The ballots have been tallied and the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival was awarded to Destin Daniel Cretton’s true story Just Mercy. The film chronicles young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) and his history-making battles for justice in Alabama. Stevenson refuses to back down as he fights a legal system without mercy stacked against him and his clients at every turn. One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man whose clear innocence means nothing to the corrupt and compassionless forces Stevenson doggedly takes on.
Levan Akins’s love letter to Georgian dance And Then We Danced took home Best International Feature Audience Award. The film also won the Gold Q-Hugo in the Outlook Competition! A love letter to Georgian dance, this tale of a young man yearning to break free from convention centers on a gifted performer struggling with the expectations of tradition and family while increasingly giddy with desire for a fellow student.
Andrew Renzi’s heartfelt and blistering documentary Ready for War won the Best Documentary Audience Award. By focusing on three Mexican U.S. military veterans with very different fates— including the story of Chicago’s Miguel Perez, Jr. and an anonymous man who has been recruited by a Mexican drug cartel— director Andrew Renzi exposes a tragic injustice, both for the soldiers who fight and the country they fight for.
The Audience Award for Best Short Film went to Michal Pietrzyk’s All On a Mardi Gras Day. The film reveals a secret 200-year old tradition in which African-American men don feathered and beaded suits in a battle to decide who’s prettiest.