- Delven Shaw
58th CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS GOLD HUGO TO “GODLAND,” SILVER HUGO TO “CLOSE”
The 58th Chicago International Film Festival, North America’s longest-running competitive film festival, today announced the winners of its 2022 edition in categories including International Feature Film Competition, New Directors Competition, International Documentary Competition, OutLook Competition, and Short Film Competitions, as well as the Chicago Award for an outstanding program in the Festival’s City & State program, and the Roger Ebert Award, awarded to a film competing in the New Directors Competition in recognition of a filmmaker with a fresh and uncompromising vision.
The Gold Hugo in the International Feature Film Competition goes to GODLAND, Hlynur Pálmason’s forceful, inspired critique of the destructive impact of colonial endeavor. The film, inspired by a collection of wet plate photographs of rural Iceland taken by a priest in the late 1800s, follows an arrogant, naïve Danish priest on a mission to establish a remote parish for homesteaders in Iceland, then a colony of Denmark, and convert the locals to Christianity.
Picking up the Festival’s Silver Hugo in the International Feature Film Competition is CLOSE, which also receives the Gold Hugo in the OutLook Competition. Lukas Dhont’s enthralling, breathless visual style plunges viewers into the world of Leo and Remi, two thirteen-year-old best friends, as their intimate friendship is tested by the social pressures of the new school year.
“The Chicago International Film Festival has a 58-year history of honoring the most exciting, most original talent, and this year’s winners reflect a diversity of storytelling and filmmaking in remarkable and timely ways,” said Chicago International Film Festival Artistic Director Mimi Plauché. “With visual languages bold and subtle, rich and complex, the films transport us to different worlds, both familiar and far away, and by immersing us in new places and new experiences they broaden the ways in which we see and understand our own world, transforming us in the process.”
In the New Directors Competition, Charlotte Le Bon’s tenderly-observed rumination on the restiveness of unrequited young love and otherworldly longing FALCON LAKE takes the Gold Hugo; while Ann Oren’s PIAFFE takes the Silver Hugo, following an introverted Foley artist who, while working on a commercial, is invigorated when her body begins to transform in unexpected, intoxicating ways.
This year’s Roger Ebert Award, presented in the New Directors Competition, goes to two films: A PIECE OF SKY, Michael Koch’s moving meditation to the patient nature of enduring love; and Katrine Brocks’ THE GREAT SILENCE, a haunting tale of love, deceit, and forgiveness.
The Chicago Award goes to KING OF KINGS: CHASING EDWARD JONES, a thrilling life story of a legendary African American powerbroker who built a multimillion-dollar empire running Policy, the illegal lottery, on Chicago’s South Side in the 1930s and ‘40s, directed by his granddaughter Harriet Marin Jones.
The full list of award winners at the 58th Chicago International Film Festival includes:
International Feature Film Competition
GODLAND Vanskabte Land (Denmark, Iceland, France, Sweden)
Dir. Hlynur Pálmason
Through the epic story of a small cast of characters, the film explores complex themes including colonialism, religion, civilization, the survival of the fittest and nature versus nurture. Working against the extraordinary backdrop provided by the breathtaking but unforgiving Icelandic landscapes, Pálmason, his brave cast of Danish and Icelandic actors and the entire crew went on an almost unprecedented journey to paint an extraordinary picture of the complexity of the human soul, which might fear God and want to do the right thing but which still has to battle every day to keep its baser instincts in check.
Silver Hugo Jury Award
CLOSE (Belgium, France, The Netherlands)
Dir. Lukas Dhont
CLOSE is a sensitive, humanistic film celebrating our human instincts for contact and affection, amidst overwhelming pressure to conform. It takes us on a harsh, visceral journey through which it captures a very specific coming-of-age period, where social expectations can brutally castrate your instincts to be yourself, love freely or just not label things. Luckily, the film also takes us through a process of healing and courageous rediscovery. This is a very moving tour de force from sophomore director Lukas Dhont, who elicits amazing performances from the entire cast.
Silver Hugo, Best Director
THE BLUE CAFTAN (France, Morocco, Belgium, Denmark)
Maryam Touzani takes us on an intimate journey about love without labels, delicately embroidered in intimate spaces that are nonetheless constantly flooded by the sounds of the medina and society at large. Here, the main characters develop a path to redemption and honesty, full of humanity and beauty.
Silver Hugo, Best Performance
CORSAGE (Austria, France, Germany)
Vicky Krieps’ interpretation of Empress Sissi is unpredictable from the first second to the last. Krieps is fierce, surprising and full of hurt. She manages to vibrate positivity despite all of the restraints put on her character and it is impossible to look away. A brilliant acting performance!
Silver Hugo, Best Ensemble Cast Performance
Denis Ménochet, Marina Foïs, Luis Zahera, Diego Anido, and Marie Colomb
THE BEASTS As bestas (Spain, France)
Rarely do we witness such authentic and powerful performances from an entire cast of actors. Characters unflinchingly grind at each other and yet, when you least expect it, the ones you learned to despise suddenly bring you into their worlds, making you understand their hardships and anger at the world. Where lesser performances would have left us in polarized good vs. evil tropes, here the masterful actors bring us into their hypnotic interpretations like virtuoso violinists, which makes us feel their inner struggles like an emotional symphony.
