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MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN directed by Edward Norton
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN directed by Edward Norton

Motherless Brooklyn, Edward Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s groundbreaking novel, will open the 2019 Chicago International Film Festival on Wednesday, October 16 . The 55th edition of the Chicago International Film Festival will take place October 16 to 27 at the AMC River East (322 E. Illinois Street).

Motherless Brooklyn centers on Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a lonely private detective living with Tourette Syndrome, who ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Armed only with a few clues and the engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely guarded secrets that hold the fate of New York in the balance. In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York’s power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honor his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation.


The film’s stellar ensemble cast also includes Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Dallas Roberts, Josh Pais, Robert Ray Wisdom, Fisher Stevens, with Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe.

Jim Farrell’s Buddy Guy documentary, THE TORCH
Jim Farrell’s Buddy Guy documentary, THE TORCH

The Festival will close with the world premiere of Jim Farrell’s Buddy Guy documentary, The Torch. Chronicling legendary blues musician Buddy Guy’s dedication to mentoring a new generation of artists.

Released by IFC Films, The Torch headlines the Festival’s annual City & State program, celebrating excellence in Chicago and Illinois filmmaking. This year’s programming includes titles such as the politically charged The First Rainbow Coalition (dir. Ray Santisteban); modern teen noir Knives and Skin (dir. Jennifer Reeder); and a portrait of artist László Moholy-Nagy, The New Bauhaus (dir. Alysa Nahmias).

Closing Night Gala

The Torch – Dir. Jim Farrell, U.S.
At 83, Chicago legend Buddy Guy remains the standard bearer for the blues, an icon determined to see the art form live on long after he’s gone. Enter guitar phenom Quinn Sullivan, who has been mentored by Guy since he was a kid. This stirring documentary, amplified by electrifying musical performances, charts the guidance Guy himself received from the likes of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker while observing the 8-time Grammy®-winner passing his wisdom to the next generation. Released by IFC Films. 107 min.

City & State Program

The First Rainbow Coalition – Dir. Ray Santisteban, U.S.
Chicago 1969: Activists from the Black Panthers, Young Lords, and Young Patriots united African Americans, Latinos, and poor whites to confront police brutality and unfair housing in one of America’s most segregated cities. A timely story of collective action, The First Rainbow Coalition tells this little-known chronicle of political struggle with you-are-there intensity through archival footage and interviews with those who lived it. 56 min.

Girl on the Third Floor – Director: Travis Stevens, U.S.
Home improvement can be horrible—but for Don (CM Punk), a tattooed dad-to-be fixing up his newly acquired turn-of-the-century Victorian, they can be downright gruesome. With his wife away, Don tries to clean up his own act and the decaying drywall, but the house has other plans. With a bounty of blood-splattering body-horror, Girl on the Third Floor is a supernatural skin-crawler about how things left to rot can come back to haunt you. 93 min.

Hala – Dir. Minhal Baig, U.S.
The film follows seventeen-year old Hala, played by Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers), as she navigates her senior year of high school and starts to develop feelings for her classmate. Raised in a conservative Muslim Chicagoland household, her growing attraction is at odds with her traditional upbringing. At the same time, she finds herself grappling with the knowledge of a secret that threatens to unravel her family. 94 min.

Knives and Skin – Dir. Jennifer Reeder, U.S.
In this mystical Twin Peaks-ian teen noir, the disappearance of a high school student points to dark forces at work in a sleepy Illinois town. Although friends, neighbors, and family search for Carolyn Harper, the case remains unsolved. Unmoored and adrift, the rural community—from
the mother of the missing girl to her fellow choir members—tries to soldier on. Surreal, sly, and shocking, Jennifer Reeder’s coming-of-age tale has a fiercely feminist heart. 111 min.

The New Bauhaus – Dir. Alysa Nahmias, U.S.
When radical Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy moved to Chicago in 1937, he spearheaded “The New Bauhaus,” a movement descended from the famous German school; Moholy-Nagy took a pioneering interdisciplinary mixed-media approach to art and design that was vastly ahead of its time. Featuring interviews with Moholy-Nagy’s daughter and a range of experts, The New Bauhaus offers an illuminating portrait of the work of a visionary teacher and thinker. 89 min.

Once Upon a River – Dir. Haroula Rose, U.S.
After her father’s violent death, Native American teenager Margo Crane flees down Michigan’s Stark River in search of her estranged mother. On the way, she encounters allies, enemies, danger, and the beauty of nature, all while coming to grips with her past and her own identity. A Midwestern Gothic coming-of-age fable set along the riverbanks, Chicago musician-filmmaker Haroula Rose’s debut feature is an evocative marriage of Winter’s Bone and Huckleberry Finn. 90 min.

Present.Perfect. Wan mei xian zai shi – Dir. Shengze Zhu, U.S., Hong Kong
Live-streaming in China is a billion-dollar industry driven by everyday citizens hosting online shows and interacting with virtual audiences. Compiled from more than 800 hours of footage from marginalized streamers—a burn victim, a street dancer, a factory worker, and many
others – Present.Perfect. crafts a revealing portrait of a community searching for human connection in a society that has left them behind. Mandarin with subtitles. 124 min.

Ringside – Dir. André Hörmann, Germany, U.S.
Call it Hoop Dreams for boxing. Like its famous predecessor, Ringside isn’t just a story about two aspiring young Chicago black athletes as they experience the successes and setbacks of life and sport over several years. It also delivers an emotional gut-punch as it chronicles the travails of Destyne Butler Jr. and Kenneth Sims Jr., as well as the hardworking fathers who stand by their side through every victory and defeat. 95 min.

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