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European Union Film Festival sets record for number of female directors

European Union Film Festival sets record for number of female directors

The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago began in 1972 and since that time, it has been home to several cutting edge “film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures...”  One of those innovative festivals includes the upcoming Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF), now celebrating its 20th year, beginning March 3 through March 30.

Programming Co-Director Barbara Scharres says the experimental festival’s initial committee was comprised of various EU diplomats in Chicago as well as representatives from an array of cultural institutions such as the Goethe Institute, and the Italian and French Cultural Institutes.  “Changing times,” Sharres added, “diminished consular budgets, and diminished full-scale diplomatic presence in Chicago has meant that we need to look to other possibilities for support.  I must emphasize that we still have some terrific partners among the full consulates and cultural institutes.”

While the Gene Siskel Film Center maintains full artistic control over the festival, these consulates and honorary consulars help underwrite travel expenses for the filmmakers and help to promote the event. The size and scope of the festival has also changed over the years. In 1997, each of the 12 EU nations submitted 2 films to the festival.  Now, with 28 nations represented, there are a total of 62 feature films. Smaller, less-established film nations such as Luxembourg, Cyprus, and Malta contribute one or two films, while larger, more established nations screen several.  Sharres added, “There is no rigid format,” punctuating the fact that as the world changes, so too does the festival.

The CEUFF by its very nature highlights and exemplifies diversity, but when it comes to female-driven films and female filmmakers, Scharres stated that, “Including them has always been a priority for us, and I’m happy to say that 28% of this year’s EU festival films were directed by women.  That’s our largest representation yet in the festival’s 20 years." Doris Dorrie has been a part of the festival on a regular basis and this year, Latvian director Laila Pakalnina returns with “Dawn" following her 2014 presentation of “Pizzas." Sharres said, “I admire her work for its avant-garde sensibility and for the keen and quirky sense of humor that manifests itself in unusual ways.”

Quirky and fun is what drives the opening night film “20,000 Reasons,” a romantic comedy with culture clash from Malta.  The film is seen from the perspective of a strong, young woman who is bound to her family financially and must marry before she turns 30.  Turning the tables better describes what she finds as the solution.  

Strong women with powerful voices can be seen with many of this year’s films directed by women, including “Cezanne and Me” (France) by Daniele Thompson, “Sami Blood,” (Sweden) by Amanda Kernell, “Tonio" (Netherlands) by Paula van der Oest, and “Master and Tatyana” (Lithuania) by Giedre Zickyte who will be at the festival to answer questions following the screenings on March 25 and 27.

The closing night film on March 30th has a female focus as well with “Louise by the Shore” (France). A 75-year-old woman’s Robinson Crusoe-like animated fantasy feature film that is described as “The Twilight Zone” with “reflective sensibility” overlaid with  a Post-Impressionist water colors.  The film takes us on Louise’s journey as she misses a train and finds herself stranded on a deserted island and must fend for herself.

The CEUFF has become a main-stay at the Gene Siskel Film Center.  Don’t miss out on seeing films from around the world.  Comedies, tragedies, dramas and thrillers can call be found at the CEUFF.  

For a complete schedule and to purchase tickets, go to www.siskelfilmcenter.org  

© Pamela Powell (3/1/17) FF2 Media

Top Photo:"Their Finest" (United Kingdom) by Lone Scherfig will screen on March 26, in conjunction with International SWAN Day.
Middle Photo: "Gozo" (Malta) by Miranda Bowen will screen on March 10 & March 14
Middle Photo: "A Holy Mess" (Sweden) by Helena Bergstrom will screen on March 24 & March 25
Photo Credits: Bishop Films, Sweetwater Productions, BBC Films