Chicago film fest mixes glitz and reel life

CHICAGO — With Spike Lee hosting a ceremony honoring Ruby Dee and Dustin Hoffman here for his new movie “Stranger than Fiction,” along with 98 features, 14 documentaries, 34 short films, all representing 38 countries with 15 directors or actors doing Q&A after their premieres, who would want to miss the 42nd Annual Chicago International Film Festival?

The film fest kicked off Oct. 5 and will run through the 19th, at AMC 21 (Illinois & Columbus) and Landmark (Clark & Diversey) theaters.

Fast approaching middle age, the nation’s oldest competitive film fest, which has always been a mix of Hollywood glitz and “reel” substance, has been slow to embrace other than first-world-centric movies. But still, the fest provides enough kick for enjoyment and thrill.

All movies are Chicago premieres, so there will be some hits and misses.

After interviewing festivalgoers, it’s always impressive to see how people approach the festival. Some people pick countries, others pick themes, as though you would see a triple feature through the filters of Mexico, Romania, and Iran, all approaching the same theme.

Within the festival, there are about 14 different programs.

Black Perspective, besides honoring Dee, will honor Andre Benjamin, a.k.a. “Andre 3000,” as a young emerging artist. Six Afro-centric films will be screened during the festival.

Cinema of the Americas in conjunction with the Mexican Fine Arts Museum, and with maybe a subtle nod to the increasing popularity of the Latino Film Festival, will screen 10 films representing Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Peru, and for those who love Cuban movies, “Barrio Cuba.”

World Cinema offers 42 features. Destination Greece will screen seven movies.

Special Presentations will be made up of nine movies, including Cecil B. DeMille’s 1922 “Chicago” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Shut up and Sing.”

Closer to home, there’s “Steel City,” directed by Illinois native Brian Jun with John Herd.

The centerpiece of the festival will be the screening of “Babel,” with Brad Pitt, Kate Blanchett, and Gael García Bernal, on Oct. 14. Liza Minnelli will be here Oct 17 for a one-on-one conversation, and her movies will be screened throughout the festival.

Eighteen films will compete for the Gold Hugo Award along with 16 films by young directors competing for a Silver Hugo. Ten documentaries are also in competition.

New to the festival this year will be a Silver Images Generational Award for the most realistic portrayal of baby boomers who might not be appreciating the joy of aging.