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French Films at the 57th Chicago International Film Festival

Explore this year's selection of French and francophone films at the 57th Annual Chicago International Film Festival.

The 57th Chicago International Film Festival is combining in-person screenings at several locations around Chicago, as well as virtual screenings and at the drive-in.

The festival has once again included many french films and coproductions in every selection.


PROGRAM : French Films

The French Dispatch
DIR. Wes Anderson  |  United Kingdom, France, Germany
LANGUAGES English, French  
Comedy Opening Night
IN-PERSON
On the occasion of the death of their beloved editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr., staffers of The French Dispatch, a widely circulated American magazine based in the French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, , convene to write his obituary. Featuring an all-star cast (Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson), The French Dispatch is yet another wondrous and inspired tale from the visionary mind of award-winning filmmaker Wes Anderson.

The Last Shelter (Le Dernier Refuge)
DIR. Ousmane Samassékou  |   France, Mali, South Africa
LANGUAGES Bambara, French, Fula, Hausa, Mooré, Susu, Waama  
Black PerspectivesDocumentary Documentary Competition
IN-PERSON - VIRTUAL
On the edge of the Saharan desert in West Africa, at the crossroads of hope and defeat, lies the Caritas Migrant House, a temporary waystation for thousands of people every year. The Last Shelter serves as a lyrical, deeply human study of the denizens of the refuge, among them 16-year-old Esther, a Burkinabe girl who becomes the film’s most affecting central character.Winner of the top prize at the prestigious CPH:DOX film festival, this is a beautiful, sensorial account of exile, home, and the space between.

Lingui, The Sacred Bonds
DIR. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun  |  Chad, France, Germany, Belgium
LANGUAGES French  
Black Perspectives Masters 
IN-PERSON
In this sensitive, affecting drama from celebrated African filmmaker Mahamet-Saleh Haroun (The Screaming Man, Grigris), single mother Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane) becomes furious when she learns that her teenage daughter Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) is pregnant. But as she reflects on her own past and reconsiders the social norms that have dictated so much of her life, Amina resolves to do what she can to come to Maria’s aid and help her secure an abortion, even though the medical procedure violates national and religious laws. Shot in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, Lingui is a raw, honest celebration of the power and beauty of women working in solidarity.

Madeleine Collins
DIR. Antoine Barraud  |   France, Belgium, Switzerland
LANGUAGES French
Global Currents 
IN-PERSON - VIRTUAL 
In this intricately plotted thriller, the dynamic and alluring Judith (Virginie Efira)—or Margot or Madeleine, depending on who’s asking—leads a secret double life. In a modest home in Geneva, she and Abdel (Quim Gutiérrez) are quietly raising a young daughter. Meanwhile, in Paris, Judith enjoys a glamorous, high-profile life with Melvil (Bruno Salomone), a sought-after orchestra conductor, and their two boys. But how has she arrived at this untenable living situation and how much longer until the house of cards comes crashing down around her? Dripping in suspense and brimming with emotion, the mystery of Madeleine Collinsthe woman and her story, breathlessly unfolds as it races to an unexpected conclusion.

Maria Chapdelaine
DIR. Sébastien Pilote | Canada
LANGUAGES French 
Global Currents Women in Cinema 
IN-PERSON
In the early 1900s, deep in the Quebec wilderness, Maria Chapdelaine, the teenage daughter of a farmer, must decide her future. Life as she knows it is full of hard-work and isolation but also immense natural beauty. As suitors begin to line up for her hand in marriage, Maria considers her station and weighs the promise of moving to the city against the familiarity of her world of rugged solitude. Lyrically adapted from Louis Hémon’s 1913 romance novel of the same name, Maria Chapdelaine chronicles an idyllic Canadian homestead far from the trappings of society. A sweeping, impeccably photographed epic of staggering scope that taps into the seasonal rhythms of a life in the wild.

