Progressive cinema goes to Chicago

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The 44th Annual Chicago International Film Festival has released its list of more than 175 titles from over 45 countries. North America’s oldest competitive international film festival runs for two weeks from Oct 16-29 and features many films that should be of interest to progressive viewers. Here are a few that caught my eye.

“Berlin – 1st of May” is a wild adventure that follows four individuals during the workers holiday in Berlin.

The French film “Born in 68” follows the lives of flower children who convince friends to start a commune in the countryside in the ’60s, and takes them through the collapse of communism in the ’90s.

“Déficit” is the directorial debut of class-conscious actor Gael García Bernal, who starred as Che in “The Motorcycle Diaries.”

“Hunger,” best first feature winner at Cannes, is by famed British artist Steve McQueen and tells the fatal prison story of IRA leader Bobby Sands.

“In the Shadow of Hollywood: Race movies and the birth of Black cinema” tells the fascinating story of the parallel 1930s film industry that catered primarily to the Black community. The screening on Oct. 19 is free, and is followed by a panel discussion.

“Jerusalema,” a hugely successful film, is a modern African Robin Hood story. A poor boy steals big in a criminal world. It is based on true incidents.

“Laila’s Birthday” by Palestinian Rashid Masharawi, resembles his previous captivating film, “Ticket to Jerusalem,” in depicting the difficulties of Occupation. Masharawi’s humanist style and deft directorial sensitivities make his films stand out from the many films on the subject.

“Lemon Tree” by the Israeli award winning director of “Syrian Bride” Eran Riklis, also addresses a similar Palestinian issue, that of the destruction of Arab orchards by the Israeli occupation.

“Snow,” a Bosnian film and a Cannes Festival winner, tackles the human aspect of the recent war.

“The Vanished Empire” addresses the fall of the Soviet Union through the eyes of four teenagers who seem oblivious to the earthshaking changes going on in their country.

“Of Time and the City” is revered British director Terence Davies’ documentary of his beloved city of Liverpool.

Famed progressive director/actor Nanni Moretti stars once again as a tragic figure who loses a loved one in “Quiet Chaos.” The film garnered 18 nominations in the Italian Oscars.

One of the most talked-about films is “Slumdog Millionaire” by Britisher Danny Boyle.

Jamal, an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, ends up on a TV show as a contestant to win a million dollars. The unique structure of the story has grabbed audiences around the world.

Martin Sheen narrates the tragic story of 72-year-old Sister Dorothy, a Catholic nun from Ohio, who moved to the Brazilian Amazon Forest in 1967 to work with the poor. She was killed in 2005 possibly with government involvement, and documented in the film “They Killed Sister Dorothy.”

A new program called Green Screen will offer a celebration of film art that focuses on the natural environment. And a new five-block area called Festival Village will offer a stimulating outlet for the film community. More information on the festival, and tickets and passes can be found online at chicagofilmfestival.org and at the five festival theaters.