Silver Hugo, Best Screenplay
Alice Diop, Amrita David, Zoé Galeron, and Marie N’Diaye
SAINT OMER (France)
A brave story about motherhood and xenophobia, told through a surprising yet very effective parallel narrative where what is said in one story might be felt in the other.
Silver Hugo, Best Cinematography
Maria von Hausswolff
GODLAND Vanskabte Land (Denmark, Iceland, France, Sweden)
The way Maria von Hausswolff captures the austerity of Iceland’s unforgiving landscape is stunning. It goes further than artistry: the camera confronts the dangerous terrain in ways that makes the audience feel every bit a part of the journey. Every frame simultaneously captures the possibilities of life at its most mundane and its most treacherous.
Silver Hugo, Best Production Design
Marcela Gómez (Production Designer) and Daniel Rincon (Art Director)
THE KINGS OF THE WORLD Los reyes del mundo (Colombia, Norway, Luxembourg, Mexico,
The film is a road movie through forests and across paths paved and unpaved, with the various and incredibly detailed interior locations offering shelter from the harsh outside world in different ways, even if finding definitive shelter might forever prove elusive for the film's young protagonists.
Award for Cinematic Bravery
NO BEARS (Iran)
Dir. Jafar Panahi
A special award is given this year for cinematic bravery to Iranian director Jafar Panahi for his film NO BEARS. This multi-layered and sophisticated narrative probes how real fiction can feel and how made-up or fictional reality sometimes seems to be. It brings the central idea that fear gives power to others and that, inversely, bravery is about owning your own power, to thrilling cinematic life.
New Directors Competition
FALCON LAKE (Canada, France)
Dir. Charlotte Le Bon
Charlotte Le Bon’s film respects the point of view of the protagonist without condescension, conveying the youthful maturity of the characters with energy and poise. Featuring unexpected moments of humor and repose, this warm coming of age story offers keen observations about the complexity of emotions that come with adulthood.
Dir. Ann Oren
The audacious, unconventional PIAFFE’s emphasis on the texture and process of cinema can be seen both in its aesthetic and its engaging characters. Ann Oren’s work is a sensual journey into the erotic and unpredictable. The extraordinary sound design and use of overexposure in particular encourage a new faith in the power of cinema.
Roger Ebert Award ex aequo
THE GREAT SILENCE (Denmark)
Dir. Katrine Brocks
THE GREAT SILENCE uses sharp editing and incredible acting performances in its meditation on a kind of empathy that leads to forgiveness. The creative use of genre informs a serious, respectful treatment of religion, and the nuances of grace and regret are explored in a refreshing departure from the usual tropes. Brocks’ film also gives us a wonderfully superior Mother Superior!
A PIECE OF SKY (Switzerland, Germany)
Dir. Michael Koch
A portrait of devotion and profound love that demonstrates the power of empathy and its capacity to deepen commitment, Michael Koch’s work chronicles the protagonist’s coming to terms with her husband’s transformation with unflinching certainty and compassion. The stunning choral works that punctuate and structure the film add to the gravitas of the protagonist’s abiding love and compassion.
International Documentary Competition
ALIS (Colombia, Romania, Chile)
Dirs. Clare Weiskopf, Nicolás Van Hemelryck
Clare Weiskopf and Nicolás Van Hemelryck brilliantly crafted a cinematic experience in which the rhythm of the edits is unpredictable and rich. The premise of the film - displacing the protagonists personal experience with a third person testimony about a fictional surrogate - allows for documentary to slip into fiction, and for first person singular experience to open to that of the first person plural. As we sit down, we look into the eyes of a group of young girls who speak about Alis. Is she real? Is she not? We hear her experiences – her upbringing, her struggles, how she feels, what she believes, and through the plural, diverse and inconsistent image of her, we too imagine and construct the portrait of her witnesses. As the narrative interweaves between the various versions of Alis' portrait, a new polyphonous whole — their own shared experience -- emerges. The trust the girls put in their interviewers is palpable. Eyes look back at us as the young women give themselves to the camera, without filter. Leaning into the power, nuance and subtlety of imagination, we read into the heart and pain of these remarkable young people, and feel the fluidity and complexity of their identities. Their world — an isolated and fenced shelter for young girls, where the interviews take place — may feel like a prison, but it is here that their imagination is allowed to run free, and with the imagination's aid, for their lives to begin to heal.
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF DESTRUCTION (Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands)
Dir. Sergei Loznitsa
Sergei Loznitsa has accomplished a pure cinematic experience which displaces our political positions, and compels us to empathize with the German citizens living through the war they instigated. By means of meticulous and slow editing, a complex array of scenes, rich with nuanced sonic detail, unfold in front us. The archival black and white images are breathless and relentless: they confront us without buffer with the horror of the war machine, to which there are no winners and everyone is a victim. The rare and strategic placement of speeches, as well as the occasional leak of color into the scenes, punctuate the otherwise non verbal stretches of accumulating horror: we witness war from all angles - from above and below, from close up and from afar, from within the machine performing the wreckage, from the factory assembling its parts, and from the bottom of the ruins it leaves behind.
