Michael Moore Takes Founder's Award at Chicago International Film Festival

Michael Moore Horizontal Green Hat - H 2013
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Michael Moore Horizontal Green Hat - H 2013

The filmmaker sat with Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert, for a lively Q&A following the doc's Midwestern premiere.

Michael Moore was presented with the Founder's Award for his latest film, Where to Invade Next, at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival.

The Founder's Award is given "to that one film … that captures the spirit of the [fest] for its unique and innovative approach to the art of the moving image," according to a statement.

The award was presented on Friday night at a ceremony held at the Chicago Peninsula. Hours before, the film — in which an upbeat Moore "invades" several European countries (and one Middle Eastern one) in order to plunder some of their best social policies — received its Midwestern premiere. 

A lively question-and-answer session hosted by Chaz Ebert, wife of the late Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, Roger Ebert, followed. In it, Moore fondly shared the story of how Ebert launched his career by agreeing to attend the world-premiere of Roger & Me (after Moore practically begged him to) at the 1988 Telluride Film Festival. 

"He walks into the theater, it was two minutes before showtime," Moore recalled. "He sees me and says to me, 'Don't say a word. I'm only here because there was a crazy look in your eyes.'"

Moore continued: "The next morning, I hear, 'Michael Moore, Michael Moore, can I take your picture? I need a picture for my story. That was the first fan picture ever taken of me, by Roger Ebert. And the next day in the Sun-Times there was this beautiful story saying it was one of the best films he'd seen in the last decade. … It just shot like a bullet from what he did."

Where to Invade Next, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, will receive a Dec. 23 release in L.A. and New York, qualifying it for Academy Awards consideration. The film was acquired by former Radius-TWC co-presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League for their new, yet-to-be named distribution venture.

In the international film competition, France's A Childhood, directed by Philippe Claudel, took the Gold Hugo award for best film. A special jury prize went to Paulina, an Argentina-Brazil co-production, while Pablo Larrain of Chile took top directing honors for The Club.

The best male actor award was shared by Alexi Mathieu and Jules Gauzelin of A Childhood, while best female actor was Lizzie Brochere of Full Contact, a film from the Netherlands and Croatia. The Club took best screenplay honors and the Silver Plaque for best cinematography went to Full Contact.

The Roger Ebert Award, presented "to an emerging filmmaker whose film presents a fresh and uncompromising vision" went to Iran's Ida Panahandeh for Nahid.