Chicago Celebrates 50 Years of Oldest Competitive Film Festival in North America at Premiere on Thursday, 10/9/2014
CHICAGO, IL (October 10, 2014) – Opening Night of the 50th Chicago International Film Festival was a golden celebration. Veteran actress Liv Ullmann, actor Colin Farrell, Festival Jury Member Kathleen Turner and “The Fugitive” director Andrew Davis joined Festival Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza on the red carpet for the U.S. Premiere of Ullmann’s latest film “Miss Julie” on Thursday, October 9 at the Harris Theater.

Academy Award®-nominated and Golden Globe®-winning actress Kathleen Turner; acclaimed filmmaker and New German Cinema pioneer Margarethe von Trotta; Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek (whose latest film, “Fasten Your Seatbelts,” is an Official selection at this year’s Festival); award-winning Israeli cinematographer Giora Bejach; and Iranian editor and director Parviz Shahbazi. And then came the moment the media and the public were waiting for: Liv Ullmann and Colin Farrell, together on the red carpet with Michael Kutza.

Once inside the theater, the audience was treated to video greetings from past Festival honorees and friends, including Davis; producer, writer and director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”); and director Martin Scorsese, whose first film, “I Call First,” premiered at the 1967 Chicago International Film Festival. In his video message, Scorsese acknowledged the encouragement he received from both the Festival and a young film critic at the time named Roger Ebert.

Michael Kutza took the stage, acting as Master of Ceremonies, and introduced a video that illustrated the year-round work done by Cinema/Chicago, the presenting organization of the Chicago International Film Festival. After remarks from Chairman of the Governing Board Jeanne Randall Malkin, Representative Ken Dunkin, 5th District of the State of Illinois, and President and CEO of Columbia College Chicago, Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, the lights went down and the audience was treated to a personal video message from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. Emmanuel acknowledged the role the Chicago International Film Festival has played in the City’s history.

Kathleen Turner ("Body Heat"), head of the jury at the 50th Annual Chicago Film Festival.

Kathleen Turner (“Body Heat”), head of the jury at the 50th Annual Chicago Film Festival.

The Festival then presented American Airlines with the Gold Hugo for Leadership in the Arts, in recognition of American Airlines’ continued support of the arts and the Film Festival. Judi Gorman, Regional Manager, Sales Promotion & Community Relations, Central Division Sales for American Airlines, accepted the award on behalf of its worldwide employees and commented that both American’s and the Festival’s missions are aligned to “promote cultural diversity and raise the profile of Chicago as a city that does work.”

After formally introducing the members of the International Feature Competition jury, the Festival went on to honor some dear friends who are no longer with us in a video remembrance. Among the “Absent Friends:” director and writer Patrice Chéreau; writer, director and Chicagoan Harold Ramis; director and festival honoree Richard Attenborough; and silent screen comedienne and the Festival’s “Godmother” Colleen Moore, among others. But the largest round of applause was reserved for the final image on the video presentation: film critics and supporters of the Festival, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

DSC_0069Ullmann then joined Kutza on stage to present the U.S. premiere of her film “Miss Julie.,” based on the Strindberg play. Calling Kutza her “absolute favorite Festival director,” Ullmann declared films a “most important medium”—one that makes theaters a “magic place” where people can see “real life.” She described Farrell as a “genuine actor,” one who gave the best performance of his career for her film. Farrell returned the compliment by describing Ullmann as “the most incredibly deeply feeling” person he’s met and one whose work on behalf of the disenfranchised will long be remembered.

The morning after the premiere of “Miss Julie” I met with Liv Ullmann one-on-one to talk about the film. The review will be postponed, by request, until the film is released, as it is currently seeking distributorship in the U.S.