COLUMN: Award recipients named for the 50th Chicago International Film Festival

In its banner 50th anniversary year, the Chicago International Film Festival welcomed another deep field of cinematic competition spanning feature films, local works, animated efforts, international selections, numerous documentary films, and vast number of short films.  On Friday, October 17th, the festival held its annual awards banquet sponsored by Michigan Avenue Magazine and Wintrust Community Banks. The ceremony and festivities were hosted by Fox News Chicago entertainment reporter and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower Hotel.  Awards were given out in the following categories: International Feature Film Competition, New Directors Competition, Roger Ebert Award, Chicago Award, Q-Hugo Award, DocuFest and Shorts.  In each grouped category, the top awards are the Gold Hugo for first place winners and the Silver Hugo for acting performances and second place efforts.  

"The President" (Photo courtesy of Alejandro Riera and the Chicago International Film Festival)

The most prominent category is the International Feature Film Competition.  This year, the 50th film festival jury for the International Feature Film category was led by honored actress Kathleen Turner as President and included filmmakers Ferzan Ozpetek, Margarethe von Trotta, Parviz Shahbazi, and Giora Bejach.  This year's Gold Hugo for the Best Film went to "The President" by Iranian director Moshen Mahkmalbaf.  The Silver Hugo and Special Jury Prize was awarded to the Argentinean film "Refugiado" from director Diego Lerman.

In the acting categories of the International Feature Film Competition, Anton Yelchin from "Rudderless" (the directorial debut of William H. Macy) and Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin, from "Sand Dollars" were the Silver Hugo winners for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively.  "Timbuktu" director Abderrahmane Sissako was awarded the Silver Hugo for Best Director.  

The 50th Chicago International Film Festival was the first year for the new Roger Ebert Award.  This award is bestowed on an "emerging filmmaker whose film presents a fresh and uncompromising vision."  Mexico's "La Tirisia" from director Jorge Perez Solano was named the inaugural winner of this prestigious and creative award.  

The Founder's Award recipient Micahel Keaton, on left, from "Bidrman" (Photo courtey of Rebecca Fons and the Chicago International Film Festival)

Another special award from the ceremony is The Founder's Award given to "one film or performance across all categories that captures the spirit of the Chicago International Film Festival for its unique and innovative approach to the art of the moving image."  This year, actor Michael Keaton was named The Founder's Award recipient for his lead performance in "Birdman" from director Alejandro Inarritu.  Festival Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza had this to say about Keaton and his performance:

"To pick a single film or performance from this year’s incredibly strong lineup of more than 150 
films was difficult, but an eagerly anticipated challenge - they all exemplify the Festival’s spirit of innovation and discovery. And yet, Michael Keaton’s performance in ‘Birdman’ moved me 
deeply; it confirmed that Keaton is not only one of our greatest American actors, but one whose work will soon be reevaluated and further appreciated."

The complete list of last night's winners can be found on the festival website here.  The full remaining festival schedule of showings can be found here as well.

The 50th Chicago International Film Festival continues to run primarily from the AMC River East 21 theater downtown through October 23rd.  The "Best of the Fest" schedule will be available Monday, October 20th.  Those repeated screenings will be one more chance to see this year's competitions winners as well as some Festival favorites and Special Presentations.  The Closing Night Film set for the 23rd will be "Wild" starring Reese Witherspoon from Jean-Marc Vallee, the director of "Dallas Buyers Club."  Tickets are still available for "Wild" and the other festival selections on Ticketmaster and in-person at the AMC River East ticket desk.

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