The 15th Annual European Union Film Festival


From March 2 through 29, the Gene Siskel Film Center welcomes you to the 15th Annual European Union Film Festival, the largest showcase in North America for the cinema of the European Union nations. This year’s festival encompasses all 27 EU countries, presenting the Chicago premieres of 65 films. As always, our festival presents a wide range of recent production, from first features by the cream of Europe’s new talents to the latest films by established masters.

Major directors include Andrea Arnold (WUTHERING HEIGHTS), Terence Davies (THE DEEP BLUE SEA), Bruno Dumont (HORS SATAN), Michael Glawogger (WHORE’S GLORY), Lasse Hallström (SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN), Jan Hrebejk (INNOCENCE), Mathieu Kassovitz (REBELLION), John Landis (BURKE AND HARE), Yorgos Lanthimos (ALPS), Christian Petzold (BEATS BEING DEAD), and André Techiné (UNFORGIVABLE). The three short films making up the Jeonju Digital Project 2011 are by the stellar trio of Jean-Marie Straub, Claire Denis, and José Luis Guerín.

The festival includes seven films that were selected to represent their nations in this year’s Academy Awards competition for Best Foreign-language film: BREATHING (Austria), LETTERS TO ANGEL (Estonia), BACK IN YOUR ARMS (Lithuania), SONNY BOY (Netherlands), JOSÉ & PILAR (Portugal), MORGEN (Romania), and BEYOND (Sweden).

According to the tradition of our festival, the opening night is presided over by the nation currently holding the presidency of the European Union. On Friday, March 2, our hosts are the Honorable Anne Mette Vestergaard, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Denmark, Washington, and the Honorable Jacob Anderson, Consul General of Denmark, Chicago. Our opening night film is A FUNNY MAN, the bittersweet story of how fame proves to be the undoing of a pair of scrappy standup comics.

Scheduled personal appearances include acclaimed British director Terence Davies with THE DEEP BLUE SEA on March 13, and Chicago-based film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum hosting a screening of AITA (Spain) by José María de Orbe on March 19. On March 23 and 24, Romanian director Lucian Georgescu appears with his film THE PHANTOM FATHER in tandem with American author (and former Chicagoan) Barry Gifford, on whose story the film is based. Other possible guest appearances were unconfirmed at press time; please check back for updates on appearances and added special events in association with screenings.

We close the festival on Thursday, March 29, with THE SALT OF LIFE, an affecting Italian comedy by Gianni Di Gregorio, director of the 2010 hit MID-AUGUST LUNCH. A reception by Whole Foods Market follows.

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 on the festival planning committee.

—Barbara Scharres and Martin Rubin

Purchase a European Union festival pass for $50!

6 movies at a reduced price, plus a free small popcorn with each film. Turn your pass in at the end of the festival for a $5 discount on a Gene Siskel Film Center membership. An $87 value for $50!

Vote for the Audience Award! Win an Annual Membership and a 2013 EU Festival Pass!

Vote for the European Union Film Festival's Audience Award, and your ballot may be selected for the grand prize of a year's membership to the Film Center plus an EU Festival Pass (6 films + popcorn) for the 2013 festival! Ballots are available in the lobby. Past winners of the award include I'M NOT SCARED (2004), COLOSSAL SENSATION! (2005), CLEAN (2006), AFTER THE WEDDING (2007), THE UNKNOWN WOMAN (2008), THE BEACHES OF AGNES (2009), THE WORLD IS BIG AND SALVATION LURKS AROUND THE CORNER (2010), and DESERT FLOWER (2011).

For their generous assistance in obtaining films for the European Union Film Festival, the Gene Siskel Film Center thanks:

Austria: Dr. Thomas Schnoell, Joanne Ryan, Consulate General of Austria

Belgium: Martine Leclerq, Wallonia (Belgium) Trade & Investment, Chicago; Claude Stomp, Flanders Investment and Trade, Chicago; Frank Verpoorten, Flanders House, New York; Madeline Shapiro, Caviar Films

Bulgaria: Valentin Donchev, Lila Georgieva, Bulgarian Consulate General, Chicago; Arnaud Aubelle, Le Pacte; Miramar Film; Mila Petkova, Bulgarian National Film Center; Christian Nochev, Andy Film

Cyprus: Marinos Kartikkis

Czech Republic: Sylvia Pinterova, NiteFLIX; Dana Huntova, Consulate General of the Czech Republic

Denmark: Lizette Gram Mygind, Signe Egemose Agger, Danish Film Institute; Jacob Anderson, Lisbeth Christensen, Consulate General of Denmark

Estonia: Mati Sepping, Estinfilm; Tristan Priimägi, Estonian Film Foundation; Kaie-Ene Rääk, F-Seitse