Nobody Has to Know
DIR. Bouli Lanners  |  France, Belgium, United Kingdom
LANGUAGES English, French  
International Competition 
IN-PERSON - VIRTUAL
On a wind-swept Scottish isle, weather-worn Belgian farmhand Phil (writer-director Bouli Lanners) suffers a stroke, losing all memories of his past. Shy but resourceful, Millie (Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley) comes to his rescue, serving as keeper of his health and of his memories. She soon reveals their shared secret—the two are clandestinely in love. As she reconstructs their memories and life together for him, it becomes clear that all might not be as it seems (or as she says). Lanners and Fairley shine in this powerfully understated romantic drama about the deep connection between memory and longing.

Paris, 13th District (Les olympiades)
DIR. Jacques Audiard  |   France
LANGUAGES French  
International Competition OutLook Competition 
IN-PERSON - VIRTUAL
Training his camera on four young adults navigating relationships in the city of love, master filmmaker Audiard (Dheepan, A Prophet) transforms three short graphic novels by New Yorker illustrator Adrian Tomine into a lighthearted yet incisive meditation on sexuality, dating, and romance. Written by Audiard with Portrait’s Celine Sciamma and Léa Mysius (Ava), the ravishing black-and-white drama sees the characters’ lives intersect and diverge, like the vagaries of love, unspooling with an irresistibly hypnotic energy.

Petite Maman
DIR. Céline Sciamma  |   France
LANGUAGES French  
International Competition Women in Cinema
IN-PERSON - VIRTUAL
In this delicate, imaginative tale, precocious and bright eight-year-old Nelly travels with her parents to her mother’s childhood home following the death of her grandmother. As her parents spend their days cleaning out the house, Nelly wanders the surrounding woods searching for the fort her mother constructed as a child. To her surprise, she encounters a girl her own age, who is building a fort, and the two become fast friends. In this jewel of a magical realist fairytale, Portrait of a Lady on Fire filmmaker Sciamma (who co-wrote Jacques Audiard’s Festival entry Paris, 13th District) celebrates the reveries of childhood while exploring the elusive connections between mothers and daughters, past and present, fantasy and reality.

Robust
DIR. Constance Meyer  |  France
LANGUAGES French  
New Directors Competition Women in Cinema
IN-PERSON - VIRTUAL
Legendary French actor Gerard Depardieu shines as idiosyncratic film star Georges, despondent over the prospect of his trusted bodyguard taking leave for a few weeks. When substitute Aïssa, an amateur women’s wrestling champion (Déborah Lukumuena), arrives on his doorstep, emotionally stunted Georges fears his fussy daily routines will be upended as he prepares for an upcoming role. Despite his initial protestations, the two form a friendship as they begin to affect one another’s lives. With soulfulness and punctuated by moments of levity,  director Meyer eschews cliché to create an uncanny yet tender narrative of unlikely human connection.

Bergman Island
DIR. Mia Hansen-Løve  |  France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden
LANGUAGES English  
Masters Women in Cinema
IN-PERSON
Participating in a writing residency on Sweden’s Fårö island, where legendary film director Ingmar Bergman made his home and filmed many of his enduring masterworks, two American filmmakers (Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth) are preparing separate film projects. Attempting to glean inspiration from the historic surroundings, the two spend their days separately as they steep themselves in all things Bergman. When the mysterious rhythms of the island start to awaken long-dormant memories, the lines between dream, reality, and fiction collide. Stunning landscapes and performances of subtle power pair perfectly in this playful, stirring ode to Bergman, Fårö, and the lingering memory of love lost from the masterful Cannes-winning director of The Father of My Children and Things to Come.

 

Happening
DIR. Audrey Diwan  |   France
LANGUAGES French with Subtitles 
Global Currents Women in Cinema
IN PERSON
France 1963: Hoping to escape the social constraints of her working-class background, bright young college student Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) devotes herself to her studies and has dreams of becoming a writer—until an unplanned pregnancy threatens to derail her future. In a society where women’s desire is erased and abortion is both illegal and entirely taboo, Anne searches for a way to take control of her life. As the weeks pass, her options grow increasingly limited. Winner of the top prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival and featuring an astonishing central performance from Vartolomei, this intimate, gripping drama is a resonant chronicle of the fight for personal freedom.

 

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