The 56th Chicago International Film Festival kicks off this week and it is a film festival near and dear to my heart. This was the first festival that I attended back in 2008 and it is one I have attended every year since. The Chicago International Film Festival is a wonderful film festival. One that highlights so many unique movies from all around the world and showcases some of the best filmmakers working today. Though this year’s festival is a little different, as a majority of the festival will be available through streaming (thanks, COVID!), the festival is still offering up a number of interesting films from all around the world. Here’s a list of the most exciting movies playing at the 56th Chicago International Film Festival.
*NOTE: you can see all the movies playing at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival and purchase tickets by clicking here.
BELUSHI (R.J. Cutler)
Why I’m Excited: John Belushi was a once-in-a-lifetime talent. The comedy legend blew up on Saturday Night Live in the late 70’s and then became a screen icon with films like National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Blues Brothers. But with Belushi’s success came problems with addiction and substance abuse, causing him to tragically pass away at the young age of 33, right in the middle of his prime. This documentary, which features previously unheard audiotapes featuring the voices of collaborators, friends, and family, captures what made Belushi the complicated, immense talent that he was.
THE DARK AND THE WICKED (Bryan Bertino)
Why I’m Excited: I’ve already had the pleasure of seeing The Dark and the Wicked while covering this years Fantasia Festival and it is a film that completely blew me away. This is a horrifying and deeply emotional film about a family mourning an inevitable death and a darkness that lurks over them as death gets closer and closer. Bryan Bertino’s debut film The Strangers is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen and while The Dark and the Wicked features plenty of scares and tension, The Dark and the Wicked shows a new maturity and darkness in the director that makes me excited for his next projects. The Dark and the Wicked is one of the best movies I have seen in 2020.
DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA (Spike Lee)
Why I’m Excited: Another film that I have already seen, David Byrne’s American Utopia is a celebration of life, love, and creativity. Playing as a sister movie to Jonathon Demme’s masterpiece Stop Making Sense, director Spike Lee brilliantly showcases former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s Broadway show. Playing old favorites like “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down House” while also mixing in non-Talking Heads songs, most notably a protest song written by Janelle Monáe called “Hell You Talmbout”, Lee showcases Byrne’s creativity and talent in a masterful concert film. This is another one of my favorite movies of 2020.
KUBRICK BY KUBRICK (Gregory Monro)
Why I’m Excited: Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors to step behind the camera. A meticulous genius who made a number great films, yet a mysterious man who hid from the limelight. In this new documentary, we will be hearing a number of never-before-heard audio recordings that look into the methods and madness of master director. I am a sucker for documentaries about film, particularly directors, so I’m really excited to watch this one and dive deeper into the mind of the Kubrick.
NOMADLAND (Chloe Zhao)
Why I’m Excited: Where The Dark and the Wicked and American Utopia are two of my favorite movies of 2020, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is currently holding the top spot at my favorite movie of the year. This is a quiet, powerful look at the forgotten people of America, as the film follows a woman in her sixties (Frances McDormand, in a career-defining role) who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. This is a powerful, emotional, gorgeous film that rests on the shoulders of Zhao and McDormand. Zhao is an incredible talent and one of the best working directors today and this is her best film to date.
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI (Regina King)
Why I’m Excited: Adapted from the award-winning play of the same name, the film is a fictional account of the incredible night in 1964 when underdog Cassius Clay, soon to be called Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), defeats heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Hall—Clay memorialized the event with three of his friends: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). This is a great cast and an interesting premise and I would be interested enough from just that. But what has me more excited is that it is the directorial debut of the Regina King. The Oscar-winning actress is incredibly talented on screen and I imagine she is just as talented behind it.
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