Finland: Jenni Domingo, Finnish Film Foundation; Laura Salonen, Snapper Films

France: nstitut Français; Jean François Rochard, Laurence Geannopoulos, Cultural Services at the Consulate General of France in Chicago; Grégoire Graesslin, Kinology

Germany: Werner Ott, Irmi Maunu-Kocian, Goethe-Institut, Chicago

Greece: Liza Linardou, Greek Film Center

Hungary: Bela Bunyik, Bunyik Entertainment; Katalin Vajda, Magyar Filmunió, Hungarian National Film Fund; Michael A. Dobbin, Quiet Revolution Pictures

Ireland: Tim Reilly, Consulate General of Ireland, Chicago

Italy: Silvio Marchetti, Mary Anne Melchior, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Chicago; Barbara Klein, Italian Film Festival of St. Louis; Gianluca Bertogna; Latvia: Janis Vingris

Lithuania: Skaiste Aniuliene, Agné Vertelkaitè, Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in Chicago; Studio Uljana Kim

Luxembourg: Joy Hoffmann, Centre National de l’Audiovisuel (CAN)

Malta: Kenneth Scicluna, Lighthouse & Ashley

Netherlands: Peter Verheyen, Consulate General of the Netherlands, Chicago

Romania: Thomas Petit, Les Films du Losange; Lucian Georgescu, GAV

Slovakia: Alexandra Strelková, Slovak Film Institute; John Riley, Fog ‘n’ Desire Films; Ondrej Starinska, JMB Film and TV Production

Slovenia: Nerina Kocjancic, Slovenian Film Center

Spain: Ignacio Olmos, Teresa Hernando, Instituto Cervantes de Chicago; Montse Pedros, Eddie Saeta SA; Carlota Caso, Film Factory Entertainment

Sweden: Gunnar Almér, Swedish Film Insititute; Ulf G. Anvin, Consulate General of Sweden

and also: Lara Bogenrief, Allied-THA; Ryan Krivoshey, The Cinema Guild; Alex Garcia, FiGa Films; Rebeca Conget, Film Movement; Ryan Werner, Jonathan Hertzberg, Elizabeth Brambilla, Cary Jones, Kim Kalyka, IFC Films; Kyoung Min Yang, Un-Seong Yoo, Jeonju International Film Festival; Gary Palmucci, Jason Leaf, Kate Brokaw, Kino International; Ed Arentz, Brian Andreotti, Suzanne Fedak, Music Box Films; Jonathan Howell, Jose Lopez, New Yorker Films; Farhad Arshad, Jennifer Bonino, Olive Films; Jacob Wolter, Oscilloscope Laboratories; Paul Hudson; Outsider Films; Jessica Rosner, Palisades Tartan; Brandon Peters, Strand Releasing; Matthew Landers, Tribeca Film; Clemence Taillandier, Zeitgeist Films.




Fri, Mar 2nd at 6:00pm
Sun, Mar 4th at 5:00pm
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Opening night film!

  1. (DIRCH)
  2. 2011, Martin P. Zandvliet, Denmark, 109 min.
  3. With Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Ranthe

As he demonstrated with actress Paprika Steen in the 2011 EUFF entry APPLAUSE, writer-director Zandvliet knows how to showcase a powerhouse performance. Nikolaj Lie Kaas (THE IDIOTS, BROTHERS) evokes RAGING BULL and ALL THAT JAZZ with his ferocious, fact-based portrayal of Dirch Passer, who was Denmark's top comedy star of the 1950s-1960s, roughly the equivalent of America's Lou Costello or Jerry Lewis. A FUNNY MAN depicts Dirch's stormy relationship with his longtime comedy partner Kjeld Petersen, his ill-fated attempt to become a serious actor, his booze-soaked personal life, and the fascinating vintage comedy routines that made him famous. In Danish with English subtitles. 35mm widescreen print courtesy of the Danish Film Institute. (MR)

Note: No free passes or blue tickets will be valid for the opening night screening.

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Thu, Mar 29th at 6:15pm
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Closing night film!

  2. 2011, Gianni Di Gregorio, Italy, 90 min.
  3. With Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis Bendoni

“Thoroughly delightful.”
—Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Wittily observed, humorously understood and keenly felt.”
—Wally Hammond, Time Out London

THE SALT OF LIFE, actor-writer-director Di Gregorio’s follow-up to his captivating 2010 EUFF entry MID-AUGUST LUNCH, might be described as a coming-of-age story, but the twist is that the age is sixty, not sixteen. Di Gregorio once again brings his droll, baggy-eyed charm to the role of Gianni, an aging man saddled with a demanding, spendthrift mother (played again by the marvelous Bendoni), but this time the subject is not filial duty but autumnal lust. Still dazzled by the beautiful women around him, and unwilling to be relegated to the romantic sidelines, Gianni tries to pump up his sex appeal, with increasingly hilarious and rueful results. Some critics have read the film as a sly commentary on the overweening machismo of the Berlusconi era; Philip French (The Observer) characterized it as an Ealing comedy that deftly turns into a Chekhov story. In Italian with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Zeitgeist Films. 35mm. THE SALT OF LIFE will open at the Music Box Theatre this spring. (MR)

Immediately following the screening, the audience is invited to a closing night reception hosted by Whole Foods Market.

