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The 49th Chicago International Film Festival – Keeping It Reel schedule

October 10, 2013



It may not be Cannes, Toronto or Sundance, but the Chicago International Film Festival is still the largest film festival of its kind in the Midwest. Presenting 175 films that span 50 countries in 2 weeks (Oct. 10th – Oct. 24th), the festival – which we simply refer to as CIFF – offers films of a plethora of genres, some of which are appearing with filmmakers or actors in hand to land distribution, while others have already been making the festival circuit rounds with CIFF being their next stop as they anticipate award season. Below, you’ll find a list of the films that Keeping It Reel will be viewing with their respective CIFF synopsis.

It’s always hard to choose, but this is our list thus far. As usual, the selected films are somehow not as International as I’d like them to be. That’s not necessarily a purposeful decision, but moreso a matter of practicality schedule-wise and what piques my interest. This year, I’ve deliberately decided to veer toward those films that won’t be getting an eventual mainstream theatrical release, be it limited or wide. Screenings for those films are usually guaranteed.  (I’ll admit to being a bit bummed at not getting tickets for the Closing Night screening of “Inside Llewyn Davis” the highly-anticipated new film from the Coen brothers. Ah well.

Five of the six films below will be followed with an appearance by those involved in the making of the film, be they actor, producer and/or director. And who knows, I may even get my own Q&A out of the whole experience.

We may be seeing some other CIFF films but as of right now, this is where we’re at…..







South Africa
Director: Carey McKenzie

When a body washes up on a Cape Town beach, ambitious township cop Sizwe (Tony Kgoroge, “Hotel Rwanda” and “Invictis”) seizes the opportunity to prove himself and earn the promotion he desperately needs. But when the investigation leads him to a black market smuggling ring, Sizwe is caught in the middle of a deadly power play orchestrated by an old friend. With no one left to trust, Sizwe must take the law into his own hands in this gritty crime drama. The film also stars Fana Mokoena (“Hotel Rwanda” and “World War Z”), Nan Yu (“The Expendables 2”) and Kenneth Fok (“Safe House”).

Sotho, Xhosa, Afrikaans with English Subtitles, 92 min





Director: Josh C. Waller

A young woman (played by Tarantino favorite stuntwoman, Zoe Bell, “DeathProof” and “Django Unchained”) awakens in a concrete bunker, quickly discovering that she is not alone. Before she realizes what is happening, she is in combat for her life. So begins the first round of a modern-day gladiatorial tournament in which young women fight each other to the death at the whim of their sadistic unseen captors. If they lose, their loved ones will pay the price. Also starring Rachel Nichols (“G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra”), Tracie Thoms (“Death Proof”), Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks”), Brue Thomas (“Army of Darkness”), Doug Jones (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and Rosario Dawson (“Trance”), in this gritty and violent thriller. Director Josh C. Waller and Zoe Bell are scheduled to appear for a Q&A following the screening.

95 min.





Director: Daniel Patrick Carbone

The death of a 9-year-old boy sends ripples through a bucolic town, jarring his friend Tommy (Ryan Jones) and Tommy’s older brother Eric (Nathan Varnson) out of their routines and forcing them to stare their own mortality straight in the face. Battling chronic unhappiness and implacable restlessness, the boys look to escape their drab reality by retreating further into their natural surroundings – a lush, densely-wooded expanse of rural America that seems to represent both a sought-after freedom and an inexorable mortal peril in this patient and beautifully melancholic film. Director Daniel Patrick Carbone is scheduled to attend two (out of three) of the screenings.

80 min.





Director: Dan Hartley

After the death of his father, young and sensitive Tom (Bretten Lord) sees his life devolve into chaos. Getting into trouble with the law, Tom is assigned to work in the service of avuncular park ranger Al Thorpe. Initially resistant to the compulsory service, Tom eventually finds a father figure and a friend in Al and a sense of place in the Yorkshire countryside. A lyrical, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story, “Lad” delicately captures a pivotal moment in a troubled young life. This is the first feature-length film from director Dan Hartley, who is scheduled to attend two of the screenings, along with his co-producer Denise Ehren.

96 min.





Director: John McNaughton

John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer) returns with this eerie tale of a couple – Samantha Morton (Minority Report) and Michael Shannon (“Take Shelter”) in a pair of fierce, brilliant performances – that keeps their sick young son Andy isolated from the outside world. When young Maryann (Natasha Callis) moves next door, her attempts to befriend Andy (Charlie Tahan) are met with vehement resistance from his overprotective parents, fueling her suspicions. But she could never imagine the shocking truth. Both Michael Shannon and director John McNaughton are scheduled to appear for a Q&A following the screening.

103 min.





Director: Ti West

A chilling new thriller from acclaimed genre auteur Ti West (“House Of The Devil” and  “The Innkeepers”) and producer Eli Roth, “The Sacrament” follows three reporters to remote Christian commune Eden Parish, where the residents’ sunny disposition hides dark secrets. When the Parish turns menacing, the reporters find themselves helpless in the middle of nowhere. Brilliantly written and acted by a fantastic cast of indie film all-stars, “The Sacrament” pushes at the boundaries of the “found-footage” format to create a different kind of horror movie.

95 min.


Like last year, I will not be attending the Opening Night at the Chicago Theater tonight. I just can’t swing it. There will be a tribute to Roger Ebert that as well as a screening of James Gray’s new film “The Immigrant”, a period piece which stars Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner.

All other CIFF films will be screened at AMC River East 21 theaters at 322 E. Illinois St. Aditional information and a full schedule can be found at






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