Upcoming Special Programs of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival

Image courtesy of Cinema/Chicago
The banner of the Chicago International Film Festival
Image courtesy of Cinema/Chicago

The Chicago International Film Festival is celebrating its 57th year and program from October 13-24. CIFF is North America’s longest-running competitive international film festival. Showcasing the best in international and independent films from around the world, the 57th edition will be held in-person at several Chicago theater locations and on their virtual platform.

From dramas and thrillers to documentaries and comedies, the Festival presents an outstanding diversity of offerings. As in other years, their competitive categories and programs include Cinemas of the Americas, International Comedy, Women in Cinema, OutLook, After Dark, the 25th anniversary of the Black Perspectives focus, and the City & State program highlighting films made in Chicago and throughout Illinois. 

Here are some more details about a few of those program offerings:


The 57th Chicago International Film Festival presents the World Premieres of four films this year including:

  • Mayor Pete is Jesse Moss’ behind-the-scenes look at the campaign of the first openly LGBTQ presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg
  • Filmmaker Joe Winston tells the story of Chicago’s first Black mayor with Punch 9 for Harold Washington
  • Chicagoan Holly Morris’ Exposure is topical documentary following 11 women from across Arab and Western countries on a trek to the North Pole
  • Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter is Rebecca Halpern’s absorbing, unvarnished portrait of the famous titular chef.

Additionally, the 57th Chicago International Film Festival welcomes the International Premiere of The Last Execution, a white-knuckle political thriller based on the true story of Werner Teske from director Franziska Stünkel. Overall, this year’s festival hosts the North American Premieres of 17 features, and another 17 films will hold their U.S. Premieres.


The Black Perspectives program was founded in 1996 through a collaboration with Spike Lee to showcase the excellence and diversity of films by African Americans and the African diaspora from around the world.  In its 25-year history, the Black Perspectives program has premiered the first film by acclaimed director Ava DuVernay, and has featured the work of luminaries including Lee Daniels, George Tillman, Maya Angelou, Steve McQueen, and Ousmane Sembene, and has given tributes to film artists, including Viola Davis, Forest Whitaker, and Sidney Poitier.

This year’s Black Perspectives program showcases nine feature films and six short films, including the Closing Night film, King Richard the Special Presentation of Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut Passing, and the aforementioned World Premiere of Punch 9 for Harold Washington

Other Black Perspectives features include: 

  • Jaymes Samuel’s action-packed revenge Western The Harder They Fall, playing as a Drive-In festival event
  • Mahmet-Saleh Haroun’s raw, honest celebration of the power of women working in solidarity Lingui, The Sacred Bonds 
  • Citizen Ashe, a profile of groundbreaking tennis star and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe from co-directors Sam Pollard and Rex Miller
  • Francesco Zippel’s Oscar Michaeux – The Superhero of Black Filmmaking 
  • The U.S. Premieres of The Last Shelter from Ousmane Samassekou and Khadar Ahmed’s The Gravedigger’s Wife.


This special and unique program showcases the best and the brightest local productions. This year’s City & State slate includes six features and eight short films. The group is headlined by the aforementioned World Premieres of Punch 9 for Harold Washington and Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter. City & State also celebrates:

  • Isidore Bethel and Francis Leplay’s feature film exploration of gay hookup culture Act of Love
  • Margaret Byrne’s Any Given Day following a trio of participants in a probation program established for people with mental illnesses
  • Documentary mavens Gordon Quinn and Leslie Simmer’s For the Left Hand
  • Broadcast Signal Intrusion, a throwback thriller brilliantly channeling 70’s paranoid cinema from director Jacob Gentry


A Chicago Film Festival laptop sits next to a box of popcorn.
Image courtesy of Cinema/Chicago

The Chicago International Film Festival proudly offers nearly 50 titles virtually to audiences across Illinois, and throughout six other Midwestern states including Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin, via the Festival’s online streaming platform and Festival apps for Roku and Apple TV. Virtual screenings are ticketed, and streaming movies will be viewable in the comfort of one’s home beginning Thursday, October 14 at noon Central time through Sunday, October 24, 2021.


For more information, visit our website at or follow the Festival on its social media fronts:


Twitter: @ChiFilmFest

Instagram: @ChiFilmFest

Hashtag: #ChiFilmFest

Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing here on Film Obsessive as the Editor-in-Chief and Content Supervisor for the film department. He also writes for his own website, Every Movie Has a Lesson. Don is one of the hosts of the Cinephile Hissy Fit Podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network and sponsored by Film Obsessive. As a school teacher by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a voting member of the nationally-recognized Critics Choice Association, Online Film Critics Society, North American Film Critics Association, International Film Society Critics Association, Internet Film Critics Society, Online Film and TV Association, and the Celebrity Movie Awards.

Leave a Reply

Film Obsessive welcomes your comments. All submissions are moderated. Replies including personal attacks, spam, and other offensive remarks will not be published. Email addresses will not be visible on published comments.

The leadership team and staff of the Chicago International Film Festival

Previewing the Highlights of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival

Jay (Jason Isaacs) comforts his grievin

BFI London Film Festival: Mass and Boiling Point