Note: No free passes or blue tickets will be valid for the closing night screening.

Tickets for this show are now SOLD OUT!

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Films of the 15th Annual
European Union Film Festival

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Sat, Mar 3rd at 5:15pm
Wed, Mar 7th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (4 votes)
  1. (ATMEN)
  2. 2011, Karl Markovics, Austria, 90 min.
  3. With Thomas Schubert, Karin Lischka

“Brilliantly fuses pop and art-house filmmaking…full of surprises.”
—Aaron Cutler, Slant Magazine

“A stirring debut from a promising new filmmaker.”
—David Nusair,

Austria’s official submission for Oscar consideration builds an affecting coming-of-age story around a young man seemingly doomed to marginalization through his inability to cope with the world. Roman Kogler (an award-worthy debut performance by Schubert), fresh from a reform school sentence for manslaughter, fails miserably at a series of work-release jobs. As the unlikely apprentice at a funeral home, he encounters the body of a woman bearing his last name and becomes obsessed with searching for the mother who gave him up for adoption. In German with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Kino Lorber. HDCAM video. (BS)

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Fri, Mar 23rd at 8:00pm
Tue, Mar 27th at 8:00pm
Average: 4 (2 votes)
  1. 2011 Michael Glawogger, Austria/Germany, 110 min.

“Brilliant…one of the year’s best films.”-
—John Fink,

“Candid…unexpectedly moving.”
—Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter

With a clear, non-judgmental eye, filmmaker Glawogger (MEGACITIES, WORKING MAN’S DEATH) chronicles the lives of sex workers in three locations: Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico. Explicit yet never exploitative, this documentary lets the women and the images speak for themselves, with inside views of establishments that range from the corporate slickness and assembly-line operation of Bangkok’s Fish Tank, to blanket-on-the-floor cubicles in the ironically named City of Joy in Bangladesh. In German, French, English, Thai, Japanese, Spanish, and Bengali with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Kino Lorber. HDCAM video. (BS)

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Fri, Mar 23rd at 6:00pm
Tue, Mar 27th at 6:00pm
Average: 3.3 (4 votes)
  1. (LA FÉE)
  2. 2011, Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
  3. and Bruno Romy, Belgium/France, 94 min.
  4. With Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon

“[A] deliriously droll confection…ensuring a steady stream of laughs.”
—Peter Debruge, Variety

“A slapstick lineage stretching back through Jacques Tati to Buster Keaton and beyond.”
—Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film

Belgian comedy duo Abel and Gordon (RUMBA, ICEBERG) bring a zany innocence to this charmingly wacko story of a dim-witted hotel clerk who falls head-over-heels for the suspiciously earth-bound fairy who cons a room by promising him three wishes. Between sinuous, loose-limbed dance numbers and pantomime pranks utilizing everything from a ketchup bottle to an overstuffed overcoat, the lanky pair conjure up romance, pathos, and a very unique brand of humor. In French with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Kino Lorber. DigiBeta video. (BS)

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Sat, Mar 17th at 7:15pm
Tue, Mar 20th at 8:30pm
Average: 3 (2 votes)
  2. 2010, Hilde Van Mieghem, Belgium, 90 min.
  3. With Veerle Dobbelaere, Marie Vinck

“Sex, lies, and AMELIE-like cinematic tricks...a carnal variation on musical chairs.”
—Boyd Van Hoeij, Variety

True love may be the goal, but good sex is definitely the vehicle in this robust comedy from the first lady of Flemish cinema. Like her love life, the film career of star Judith, a diva of a certain age, is stalled in an awkward spot between ingénue roles and grand-dame scripts. Turns out she isn’t the only assertive woman in the family with man problems. Ex-husbands, ex-fiances, and ex-lovers figure in a delightfully raunchy funny Valentine of a search for amorous excellence. In Flemish with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Caviar Films. HDCAM video. (BS)

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Sun, Mar 25th at 7:15pm
Mon, Mar 26th at 8:00pm
Average: 4 (2 votes)

U.S. premiere!

