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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Sat, Mar 3rd at 9:15pm
Mon, Mar 5th at 8:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)
  1. (DOM)
  2. 2011, Zuzana Liová, Slovakia/Czech Republic, 97 min.
  3. With Judit Bárdos, Miroslav Krobot

“Recommended for lovers of Ken Loach-style realistic dramas…impressive.”
—Natasha Senjanovic, The Hollywood Reporter

A house that is seen as the ultimate symbol of family unity is badly in need of remodeling in this gentle drama of a battle of wills between a controlling father and his teenage daughter. Having disinherited one daughter for marrying the wrong man, Imrich plans to keep the other under his thumb by forcing her to help him to build a house next door as her “gift.” Rebellious Eva has other ideas, and a scandalous affair is just the start. In Slovak and Czech with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of Fog ‘n’ Desire Films. (BS)

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

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Wed, Mar 14th at 8:15pm
No votes yet
  2. 2011, Peter Kristúfek, Slovakia, 104 min.
  3. With Ivan Trojan, Jana Hlavácová

“A strongly plotted character study-cum-thriller…one scene after another snaps into place with frightening precision.”
—Boyd Van Hoeij, Variety

A solitary air traffic controller fakes a social life and fills his time spying on residents of the apartment complex across the way with high-powered binoculars. Deflecting the advances of two clearly lonely women in his building, he plots to further his obsession with a married mother of two. Director/writer Kristúfek, also a renowned novelist, steadily ups the ante in chilling surprises as a devious plan plays out. In Czech, Slovak, and English with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of JMB Film and TV Production. (BS)

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Sat, Mar 24th at 9:30pm
Thu, Mar 29th at 8:15pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)

U.S. premiere!

  2. 2011, Metod Pevec, Slovenia/Croatia, 97 min.
  3. With Polona Juh, Jernej Sugman

The discovery that her architect husband’s blandly pretty receptionist is also his mistress skewers Hannah’s sense of well-being in a comfortable upscale life as artist and mother. Director Pevec injects whimsical animated illustrations of the bedtime tales Hannah tells her daughter as ironic counterpoint to this deeply poignant tale of the breakup of a marriage and its aftermath. The sequence in which husband and wife face each other in a divorce lawyer’s office is a stunner. In Slovenian with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of the Slovenian Film Center. (BS)

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

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Sun, Mar 4th at 7:15pm
Thu, Mar 8th at 8:15pm
No votes yet
  1. A TRIP
  1. (IZLET)
  2. 2011, Nejc Gazvoda, Slovenia, 85 min.
  3. With Nina Rakovec, Jure Henigman, Luka Cimpric

Coming of age comes relatively late for three high school friends who reunite for a vacation jaunt seven years after they parted at graduation. Andrej is a closeted gay college dropout; Gregor is about to be deployed to Afghanistan as part of the international peacekeeping force; and Ziva claims to be headed for study abroad. This road movie initially seals their bond even as it rips the scabs off old and very deep wounds. Secrets revealed become the make or break factors in the future of friendship. In Slovenian with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of the Slovenian Film Center.

Preceded by

2010, Kenneth Scicluna, Malta, 15 min.
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)

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Sun, Mar 18th at 5:00pm
Mon, Mar 19th at 6:00pm
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Jonathan Rosenbaum in person!

  1. AITA
  1. (aka FATHER)
  2. 2010, José María de Orbe, Spain, 85 min.

“Very beautiful.”
—Jonathan Rosenbaum

“A vivid, mysterious picture…incredibly atmospheric and not a little haunting.”
—Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film

Like his compañeros José Luis Guerín, Pere Portabella, and Mercedes Álvarez, director de Orbe adventurously bridges the boundaries of documentary, fiction, and avant-garde. The subject of AITA is a decaying but beautiful Basque home that de Orbe inherited. The building is tended by an aged caretaker and visited by a priest, schoolchildren, vandals, and various ghosts, including the flickering images of decomposed nitrate films. Winner of the best cinematography prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival, this haunting meditation on time and light is a must in 35mm. In Spanish and Basque with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of Eddie Saeta SA. (MR)

Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, president of the jury that gave AITA the Best Film award at the 2011 FICUNAM festival in Mexico City, will introduce and discuss the film at the Monday screening.

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Sat, Mar 3rd at 5:15pm
Mon, Mar 5th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.4 (5 votes)
  1. (PRIMOS)
  2. 2011, Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, Spain, 98 min.
  3. With Quim Gutiérrez, Inma Cuesta

Dumped at the altar by his fiancée, heartbroken Diego (recent GSFC guest Gutiérrez of WITH OR WITHOUT LOVE) retreats to his hometown on the north coast of Spain, with two cousins—ballsy Julian and p-whipped Miguel—along for moral support. Diego seeks out his old flame Martina (Cuesta), as lovely as ever but quite content with her self-sufficient life as a single mom, thank you. Then Diego’s repentant ex shows up to make his romantic picture even cloudier. Director Arevalo (GORDOS, DARKBLUEALMOSTBLACK) enlivens this bouncy blend of romance and bromance with movie in-jokes and a flair for quirky comedy. In Spanish with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of Film Factory Entertainment. (MR)

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Jeonju Digital Project 2011: Straub/Denis/Guerín



Sun, Mar 11th at 5:00pm
Wed, Mar 14th at 6:00pm
Average: 3.5 (2 votes)
  1. Jeonju Digital Project 2011:
  2. Straub/Denis/Guerín
  1. 2011, Various directors, France/Spain, 112 min.

