By Sean Boelman
After a successful virtual edition in 2020, the Chicago International Film Festival returns with a hybrid edition in 2021, offering in-person, drive-in, and virtual screenings. And as always, the festival has an impressive lineup boasting many North American and U.S. premieres of some of the greatest films to screen on the Fall festival circuit, in addition to some exciting world premieres.
With such an extensive and wide-reaching slate, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the many great films playing at CIFF. However, we at disappointment media have gotten the chance to see some of the films that will be playing at the festival in advance. Here are a few that we think you shouldn’t miss!
A Cop Movie
Alonso Ruizpalacios’s A Cop Movie is perhaps one of the most interesting blends of fictional and nonfiction elements in recent memory. It’s also eerily timely given its relation to the theme of police brutality. Although the commentary mainly applies to the police system in Mexico, a lot of the message rings true around the world. It’s such a fascinating and thought-provoking watch, and it’s best left unspoiled — all that viewers need to know is that it’s a documentary about issues of police brutality told through the lens of cop thriller tropes.
Drive My Car
Recently announced as Japan’s official submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car is one of the finest films of the year. An adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami, this is a slow-moving but profound and poetic character study about a theater director grieving his late wife. Its pacing won’t be for everyone, but those willing to go along for this scenic ride will find themselves moved by this journey and wowed by the destination.
Having made a splash upon its debut at Sundance earlier this year, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee is not only one of the most amazing documentaries of 2021, it’s also one of the best animated films of the year. Telling the story of a refugee who also goes through an identity crisis related to his sexuality, this is a moving and heartbreaking tale. The level of storytelling that this is able to achieve in a mere eighty-three minutes is absolutely astounding.
Lingui, The Sacred Bonds
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Lingui, The Sacred Bonds follows in the same vein as a lot of other films that have come out in the past few years, but the level of nuance and subtlety it brings to the table allows it to stand out. It’s a slow burn of a film, but the character work here is exceptional and the payoff at the end is absolutely worth it. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most restrainedly powerful films at the festival.
Punch 9 for Harold Washington
Every festival has those selections in their lineup that are chosen predominantly for their local interest, and while Punch 9 for Harold Washington is certainly one of those cases, it’s also a surprisingly strong film in its own right. Exploring the campaign and political career of Chicago’s first African-American mayor, this story has a much wider impact than one would think. This is perhaps one of the most effective arguments for the importance of local politics, which makes it an important watch.
The 2021 Chicago International Film Festival runs October 13-23 in-person and virtually.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.