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

By default, films are listed alphabetically by country. You can also search for films from a particular country or by language by making your selection from the appropriate drop-down menu.

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Fri, Mar 16th at 6:15pm
Sat, Mar 17th at 4:45pm
Thu, Mar 22nd at 8:30pm
Average: 4.7 (7 votes)

U.S. premiere!

  1. 2011, Beryl Koltz, Luxembourg/Belgium, 93 min.
  2. With Rob Stanley, Joanna Scanlon

“Sensual, nude, and with a great love for its characters…this is pure blue soda-sipping absurd fun.”
—Merle Fischer,

A shy little man’s transformation from straitlaced introvert to almost-hedonist is the subject of this jolly, surreal comedy. Ferdinand, a dedicated employee of Fish Land in the Worlds Apart theme park, relates to his aquatic companions far better than to his customers. When Fish Land closes for renovation, he’s transferred to the Turkish Delight area, to work among the stark naked revelers in the park’s spa. An education in functioning as a fully-rounded human is about to begin. In English. DCP video courtesy of the Centre National de l’Audiovisuel (CNA). (BS)

Additional show added!
Saturday, March 17, 4:45 pm
Replaces canceled show of SONNY BOY

See video


Go Beryl! Show those Yanks that nudity is beautiful and nothing to be frowned upon!




Average: 3 (4 votes)
  2. 2010, Kenneth Scicluna, Malta, 15 min.
  3. With Sean Decelis, Polly March

A cryptic story loosely based on Hamlet. Hungarian director Béla Tarr commented: “I liked its atmosphere very much, and its peculiar sadness.” In Maltese with English subtitles. HDCAM video courtesy of Lighthouse & Ashley. (BS)

PLANGENT RAIN is a short that precedes the Solvenian film,
A TRIP. Both films play as part of the same program on:

Sunday, March 4, 7:15 pm
Thursday, March 8, 8:15 pm

See video




Sat, Mar 3rd at 7:15pm
Wed, Mar 7th at 8:00pm
Average: 3.5 (2 votes)
  1. 2011, Paula van der Oest,
  2. Netherlands/Germany/South Africa, 100 min.
  3. With Carice van Houten, Rütger Hauer

“The uncompromising power of Ingrid Jonker’s poetry runs like a pulsing vein through BLACK BUTTERFLIES.”
—Ronnie Scheib, Variety

This screen biography of the poet who has been called South Africa’s Sylvia Plath portrays her life against the violent and conflicted nation that shaped her, even as torrid love affairs, father issues, and alcoholism make their mark on her life and work. Set in the 1960s, the film chronicles the turbulent relationship of Ingrid Jonker (van Houten of THE BLACK BOOK) with author Jack Cope (Cunningham of HUNGER), while her stern father (Hauer), the country’s Minister of Censorship, attempts to thwart her growing opposition to racism and injustice. In English. Special advance screening courtesy of Tribeca Films. HDCAM video. (BS)

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No votes yet

Updated 3/12/12
Due to problems the producers encountered in making the U.S. projection copy, both shows of SONNY BOY (Saturday, March 17 at 4:45 and Thursday, March 22 at 6:00) have ben CANCELED.

We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our patrons. If you purchased advanced tickets for SONNY BOY online or over the phone from Ticketmaster, please contact Ticketmaster directly at (800) 982-2787 for a full refund.

If you purchased advanced tickets in person at our box office, please visit our box office for a full refund.

In place of SONNY BOY, we will be showing:

Saturday, March 17, 4:45 pm

Thursday, March 22, 6:00 pm




Sun, Mar 18th at 7:00pm
Thu, Mar 22nd at 8:30pm
Average: 4 (3 votes)

U.S. premiere!

  1. (CHRZEST)
  2. 2010, Marcin Wrona, Poland, 86 min.
  3. With Tomasz Schuchardt, Wojciech Zielinski

“Steely and absorbing…one of the more accomplished and satisfying mainstream thrillers to emerge from Eastern Europe in the last couple of years.”
—Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter

A Silver Lion winner at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, this low-key thriller keeps the tension and the pressure mounting in the days leading up to the christening of an ex-gangster’s firstborn child. Michael (Zielinski) has reformed his life, married a beautiful woman, and works a “real” job, much to the surprise of his best friend Janek (Schuchardt) who arrives to serve as godfather. Growing unease underlies the surface camaraderie as it becomes evident that debts from Michael’s past life remain unpaid.
In Polish with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Palisades Tartan. DCP video. (BS)

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Sneak Preview - European Union Film Festival 2012



Sat, Mar 10th at 7:15pm
Average: 1 (1 vote)
  1. Sneak preview!
  1. 2011, Poland/France, 96 min.

