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

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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.

The festival, a Chicago institution, cultural conduit for local moviegoers and increasingly important stop for both emerging local filmmakers and high-profile industry mavericks here to share their latest works with our discerning audiences, takes over the city from October 9 – 23. With an impressive line-up of international cinema, special events and guest tributes, this year’s roster also features an array of narrative, documentary, stylistic and geographical diversity featuring something for everyone, whether casual moviegoer or cineaste.

The festival is one of Chicago’s world-class profile-raisers, a bedrock annual mainstay and two weeks known across the world as the place where real movie fans (not merely rank-and-file bloggers and studio marketing execs looking to handicap Oscar hopefuls as other fests attract) come out to share in the special, communal experience of seeing great cinema with like-minded film lovers, an experience increasingly threatened by today’s rising on-demand market.

ChicagoFilm will be bringing you updates throughout the festival on some key films and happenings underway, including several can’t-miss events like the arrival of Oliver Stone on Sunday bringing his preferred cuts of both Natural Born Killers and his beloved Alexander, initially dismissed but gained in reputation in recent years, and Tuesday’s tribute to the formidable Turner, a movie star bar none who will join CIFF for a career retrospective.

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