CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Before, Sundance, before Toronto, there was Chicago.
Recognized as the first competitive international film festival in North America, this year marks the city’s 55th Annual International Film Fest and festival organizers are promising something for everyone.
“We screen more than 6,000 films,” said Artistic Director Mimi Plauche. “We travel to other festivals, we meet with producers, with sales agents that represents the films. Thousands of films are also submitted. That’s where we find a lot of hidden gems as well.”
The CIFF was founded in 1964 and has been bringing commercial, independent and foreign films to the masses for years.
“We both felt equipped to take on the new leadership. We worked with Michael so closely. It’s about honoring the past too,” said Teng.
Plauche said she and her team start searching for films each January.
“We look at a lot of amazing films. As an audience driven festival, we always look to see what’s exciting, what will relate well to our audiences,” said Teng. “We always try to find these connections to the community, ties to Chicago.”
Plauche said the team is constantly researching trends in the movie industry and up-and-coming filmmakers.
“We always try to have a diversity of programming that represents what’s happening in contemporary and independent cinema. We also like to find those exciting new voices too,” said Plauche.
Documentaries continue to be more popular with theater goers.
“There’s a new hunger for documentaries. We ask, is it cinematic? Will it bring a new experience to the big screen?,” she said. “We’re always thinking, ‘Will this be a cinematic experience for our audience? Is this a unique story? Is it educational?’ These are all things we think about when we choose what to include in the festival.”
Over the past 55 years, everyone from Bette Davis to Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood have either been featured or were in attendance.
This year, four production designers will be honored for their work behind the scenes. This year’s opening film is Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn” and closing night features “The Torch,” a documentary about musician Buddy Guy.
50,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival, which opens Oct. 16 and runs through Oct. 27 at AMC River East Theaters.