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From March 6 through April 2, the Gene Siskel Film Center welcomes you to our 23rd Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival. We present four full weeks of Chicago premieres representing all 28 EU member nations, including a farewell selection of UK productions in this year of Brexit. Savor the flavor of the vibrant and diverse cultures of Europe from the comfort of your theater seat, and join in discussion with directors and other special guests at selected shows.
According to the tradition of our festival, the opening night is dedicated to the nation currently in the rotating presidency of the European Union. This year, Croatia has the honor. On Friday, March 6, the evening is hosted by Sanja Laković, Consul General of Croatia in Chicago. Our opening night presentation is COMIC SANS by Nevio Marasović, a satirical comedy about a successful ad designer whose life runs amok after a painful breakup.
New films by established, prize-winning directors offer stories and ideas that delight, question, and challenge. Werner Herzog’s latest documentary NOMAD: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BRUCE CHATWIN recounts his long friendship with the global adventurer. French iconoclast Bruno Dumont employs unorthodox visual and aural stylization in JOAN OF ARC, breathing new life into a well-known history. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne venture daringly into timely subject matter in YOUNG AHMED, the disturbing tale of a radicalized teenager. Caroline Link creates a tragicomic biopic of one of Germany’s best-loved comedian in ALL ABOUT ME. In EARTH, Austrian filmmaker-activist Nikolaus Geyrhalter finds horror and paradoxical beauty in industrial enterprises that ravage landscapes across the globe.
At a time when the greater inclusion of female artists is a burning question in the cultural realm, close to one-third of this year’s films are directed or co-directed by women. These include LIVING THE LIGHT: ROBBY MÜLLER by Dutch filmmaker Claire Pijman, a diary-like profile of the great cinematographer; and two Irish films: ANIMALS by Sophie Hyde, and THE LAST RIGHT by Aoife Crehan, bringing a female gaze to the human comedy. French director Nadège Trebal will be present on March 29, to discuss her film TWELVE THOUSAND, a confident debut charting the relationship of a passionate but cash-strapped couple.
Additional guest filmmakers are still being confirmed as we go to press. On March 15 and 16, Polish director Piotr Szkopiak will be present to discuss THE LAST WITNESS, his noir-like thriller delving into an attempted cover-up of the 1940 Katyn Massacre, in which 22,000 Polish soldiers were executed. Lithuanian director Tomas Vengris appears for discussion on March 21 with MOTHERLAND, his drama of a woman who returns to Lithuania with her American-born son to reclaim her family estate. Italian director Mimmo Calopresti will be present on March 29, with ASPROMONTE, LAND OF THE FORGOTTEN, in which star Valeria Bruni Tedeschi plays a new schoolteacher in a isolated village struggling against government neglect and a smalltime mafia chief.
The festival closes on April 2, with Czech director Jirí Mádl in person with ON THE ROOF, a bittersweet odd-couple drama laced with humor, charting the unusual friendship between a retired teacher and the fugitive immigrant he takes into his home. A reception with a Czech theme follows the show.
The Gene Siskel Film Center thanks the consulates, the consuls general, and the cultural institutes of the European Union in Chicago, and their embassies in Washington, D.C., for their enthusiastic participation. We especially salute the efforts of all those who served as festival advisors.
—Barbara Scharres and Martin Rubin