The 56th Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) is gearing up for another incredible year filled with local films and those from around the world beginning Oct. 14 and running through Oct. 25. Like most film festivals, the pandemic is effecting it, but as the festival’s Artistic Director Mimi Plauche recently stated in a press conference, “[It] encouraged us to be innovative…” yet they remain focused on connecting viewers with extraordinary films and filmmakers.

The festival will be a virtual one providing patrons from around the country to view international and local narrative features and documentaries in a variety of genres as well as short films to please every movie palate. Additionally, CIFF is creating an opportunity for Chicagoans to see films in person at the ChiTown Movies drive-in theater located in the Pilsen neighborhood.

“Belushi,” directed by R.J. Cutler, is set to open the fest and the favorite film from the recent Toronto International Film Festival, “Nomadland,” directed by Chloe Zhoa and starring Francis McDormand, will close out the festivities. Of course, in between are many buzz-worthy films like Regina King’s directorial debut “One Night in Miami” starring Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom, Jr., “David Byrne’s American Utopia” directed by Spike Lee, “Bad Hair” directed by Justin Simien (“Dear White People”), Documentarian Steve James’ “City So Real,” and “Ammonite” with Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet who will also be honored at this year’s festival with the Career Achievement Award.

The festival is an ever-evolving one, adding and programming to fit and respond to the current times and this year leans into the pandemic and unrest we’ve all witnessed and experienced first-hand. The Chicago-centric film “The Road Up,” a documentary by Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel (“Louder Than a Bomb”), is a “story about people trying to get their lives back on track through an employment training program called Cara,” said Siskel. He also shared that this film, when it was made, was very topical, but with today’s environment, it punctuates the relevancy of the message regarding inequities and unemployment/

Programmers of the festival continue to present films which represent stories and filmmakers who less than a decade ago were considered to be underrepresented. CIFF’s categories of films include “Black Perspectives,” “Out-Look Competition,” and “Women in Cinema.” Additional and expected categories at the festival include “Comedy,” “After Dark” (if you dare!), “Masters,” “New Directors,” “Documentaries,” Shorts,” and more.

Live Q&A’s will still take place, but in our virtual world. “An Evening with Rachel Brosnahan in conjunction with the Chicago premiere of “I’m Your Woman” on October 21st is sure to be one of the many highlights at the 2020 CIFF.

For more information about tickets and programming, go to www.chicagofilmfestival.com/festival/tickets.

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