Chicago International Film Festival increases list of female directors

The 54th Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) will screen an inclusive lineup of films October 10-21 at the AMC River East. Founder and CEO Michael Kutza will be bidding farewell in December after 55 years of running the program, one which increases the percentage of female filmmakers each year. As the Out-Look Competition (LGBTQ-themed films addressing sexuality and identity) grows, so too does the number of women in the director’s chair. With more than 6,000 film entries, 36 out of 123 chosen feature films are directed by women, approximately 30 percent (up from last year’s 25 percent). In the shorts category, it’s an equal representation of 50 percent.    

Artistic Director Mimi Plauché shared the following:

“Throughout our history, the Chicago International Film Festival has been a leader in showcasing the contributions that women from around the world have made to film. One-third of this year’s official Festival selections are directed by women, as our Spotlight: Women in Cinema program features both provocative works by leading female filmmakers as well as exciting new voices. We are proud to continue our long-standing tradition of celebrating the groundbreaking work of female filmmakers worldwide, with films like Working Woman, an Israeli film by a veteran director which resonates with the #MeToo Movement, as well as Sofia, which is a searing look at the place of women in contemporary Moroccan society by a first-time filmmaker. Through this program, we also hope to further the discussion around shifting the gender dynamics of women working in the industry and create more opportunities for female filmmakers.”

DIRECTOR Michal Aviad
CATEGORY Spotlight: Women in Cinema, World Cinema

Female writers and directors are well-represented in all categories at this festival, from the Gala Presentation of Can You Ever Forgive Me? co-written by Nicole Holofcener, directed by Marielle Heller and starring Melissa McCarthy, and the heartbreaking What They Had by Elizabeth Chomko set in Chicago to “World Cinema” standouts Daughter of Mine directed by Laura Bispuri and Michal Aviad’s timely tale from Israel, Working Woman.  

Chicago women find a home at CIFF as well. Local filmmaker McKenzie Chinn writes and stars in the dramedy Olympia, and journalist and documentarian Assia Boundaoui tells a personal tale of prejudice and terrorism in a nearby suburb in The Feeling of Being Watched.

On the other end of the spectrum is an Argentinian comedic road trip film by Ana Katz, Florianapolis Dream, and from France is the surreal drama Little Tickles by Andrea Bescond.  Melissa Haizlip’s documentary Mr. Soul! brings us back to a bygone era of television, music and racism that still rings true today and the film creating a lot of buzz from Toronto this year, This Changes Everything, will screen with a panel discussion afterward.  This film looks closely into the gender disparity in Hollywood using interviews with outspoken women in the industry such as Geena Davis and Meryl Streep and identifies the problems as well as offering solutions.  This will certainly stimulate a lively discussion from the panelists following the film, a part of “Industry Days.”

“Industry Days” at CIFF “…examines current and future trends in the … entertainment industry.”  Keynote speakers and public panels presenting information about Virtual Reality (VR), music in film, among many more issues are a part of this special series. Speaker Suzanne Jurva, Director of the Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance will also be sharing her knowledge and experience with the audience and with her background as a development executive at DreamWorks and working on films such as Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report and Gladiator she is sure to entertain and inform everyone.  

Every genre of film is represented by women at CIFF, from horror films and shorts to comedies, documentaries and dramas. Films with high profile actors as well as newcomers can also be seen at CIFF. Kutza shared that he loves taking chances and finding new talent behind and in front of the camera and this year, approximately one third of these new directors featured at CIFF are women.  

Be sure to check out the full line-up of films at this year’s festival at

Tickets go on sale Friday, Sept. 21.  

© Pamela Powell (9/21/18) FF2 Media

Featured photos: Can You Ever Forgive Me (  Marielle Heller;   United States;   Gala Presentation, Spotlight: Comedy, Spotlight: Women in Cinema)

Middle and bottom photos: Working Woman; Sophia

Photo credit: Chicago International Film Festival

CATEGORY Spotlight: Women in Cinema, World Cinema

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New York native film critic and film critic Pamela Powell now resides near Chicago, interviewing screenwriters and directors of big blockbusters and independent gems as an Associate for FF2 Media. With a graduate degree from Northwestern in Speech-Language Pathology, she has tailored her writing, observational, and evaluative skills to encompass all aspects of film. With a focus on women in film, Pamela also gravitates toward films that are eye-opening, educational, and entertaining with the hopes of making this world a better place. 
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