Each year the Jeonju International Film Festival commissions three short works by leading world filmmakers. The 2011 selection features contributions by three masters of modern European cinema.

Jean-Marie Straub’s personal and pastoral AN HEIR (UN HÉRITIER, France, 22 min., in French with English subtitles) uses excerpts from a novel by Maurice Barrès to revisit his own painful memories of growing up in German-occupied Alsace.

In TO THE DEVIL (France, 45 min., in French with English subtitles), Claire Denis takes the leading actor of her next film to meet the real-life model for his character, a renegade living on a remote stretch of the Lawa River between Surinam and French Guyana.

The highlight of the triptych is José Luis Guerín’s MEMORIES OF A MORNING (RECUERDOS DE UNA MAÑANA, Spain, 45 min., in Spanish with English subtitles). Utilizing the impressionistic techniques of IN THE CITY OF SYLVIA (if SYLVIA was a riff on the “city film,” the more miniaturized MEMORIES might be termed a “street-corner film”), Guerín uses a disturbing incident in his Barcelona neighborhood to thread together a rich tapestry on music, culture, community, the fragility of life, and the tenacity of life. HDCAM videos courtesy of the Jeonju International Film Festival. (MR)




Sun, Mar 11th at 3:00pm
Thu, Mar 15th at 6:00pm
Average: 3.7 (3 votes)
  2. 2010, Pernilla August
  3. Sweden/Finland, 99 min.
  4. With Noomi Rapace, Ola Rapace

“I spent most of its 95 minutes either fighting back or succumbing to tears. It set out to shake and to move--and it did."
—Shane Danielsen, IndieWIRE

“Harrowing but finely observed, and Rapace is a commanding lead."
—David Gritten, The Telegraph

Sweden’s official submission for this year’s foreign-language Oscar, BEYOND marks the directing debut of distinguished actress Pernilla August (FANNY AND ALEXANDER) and the first post-Lisbeth Salander role for Millennium Trilogy sensation Noomi Rapace. She brings her edgy intensity to the very different role of Leena, whose apparently happy life with her husband and two small daughters is interrupted by news of her mother’s impending death. En route to the hospital with her family, Leena is overcome by a growing sense of dread, as flashbacks bring back her troubled childhood in a Finnish emigrant household where tenderness and aspiration were undermined by abuse and alcoholism. Director August deftly negotiates the film’s shifts between past and present and between emotional extremes, from quiet intimacy to explosive rage. In Swedish and Finnish with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute. (MR)

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Sun, Mar 4th at 3:00pm
Wed, Mar 7th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.6 (5 votes)
  1. PURE
  2. 2010, Lisa Langseth, Sweden, 97 min.
  3. With Alicia Vikander, Samuel Fröler

“Although destined to be remembered as the film that made riveting 22-year-old thesp Alicia Vikander a star in her big-screen debut, the strong writing, clever use of music and confidently nuanced visuals mark Swedish helmer-scribe Lisa Langseth as a talent to watch.”
—Alissa Simon, Variety

A coming-of-age story with a vengeance, PURE marks two auspicious debuts: for playwright-turned-director Lisa Langseth, and for actress Alicia Vikander, who won Sweden’s Oscar-equivalent Guldbagge award for Best Actress (in a role played by Noomi Rapace in Langseth’s original stage play). Vikander is tantalizingly enigmatic as Katarina, a 20-year-old blank-slate whose future look bleak until she bluffs her way into a symphony-company job and has a torrid affair with its charismatic conductor. For him it’s a fling, but for her it’s a life, and she’s willing to stake everything, with results that are both startling and wickedly ironic. One blogger pegged PURE as a cross between FISH TANK and BLACK SWAN. In Swedish with English subtitles. 35mm print courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute. (MR)

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Sat, Mar 3rd at 3:30pm
Mon, Mar 5th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.3 (4 votes)
  1. 2010, John Landis, UK, 91 min.
  2. With Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis
Running out of schemes and money, small-time 19th-century con-men William Burke (SHAUN OF THE DEAD’s Pegg) and William Hare (Serkis, in a non-motion capture performance) are pleasantly surprised to find the unscrupulous Dr. Knox (Tom Wilkinson) pays handsomely for the corpse of a dead boarder. Eager to keep the cash flowing, they decide that there are more expedient ways to get fresh inventory. Landis gleefully returns to the gallows humor he popularized in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON in this true (wink, wink) story of Edinburgh’s infamous serial killers. The stellar cast also features Tim Curry, Isla Fisher, and Christopher Lee. In English. Special advance screening courtesy of IFC Films. 35mm widescreen. ()

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