November 23, 2017

Film Honors Review-53rd Chicago International Film Festival Award Winners

From "BPM"

The Chicago International Film Festival hosted its awards presentation on October 20, 2017, at the AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois, where the films are being screened.

The event celebrated the films chosen by the Festival juries to receive awards. Prizes were awarded to films in the following categories: International Competition; New Directors Competition; International Documentary Competition; Out-Look Competition; The Chicago Award; and Short Film Competition.

Many of these films will be screened during the Festival’s “Best of the Fest” program October 25-26.



International Feature Film Competition

Gold Hugo

A Sort of Family, (Una especie de familia), Dir. Diego Lerman, Argentina.

A doctor desperate to achieve motherhood journeys to Northern Argentina for an illicit adoption; a personal and political story, beautifully acted and crafted.

From “A Sort of Family”

Best Director

Birds Are Singing in Kigali (Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali), Dirs. Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze, Poland.

An ornithologist saves a colleague’s daughter from the Rwandan genocide and brings her to live in Europe; realistic/poetic styles depicting heroism in tragedy.

Silver Hugo Jury Prize 

Félicité, Dir. Alain Gomis, Senegal, France, Belgium.

The son of a single mom/singer performing in a tough Kinshasa bar is involved in a horrific accident; she struggles to pay for his care- a paean to the power of love and music.

Silver Hugo Best Actress

Awarded ex-aequo to Jowita Budnik and Eliane Umuhire in Birds are Singing in Kigali (Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali), Dirs. Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze, Poland.

The award was given jointly to 2 stylistically diverse yet perfectly coordinated performances; one woman saves another and together they return to the place of tragedy.

Silver Hugo Best Actor

Awarded to Aleksandr Yatsenko in Arrhythmia, Dir. Boris Khlebnikov, Russia, Finland, Germany.

The actor portrays a tough Russian paramedic determined to save lives but hampered by his alcohol dependency; the 2 sides of his character shape the film.

Silver Plaque Best Screenplay

Awarded to Mohammad Rasoulof for A Man of Integrity (Lerd), Dir. Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran.

An analysis of the way an authoritarian regime succeeds in silencing independent voices; a multi-faceted life is depicted.

Silver Plaque Best Cinematography

Awarded to Chayse Irvin for Hannah, Dir. Andreas Pallaoro, Italy, France, Belgium.

Her husband is imprisoned, and she must try to understand his crimes and cope with the tragedy. The captured images convey thoughts and feelings beyond the scripted word.

From “Hannah”

Best Art Direction

Awarded to Václav Novak for The Line (Čiara), Dir. Peter Bebjak, Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic.

A face-paced thriller about a cigarette-smuggler being squeezed by his family life and his gang; filmed on location as well as with built environments, the scenery expertly serves the story.

Founders Award

The Shape of Water, Dir. Guillermo Del Toro, USA.

This award, personally presented by Festival Founder Michael Kutza is given to the film he “feels best embodies the spirit of curiosity, optimism and love of film” that led to his starting the Chicago International Film Festival, now in it’s 53rd year.

Said Kutza, “’The Shape of Water’ is beautiful, inspiring, and the epitome of why I love the movies”.

An other-worldly fairy tale set against the backdrop of Cold War era USA. In a high-security government lab, 2 isolated workers discovered a secret experiment.

From “The Shape of Water”

New Directors Competition

Gold Hugo

No Date, No Signature (Bedoune Tarikh, Bedoune Emza). Dir. Vahid Jalilvand, Iran.

A seemingly minor traffic collision haunts a medical examiner whose life becomes with entwined with a grieving family. He feels he should’ve prevented the death of their child- a film filled with beautiful images exploring complex issues.

Silver Hugo

The Charmer (Charmøren), Dir. Milad Alami, Denmark.

A man seeks a vulnerable woman with whom he can cohabit to enhance his immigration status; an exploration of his inner life and motivations.

Roger Ebert Award

Killing Jesús (Matar a Jesús), Dir. Laura Mora, Colombia, Argentina.

This award is given to a film “which contains the richest example of a quality Roger Ebert treasured in cinema”.

A girl seeks revenge for her father’s assasination; she finds the killer, who wants to be with her. A wise and perceptive film about empathy and catharsis.

Documentary Competition

Gold Hugo

The Other Side of the Wall (Al otro lado del muro), Dir. Pau Ortiz, Spain, Mexico.

2 children come to Mexico from Honduras with their mother, seeking a better life; she ends up in prison- a timely and intimate look at dislocation and migration.

From “The Other Side of the Wall”

Silver Hugo

Mr. Gay Syria, Dir. Ayse ToprakFrance, Germany, Turkey.

The plight of LGBTQ refugees examined in an intimate, humorous and compassionate vision.

Out-Look Competition

Gold Q-Hugo

BPM (120 battements par minute), DirRobin Campillo, France.

In 1990’s Paris, activists urge the government to address the AIDS crisis; a romance blossoms between an HIV positive man and a man who is HIV negative- a candid and compelling film humming with electronic dance music.

Sllver Q-Hugo

God’s Own Country, Dir. Francis Lee, United Kingdom.

A passionate romance between a farmer and a migrant farm worker; stunning scenery and a detailed depiction.

Chicago Award

Princess Cyd, Dir. Stephen Cone, USA.

A 16 year old who doesn’t read for pleasure comes to visit her novelist aunt. Set in Chicago, it’s a generation spanning coming-of-age tale of mutual self-awareness and self-discovery.

From “Princess Cyd”

Documentary Short Film Competition

Silver Hugo

The Rabbit Hunt, Dir. Patrick Bresnan, USA.

A 17 year-old and his family living in an industrial community in the Florida Everglades; an epic 12-minute observational documentary gem which delivers us into the midst of a rite of passage.

From “The Rabbit Hunt”

Gold Plaque

The Streets Are Ours: Two Lives Cross in Karachi, Dir. Michelle Fiordaliso, USA.

2 women hope to open creative and democratic places of expression amidst the ongoing struggles in Pakistan; an inspirational film about overcoming intolerance and silencing.

Special Mention

The Painted Calf, Dir. David Pantaleón, Spain.

A simple story set in the Canary Islands with a biblical soundtrack; a transporting vision of a unique and little-known place in the world.

Animated Short Film Competition

Silver Hugo

AirportDir. Michaela Müller, Switzerland, Croatia.

An ominous and topical film filled with kinetic sensation.

Gold Plaque

Drop by DropDirs. Xá, Laura Gonçalves, Portugal.

A moving portrait of diminishing returns with great flow and fine transitions.

From “Drop by Drop”

Special Mention

Beyond Fields of Paper, Dir. Yiyi Ma, USA.

A moving portrait of an artist in transition.

Narrative Short Film Competition

Gold Hugo

Night Shift, Dir. Marshall Tyler, USA.

A portrayal of character in a journey of colorful self-reflection.

Silver Hugo

A Gentle NightDir. Qui Yang, China.

A challenging look at familial complacency exposed when cultural barriers are breached during a crisis.

Special Mention

Fucking Bunnies, Dir. Teemu Niukkanen, Finland.

A humorous take on celebrating human differences and finding common ground.

From “Fucking Bunnies”


The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival is October 12-26. Screenings take place at the AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois). Tickets are available by calling 312-332-FILM (3456), online at, at the Festival Box Office at AMC River East at 322 E. Illinois Street, and at the Festival Pop-Up Box Office at 400 S. Dearborn.


All photos courtesy of Cinema/Chicago and The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival


















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