CIFF 2016 – Futures Past
Throughout the year, as I view (and hopefully review) hundreds of movies, I look to be surprised and moved, and hopefully see something that will resonate in some way. The Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) is usually a great place to experience just that. With all the variety of films to choose from there’s really no way of knowing which film or what kind of film will have that kind of impact on me. On the first official day of the festival, I saw “Futures Past” and it surprised and moved me. Why did I choose a local documentary that was seemingly about Chicago Mercantile Exchange and stocks and trading – things I’m clueless about and almost have no interest in? Well, because I was set on seeing a film that was playing after this one and I realized I would be able to squeeze in a movie before it. Since the director would be there for a Q&A after the screening of “Futures Past”, I decided to give it a try – after all, my goal is to see as many films I can see at CIFF, so when an opportunity arises and I’m not exhausting from fatigue, I should seize it – which is what I did and the result is one of the best festival films I’ve seen so far.
Filmmaker Jordan Melamed grew up in the Chicago area, in the shadow of his father, Leo Melamed, a recognizable leader in the world of trading and Chairman Emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange who would become the man responsible for changing the way the world trades. Years ago, Jordan would work as a trader on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, where his attorney father started out in the 50s as a trader and eventually would become chairman. Then Jordan decided he would become a movie director after taking a storytelling class at Columbia College. Although it saddened his father, he went to Hollywood and wound up directed a movie called “Manic” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zoey Deschanel and Don Cheadle, but for a number of reasons his career as a director and his personal life wasn’t turning out the way he had hoped. Jordan returned to Chicago with the idea to reevaluate life and decided to create a documentary about ‘Open Outcry,’ the 150-year-old tradition of traders shouting out their orders on the floor and how the method is being silenced by computer trading.
Jordan didn’t plan on filmmaking going from a two to ten year process though. He wound up changing the course of the documentary all together when he began including more footage of himself with his family, particularly his father. Their often contentious relationship is captured, making for highly-relatable viewing. Many viewers will relate to a father and son who respect and admire each other, yet have never truly expressed their true feelings about themselves and each other. Despite Leo’s request not to include some of their uncomfortable arguments in the film, Jordan wisely leaves them in and what we see resonates deeply. A son who wants to be heard and listened to and a father who wants the same.
As much as “Futures Past” is a film about the loss of human connection on the trade floor in Chicago, there is certainly a poignant parallel to the relationship between these two Melameds. Throughout the film, Jordan gives Gentiles like myself an understandable crash-course in the hand signals used on the floor to communicate what is ordered and purchased, while allowing Leo to educate us (and Jordan) on what to look at when examining a graphic chart of trading. That’s all very helpful, but what resonates the most is the touching persistence and stubbornness on display between two men who are more similar than they could ever admit.
“Futures Past is not the film I came home to make,” says director Jordan Melamed on the journey of “Futures Past”. “My original idea was to make a film about the last traders in the Chicago pits as they struggled to hold on against the inevitable march of technology. Naturally, I asked my father to be in the film but I had no idea we’d end up dealing with the long-dormant anger and lifelong distance between us.”
I really hope this fascinating and touching documentary gets picked up and distributed. If it surprised and moved me – someone who knew hardly anything about trading and futures – I think there’s a universal story here that can be embraced by anyone.
Friday, October 14th at 6:30pm, Tuesday, October 18th at 3:30pm & Monday, October 24th at 8:45pm (director Jordan Melamed and subject Leo Melamed are scheduled to attend all screenings)