Chicago Film Festival Kicks Off With One of Its Own

Dennis Farina stars in Windy City-shot drama "The Last Rites of Joe May," which begins 47th annual event Thursday.

CHICAGO — The Chicago International Film Festival will launch its 47th annual edition Thursday with a red-carpet gala screening of The Last Rites of Joe May, written and directed by festival veteran Joe Maggio

The Chicago-shot drama stars former Chicago cop Dennis Farina and features members of the city's vaunted Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

In Joe May, Farina stars as an aging West Chicago hustler who confronts a harsh crossroads in his life. Farina was discovered by Chicago-raised Michael Mann when Farina advised the director on police procedure for Thief (1981) during its Windy City shoot.

“This film is a wonderful example of the vitality of Chicago filmmaking and the creative energy in our city,” said festival founder/artistic director Michael Kutza. “A city of diverse neighborhoods, Chicago embraces a potpourri of films representing many countries.”

The Artist, the black-and-white paean to silent cinema that has played at festivals around the world, will serve as Chicago’s closing-night presentation Oct. 20. The French film is directed by Michel Hazanavicius.

The Chicago festival, the oldest competitive film fest in the U.S., presents the latest and best films from around the world in its International Feature Film Competition.

The main competition films, judged by a jury of international artists and professionals, compete for the festival’s top prize, the Gold Hugo.

This year’s main competition offerings include: Cairo 678 (Egypt), Chronicle of My Mother (Japan), The Forgiveness of Blood (U.S./Albania), Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Hong Kong), The Giants (Belgium), Goodbye (Iran), Goodbye First Love (France/Germany), Joint Body (U.S.), Le Havre (Finland, France), Miss Bala (Mexico), The Mole (Poland), Nobody Else But You (France), Tyrannosaur (U.K.), Wild Bill (U.K.) and Woman in the Fifth (Poland).

This year’s Centerpiece Presentation will be British film My Week With Marilyn, which will screen Oct. 12 with director Simon Curtis and screenwriter Adrian Hodges in attendance.

The festival encourages new voices with films competing each year for its New Directors awards. In addition, its World Cinema section presents top international films that bring the sights and perspective of diverse cultures to Chicago audiences.

Other segments include its Cinema of the Americas program that features emerging films from Latin America and the Caribbean. The fest also features the Black Perspectives section, which showcases films by Africans and African-Americans.

The DOCUFEST section shows nonfiction films from around the globe. The fest also boasts a Short Film Competition, where narrative, documentary and student works are shown.

Kutza has helmed the festival for all of its 47 years. The first event in 1965 honored King Vidor, Bette Davis and Stanley Kramer.