We can’t reveal the title of this special sneak preview before it has its official U.S. premiere later this year, but take a chance and you won’t be disappointed. This provocative film by a Polish director spins around sex in the public and private realms, and features a major French star, a beautiful and talented Polish ingénue, and a Parisian setting. Be the first to see it! In French and Polish with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Kino Lorber. HDCAM video. (BS)




Sun, Mar 18th at 6:45pm
Wed, Mar 21st at 7:45pm
Average: 4.8 (8 votes)
  2. 2011, João Canijo, 140 min.
  3. With Rita Blanco, Anabela Moreira

With juicy subplots worthy of a soap opera, this family drama in a style reminiscent of the work of Pedro Costa tilts toward tragedy despite the relentless striving of a working class matriarch (an incredible performance by Blanco) with the temperament of a lioness. Marcia’s ambition to leave the Lisbon slums behind threatens to be derailed when her daughter refuses to end her affair with a married professor, and her drug-dealer son gets in over his head and drags Marcia’s younger sister into a deadly bargain. In Portuguese with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of FiGa Films. DCP video. (BS)

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Sat, Mar 24th at 4:45pm
Wed, Mar 28th at 6:00pm
Average: 3.3 (3 votes)
  1. 2011, Miguel Gonçales Mendes,
  2. Portugal/Spain/Brazil, 125 min.

“Compelling…surprisingly accessible docu has it all--laughter, tears, conflict, and much wisdom.”
—Jonathan Holland, Variety

Portugal’s official submission for Academy Awards consideration focuses on Nobel laureate José de Sousa Saramago (1922-2010) in his lively relationship with his Spanish journalist wife Pilar de Rio, as the author completes his final novel The Elephant’s Journey. No plodding literary documentary, this light-hearted film rife with entertaining stylistic variations captures the lightening intelligence of the two writers as they perpetually strike sparks off each other with humor and love. In Portuguese and Spanish with English subtitles. Special advance screening courtesy of Outsider Pictures. HDCAM video. (BS)

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Sun, Mar 4th at 5:00pm
Wed, Mar 7th at 8:00pm
Average: 2.5 (6 votes)
  1. 2010, Marian Crisan,
  2. Romania/France/Hungary, 100 min.
  3. With András Hatházi, Yilmaz Yalcin

“Undisguised heart…a distinct voice in the Romanian landscape.”
—Jay Weissberg, Variety

Casting a line in his favorite fishing stream one day, Nelu snags a human catch: a shivering Turkish man a long way from his goal of slipping into Germany. A supermarket security guard by day and a henpecked husband by night, Nelu makes hiding his find a kind of amusing hobby, and the two build an odd bond in pantomime since they share no language. Romania’s official submission for Oscar consideration, MORGEN has the appeal of a silent comedy and the storyline of a cliffhanger. In Romanian and Hungarian with English subtitles. DCP video courtesy of Les Films du Losange. (BS)

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Fri, Mar 23rd at 8:00pm
Sat, Mar 24th at 5:00pm
Average: 3.8 (4 votes)

U.S. premiere!
Barry Gifford and Lucian Georgescu
in person!

  2. 2011, Lucian Georgescu, Romania, 90 min.
  3. With Marcel Iures, Miheala Sirbu

Based loosely on the short story “Almost Oriental” by cult writer Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart, Lost Highway), this story of an American professor searching out his family’s past in Romania has Chicago roots. Robert Traum follows the trail of his grandfather, a Capone-era mobster, back to the Carpathian town of his birth, where some surprising revelations await. A bittersweet attraction to a government archivist smoothes the way for a road trip in search of the keys to the story: a long-shuttered cinema and an aged projectionist who’s gone missing. In English and Romanian with English subtitles. DigiBeta video courtesy of GAV. (BS)

Director Lucian Georgescu and writer Barry Gifford will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

See video