  2. 2011, Frank Van Passel, Belgium, 108 min.
  3. With Kevin Janssens, Wine Dierickx

A sense of whimsy gives this earthy fable a magical air. Traveling salesman Tony is on deadline to peddle to commercial pig farmers a quota number of his company’s bizarre robot pig, a porcine fertility enhancer. Landing by GPS error in the hamlet of Madonna (where the pop star is reputed to have once spent the night), he becomes embroiled in an ongoing community fracas, sees a ghost, and falls in love with a woman who won’t give him the time of day until her grandfather returns from his WWI grave. In Flemish with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Caviar Films. HDCAM video. (BS)

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Fri, Mar 9th at 8:00pm
Sat, Mar 10th at 5:30pm
Average: 4.7 (10 votes)
  1. AVÉ
  1. 2011, Konstantin Bojanov, Bulgaria, 86 min.
  2. With Angela Nedialkova, Ovanes Torosian

Truth is at the center of this odd little road movie, even when it looks like a lie. Kamen, an art student hitchhiking to the funeral of a friend, teams up with fellow thumb-jockey Avé. She could be a runaway, or just off to visit family; or she might be his long-lost sister, or the girlfriend of his dead pal, or the daughter of millionaires. Avé disconcertingly reinvents herself by the hour, as fibs and fantasies paradoxically plumb the truth of more than one tragedy with stark poignancy. A 2011 selection of the Cannes Film Festival International Critics’ Week. In Bulgarian with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of Le Pacte. (BS)

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Sat, Mar 24th at 9:15pm
Wed, Mar 28th at 8:30pm
Average: 4.4 (8 votes)

U.S. premiere!

  1. 2011, Ilian Djevelekov, Bulgaria, 109 min.
  2. With Hristo Shopov, Zahary Baharov

Saturday, March 24, 9:15 pm
Wednesday, March 28, 8:30 pm

This rollicking comedy was inspired by more than 7,000 stories of Internet dating solicited by director Djevelekov, producer of the wicked satire ZIFT (2008). Angling for a career-making exposé, a journalist plunges into the world of dating sites and quickly falls victim to an online hooker. Elsewhere on the Web, other virtual romances play out, and his research ferrets out a wallflower with a passion for an obscure Seventies rock band hooking up with a suspiciously knowledgeable old hand (played by Mick Box, lead guitarist in the British band Uriah Heep). In Bulgarian with English subtitles. DCP video courtesy of Miramar Film. (BS)

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Sat, Mar 3rd at 9:30pm
Mon, Mar 5th at 8:00pm
Average: 4.7 (26 votes)
  2. 2010, Marinos Kartikkis, Cyprus, 85 min.
  3. With Eliza Patsalidou, Giogos Hatzikyriakou

Saturday, March 3, 9:30 pm
Monday, March 5, 8:00 pm

Stories of faith, loss, and redemption come together in a drama that centers on the drifting isolation of its characters, even as they seek connection through love and family. Aliki and her husband Andreas try unsuccessfully to conceive a child, causing her to turn increasingly to religious devotion and the hope for a miracle. Secretly gay Marios lives with his mother and works to evade her inquiries into his life. The stories come together at the grave of a child. In Greek with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of the director. (BS)

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Very interesting film. Dealing with "taboo" issues quite smart and discretely. Excellent work overall




Sun, Mar 18th at 2:30pm
Tue, Mar 20th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.8 (4 votes)
  2. 2010, Ondrej Trojan,
  3. Czech Republic/Slovakia, 137 min.
  4. With Libor Kovár, Matous Vrba

“Nostalgic crowd pleaser…hits all the right notes.”
—Boyd Van Hoeij, Variety

Based on the novel of the same title by Petr Sabach, this bittersweet comedy focuses on four friends coming of age in the Seventies. The Communist regime’s dubious gift of a state identity card confers alleged adult status on the 15-year-olds, but plants the seeds of rebellion as the influence of rock music and Western hippie values pull them in daring new directions. Director Trojan spins the story from all-out humor to danger when playful pranks bring deadly backlash. In Czech with English subtitles. DigiBeta video courtesy of NiteFLIX. (BS)

Please note: the trailer below is not subtitled. Our presentations will be subtitled in English.

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Sun, Mar 11th at 7:15pm
Mon, Mar 12th at 6:00pm
Average: 3.3 (4 votes)
  2. 2011, Jan Hrebejk, Czech Republic, 98 min.
  3. With Ondrej Vetchy, Anna Geislerová

“Fascinating journey between fact and fiction as the filmmakers manipulate us with every frame.”
—Jared Mobarak,

This twisting drama is the first in an intended trilogy on guilt and blame by director Hrebejk (KAWASAKI’S ROSE, BEAUTY IN TROUBLE) and his longtime screenwriter Petr Jarchovsky. Respected physician Tomas has it all: a successful career that affords a high-end lifestyle, a solid marriage with his second wife, and a beautiful daughter. When a pouty Lolita of a teenage patient accuses him of rape, the happy picture begins to fall apart, leaving the doctor to scramble to cover some very different dark secrets. In Czech with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of Le Pacte. (BS)

Please note: the trailer below is not subtitled. Our presentations will be subtitled in English.

See video