Chicago Film Festival 2008
Jurors: Mihai Chirilov, Andy Gillet, Ted Kim, Denise Robert, David Robinson, Yu Nan

Golden Hugo:Hunger, UK, dir. Steve McQueen
Special Jury Prize:Tokyo Sonata, Japan, dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Best Director:Terribly Happy, Denmark, dir. Henrik Ruben Genz
Best Actress:Heaven on Earth, Preity Zinta
Best Actor:Hunger, Michael Fassbender
Best Screenplay:Gomorrah, Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni Di Gregorio, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, and Roberto Saviani
Best Cinematography:The Catalpa Rescue, Owen McPolin
DocuFest Competition*:Valentino: The Last Emperor, USA, dir. Matt Tyrnauer
New Directors Competition*:The Dead Girl's Feast, Brazil, dir. Matheus Nachtergaele
Audience Choice Award**:Slumdog Millionaire, UK, dir. Danny Boyle
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, UK/USA, dir. Mark Herman
* These two awards are determined by separately constituted juries
** Voted by the public, and announced later than the other awards

Films I Saw at CIFF:
Leaving aside competition films I saw elsewhere, and usually later
Ranked in order of preference
My Golden Hugo
Julia A– (France/USA/Mexico/Belgium, dir. Erick Zonca) - No-holds-barred character study, acted with extraordinary force; sheer velocity and gumption of the storytelling are just as impressive (full review)

Ballast B+ (USA, dir. Lance Hammer) - Incisive, mysterious, gorgeously shot tale of a wife coming back from grief, a brother who's stuck in it, and the boy they both worry about (full review)

Why Not More?
In a stroke of good fortune, I landed an invite to the London Film Festival, my first-ever trip to the UK, though this necessitated flying out of Chicago only three days into its own program.

Films from the Main Competition:
Listed alphabetically  •  Most graded titles seen subsequently to CIFF
Absurdistan (Germany, dir. Veit Helmer)
Anger (La Rabia) (Argentina, dir. Albertina Carri)
Berlin - 1. Mai (Germany, dirs. Miscellaneous)
Delta C+ (Hungary, dir. Kornél Mundruczó)
Everlasting Moments B (Sweden, dir. Jan Troell)
Gomorrah B+ (Italy, dir. Matteo Garrone)
Heaven on Earth (Canada, dir. Deepa Mehta)
Hunger A– (UK, dir. Steve McQueen)
I'm Gonna Explode (Mexico, dir. Gerardo Naranjo)
Julia A– (France/USA/Mexico/Belgium, dir. Erick Zonca)
Lemon Tree B (Israel, dir. Eran Riklis)
Quiet Chaos (Italy, dir. Antonello Grimaldi)
Terribly Happy (Denmark, dir. Henrik Ruben Genz)
Tokyo Sonata (Japan, dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Two Lovers C (USA, dir. James Gray)
Wendy and Lucy B (USA, dir. Kelly Reichardt)

Films from the New Directors Competition:
Listed alphabetically  •  Graded titles reviewed above
Ballast B+ (USA, dir. Lance Hammer)
Beautiful (South Korea, dir. Jeon Jae-hong)
Before the Burial (Iran, dir. Behnam Behzadi)
The Dead Girl's Feast (Brazil, dir. Matheus Nachtergaele)
Family Values (France, dir. Claus Drexel)
The Friend (Switzerland, dir. Micha Lewinsky)
The King of Ping Pong (Sweden, dir. Jens Jonsson)
Medicine for Melancholy B (USA, dir. Barry Jenkins)
The Noise in My Head (Switzerland, dir. Vincent Pluss)
The Red Awn (China, dir. Cai Shangjun)
Sleep Dealer (USA/Mexico, dir. Alex Rivera)
Snow (Bosnia-Herzegovina, dir. Aida Begic)
Summer Book (Turkey, dir. Seyfi Teoman)
Waltz in Starlight (Japan, dir. Shingo Wakagi)
The Zone (Spain/Argentina/Mexico, dir. Rodrigo Plá)

Opening and Closing films were The Brothers Bloom (USA, Johnson) and Good (UK/Germany, Amorim), respectively

Special and Gala Presentations include The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (UK/USA, Herman), A Christmas Tale (France, Desplechin), Happy-Go-Lucky (UK, Leigh), The Human Contract (USA, Pinkett-Smith), I've Loved You So Long (France, Claudel), Pride and Glory (USA, O'Connor), Slumdog Millionaire (UK, Boyle), Synecdoche, New York (USA, Kaufman), The Wrestler (USA, Aronofsky), and Zack and Miri Make a Porno (USA, Smith)

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