame. For the audience it is unspeakable and humbling.
There was a woman whose father had the numbers and after she sat shiva she them tattooed on her ankle. There was a grandson who had his (still living) grandfather's numbers tattooed on his arm. Very moving.
I don't know how you'd be able to watch this and not want to curl up and sob.

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