Chicago International Film Festival Celebrates 50th with Liv Ullmann, Colin Farrell

The 50th Chicago Internal Film Festival kicked off its Opening Gala last night at The Harris Theater, with a star-studded red carpet affair followed by a screening of celebrated Norwegian legend Liv Ullmann’s new adaptation of August Stridberg’s Miss Julie.

And while the festival’s half-century milestone was the story of the evening, another story was going on outside the Harris, with a cavalcade of fans eager to get a glimpse of one Colin Farrell, the star of Miss Julie, who arrived to greet a legion of adoring admirers.

Not that Farrell was the evening’s only attraction, with the luminous Ullmann and festival jury president, the great Kathleen Turner, also in attendance, as well as international directors, Germany’s Margarethe von Trotta (Rosenstrasse, Hannah Arendt) and Turkey’s Ferzan Ozpetek (Steam: The Turkish Bath, His Secret Life).Chicago native and Hollywood director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) also joined the festivities.

Ullmann, a longtime friend of festival founder and artistic director Michael Kutza, patron saint of bringing diverse international cinema to Chicago for the last five decades, took the stage before Miss Julie to commend Kutza, “My favorite festival director, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”  Kutza shared a lovely anecdote about their first meeting many years prior, when an unfortunate subtitling error left Ullmann’s film all but unwatchable.

The regal star and partner of eleven Ingmar Bergman classics including Persona, Scenes from a Marriage and Cries and Whispers, lauded the festival’s mission while offering, “Now, more than ever, movies are important to who we are.”

Kutza received a special, commemorative award for the anniversary from festival chair Jeanne Randall Malkin before inviting Colin Farrell to the stage, who praised Ullmann’s Miss Julie vision with a winning combination of sincerity and humor, every bit the movie scene-stealing movie star.