Twelve films to see at the Chicago International Film Festival

Megan Pauly, Columnist

It’s not every day one can take a walk in a foreign world while remaining in a comfortable theater seat. There will be 150 films from 50 countries shown in 14 days at the Chicago International Film Festival. The longest-running competitive film festival in North America, now in its 48th year, runs Oct. 11 through 25. According to creator Michael Kutza, the festival is “dedicated to fostering better understanding between cultures and to making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image.” At more than half of the screenings each year, filmgoers have the rare and exciting chance to meet directors, actors and actresses. For your convenience, I’ve perused the list of all 150 and included my top 12 picks, all of which include a chance to talk with at least one active participant in the film. Unlike your run-of-the mill Hollywood flicks, independent films are known for taking on less-talked-about, real and pressing societal issues. Hopefully my picks reflect this.

1. “Agon” (Albania/France/Greece/Romania) directed by Robert Budina 

This film explores the prejudice and bigotry two Albanian brothers face in a new country, and the complexities of their own relationship.

2. “Any Day Now” (USA) directed by Travis Fine

A gay couple adopts a mentally handicapped teenager and becomes the family he’s never had, but must fight the legal system to keep him.

3. “Art of Conflict” (Northern Ireland/USA) directed by Valeri Vaughn

This documentary examines how the street art of murals tells the story of Northern Ireland’s history and violence.

4. “Cloud Atlas” (Singapore) directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

This drama, mystery and action film explores how a soul can be turned from killer to hero, and the events and people involved.

5. “Everybody’s Got Somebody … Not Me” (Mexico) directed by Raul Fuentes

Two teenage girls find each other in their private high school, in a youthful rendition of the classic “opposites attract” story.

6. “Flowerbuds” (Czech Republic) directed by Zdenek Jirasky

In a snapshot of life in a small Czech town, tragedies of gambling addictions and unemployment unfold and push a family to the edge.

7. “Germania” (Argentina) directed by Maximiliano Schonfeld

An Argentine family is forced to leave home after a plague decimates their farm, and in the process, they must reconcile with their past.

8. “The Last Sentence” (Sweden) directed by Jan Troell

Based on a true story, “The Last Sentence” portrays Swedish journalist Torgny Segerstedt as he undertakes an anti-Nazi campaign.

9. “Marie Kroyer” (Denmark) directed by Bille August

The wife of one of Denmark’s most celebrated painters learns how to seek happiness outside of her marriage while trying to keep it all together.

10. “A Monkey on My Shoulder” (Argentina/France) directed by Marion Laine

An initially happy couple struggles with a new pregnancy and the discovery that the baby’s daddy-to-be has become an alcoholic.

11. “Of Snails and Men” (France/Romania) directed by Tudor Giurgiu

A large French company plans to send workers from a small Romanian town to Bucharest to earn extra money at a sperm bank.

12. “Sharqiya” (Israel) directed by Ami Livne

An Israeli security guard struggles to protect his family when the threat of his community’s demolition becomes known.