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Chicago Critics Film Festival 2022 Preview
7 Movies to Look Forward to at CCFF 2022
I say it every year, but my favorite film festival is Chicago Critics Film Festival. It’s the only one programmed exclusively by film critics, and derives its lineup from the best of Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca and a spattering of other festivals. I’ve been attending the fest since 2018, and I was lucky enough to help program the fall iteration back in 2021. I also helped programmed this upcoming version, running May 13-19 at Music Box Theater, and it’s probably the best lineup I can remember.
While some flashy titles will certain set attendees buzzing, movies like I Love My Dad (a Q&A with stars Patton Oswalt and Claudia Sulewski, and director James Morosini will follow the screening), Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Benediction, Cha Cha Real Smooth (a Q&A with director Cooper Raiff will follow) along with anniversary screenings of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Boogie Nights — here are seven less talked about titles that you should be running, not walking, to the theater to watch.
Beba (Rebeca Huntt)
A Toronto International Film Festival premiere, Rebeca Huntt’s autobiographical documentary and feature directorial debut, stunned me when I reviewed it for Indiewire. The film walks a narrow line between self-exploration and navel gazing to discover a raw, deeply sensitive and intimate journey of a first-generation American navigating the perils of white fragility in college and learning to build an identity away from the crushing impact of assimilation that haunts individuality and culture.
The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See the Titanic (Teemu Nikki)
On paper, this compact film could go left very easily. A blind wheelchair user, Jaakko (Petri Poikolainen) who has proudly never watched Titanic, leaves the safer confines of his home when his lone connection to the world, Sirpa (Marjaana Maijala) a disabled woman he flirts with on the phone, is in danger. Jaakko lives with multiple sclerosis in Finland, and he must traverse a web of trains and cabs to reach her in what is originally a simple plan. But he finds plenty of peril along the way, and what follows is a thrilling and nerve-wracking situation that could leave irreparable damage while reminding you of every shade of empathy and apathy that can be found in humanity.
Flux Gourmet (Peter Strickland)
Peter Strickland is the kind of idiosyncratic filmmaker who I love for reasons I can never quite pinpoint. Maybe it’s because he never flinches, always pulling audiences toward unease and laughter with equal glee. Or maybe it’s because of his lush style, and the ways he manifests his visual richness toward narratively wild, seemingly incomprehensible ends. Flux Gourmet, his follow up to the psychological horror In Fabric, checks all of those boxes and more as a food critic ventures toward a performance artist retreat only to investigate murder while dealing with his own deadly flatulence. There’s plenty of food, blood and farts — basically all of the faculties of the human body — in this absurd dark comedy.
Hold Your Fire (Stefan Forbes)
Last year, when Stanley Nelson Jr. and Traci A. Curry sped toward a deserved Best Documentary Academy Award nomination for Attica, director Stefan Forbes’ harrowing film Hold Your Fire flew under the radar. Telling the story of the longest standoff in NYPD history, which occurred when four Black men took hostages at John and Al’s Sporting Goods store in Brooklyn in 1973, the documentary recalls the infancy of modern hostage negotiations, the fragile relationship between African Americans and the police, and the overzealousness of law enforcement. As Tambay Obenson wrote for Indiewire, “This efficient documentary serves as a case study of post-civil rights era relations between majority-white police forces and the Black American neighborhoods they patrolled.”
Q&A with Stefan Forbes will follow the screening
Palm Trees and Power Lines (Jamie Dack)
During its Sundance premiere, many drew comparisons between Sean Baker’s Red Rocket and Jamie Dack’s Palm Trees and Power Lines. Both films feature vulnerable young women approached by older, scummy men. Unlike the former, however, Dack’s narrative, winner of Sundance’s Directing award in U.S. dramatic, sees the situation from the woman’s point of view. This is a dark and honest film that doesn’t play the leering man for laughs, but as the actual scheming menace he should be seen as. Marya E Gates spoke to Dack during Sundance about the film.
Speak No Evil (Christian Tafdrup)
Everything I’ve heard about Speak No Evil, an unsettling horror flick concerning a reunion that soon devolves into an uncomfortable barrage of mixed signals that soon turn deadly and brutal. It’s a psychological film whose frights spring from the worry of being impolite, wherein niceness can fray the nerves. “The director’s unerring control makes the film a gripping experience of sustained queasiness that spirals into heightened alarm… and the scenario shifts from menace to outright evil,” explains David Rooney in his THR review. This is the kind of movie that’ll keep you up at night, and you’ll be happier for it.
Straighten Up and Fly Right (Kristen Abate and Steven Tanenbaum)
I’m always intrigued by movies that purposely attempt to shift my perspective, thereby revealing my own blind spots. Slamdance winner Straighten Up and Fly Right does exactly that by taking interest in Kristen (Kristen Abate), a New Yorker isolated and othered because of her appearance. See, Kristen lives with Ankylosing Spondylitis — a severe form of arthritis that leaves her permanently bent over. Kids taunt her. Love interests are slim. She works as a dog walker, through which she meets a new client, Steven (Steven Tanenbaum), battling a similar condition. This friendship, however, initially does little to abate her loneliness. It’s a film, co-directed by Abate and Tanenbaum, who is disable in real life, that’s as much about seeing the world from Kristen’s eyes, with the camera close toward her face, as her finding a sliver of hope in a daunting world.
Q&A with Kristen Abate and Steven Tanenbaum will follow the screening
You can buy tickets for Chicago Critics Film Festival, here.