KING OF KINGS: CHASING EDWARD JONES (U.S., France)
Dir. Harriet Marin Jones
KING OF KINGS: CHASING EDWARD JONES is a good story, not well known outside its community. The story of Policy, the forerunner of the lottery, and the Jones Brothers, was exceptionally well told, through a personal lens unveiling knowledge with creativity and the beauty of craft. It was a hard choice among a group of captivating feature length films.
Dir. Donald Conley
MATRIARCH presents the complicated simplicity of life at a time when we are all grappling with death all around us. It built a case for beauty as we reach the inevitable conclusion of our days and the possibilities of family, hope, and love.
CLOSE (Belgium, France, The Netherlands)
Dir. Lukas Dhont
CLOSE tells a story of specificity and universality with extraordinary nuance and originality. Through the lens of an adolescent relationship and tragedy, the film offers depth and accuracy in its exploration of potential first love, which as a child can’t quite be articulated, and the pressure at a young age to conform to peer group expectations of masculinity or face homophobia amidst a more conservative academic culture. Lukas Dhont beautifully juxtaposes a free and sensitive friendship with the suppression of emerging identities, and depicts the consequences of such conformity. As a production, CLOSE is a superbly directed, well shot film with strong performances, particularly from young actor Eden Dambrine, who movingly navigates the film’s themes of innocence lost and childhood grief.
PALOMA (Brazil, Portugal)
Dir. Marcelo Gomes
Marcelo Gomes offers an important look at an unapologetic and uncompromising trans woman living with authenticity in an often-unforgiving milieu of rural Brazil. In PALOMA, played front and center by the sensational trans actress Kika Sena, Gomes presents a refreshing, lead trans character that demands to be loved and accepted for who she is, a heroic woman fighting for change and personal liberty—the simple ability to be married to her partner in a church wedding. A rich, multifaceted character not merely defined by her transgender identity, Paloma is a persevering wife, mother, worker, friend, and dreamer who is relatable to all of us. Told in bold colors and beautifully evoking its rural locale and locals, the film also presents loving relationship dynamics between a couple that is passionate behind closed doors but private and often ostracized in public, reminding us that global strides must still be made for trans acceptance.
ALIS (Colombia, Romania, Chile)
Dirs. Clare Weiskopf, Nicolás Van Hemelryck
A Special Mention goes to ALIS by Clare Weiskopf and Nicolás van Hemelryck, for its affecting personal histories conveyed by a handful of young women, many from the streets of Bogotá, residing in a group home where they’ve formed a safety net of unexpected family. Through transparent and candid testimonials, the filmmakers elicit uncommonly rare honesty and vulnerability from their subjects and a natural, raw realism that draws us into their stories, which present a portrait of community born from hardship where friendship, love and creativity prosper. The needs for companionship and security are beautifully manifest in the intimate relationships the women share on camera, and the honesty connects strongly to their identities and orientations, not declared but which simply are. The film’s interview device is clever and mines significant cultural and personal revelations.
Live Action Short Film Competition
THE HEADHUNTER’S DAUGHTER (The Philippines)
Dir. Don Jospehus Raphael Eblahan
A beautifully captured story, a beautiful experience of a film. So calm, so attentive to the subtle emotions of the characters. Minimalist and gripping. Amazingly shot. The story is poetically told and the film leaves a lasting impact.
Dir. Mara Tamkovich
An enthralling short film, very well acted, and well directed. Suspenseful, emotional, and all the more impactful because it's true, with solid filmmaking showcased all around.
Documentary Short Film Competition
Dir. Maryam Tarakofy
Maryam Takafory's NAZARBAZI re-presents a cinematic history as a method for examining the present. The film adeptly mines a wellspring of found footage media to demonstrate the tension between sound and silence, needs and wants, and the ability to fulfill them.
Dir. Crystal Z Campbell
REVOLVER maintains an equilibrium between the power of storytelling and personal record keeping with the kaleidoscopic phenomena of "pareidolia". These abstracted forms are reconstituted in the imaginary and require us to examine our capacity for meaning making.
Animated Short Film Competition
ICE MERCHANTS (Portugal)
Dir. João Gonzalez
With its one of a kind storyline and no dialogue, ICE MERCHANTS is an animated wonder with a strong narrative. The characters are very unique, yet the feelings that were portrayed were so relatable. We truly loved the shadow work and color palette.
MY YEAR OF DICKS (U.S.)
Dir. Sara Gunnarsdóttir
MY YEAR OF DICKS stands out not only due to its charming coming-of-age story, but its nuanced take of animation as a medium. It was refreshing to see Gunnarsdottir tell the story of the awkwardness of teen girl sexuality through the animation and rotoscoping lens-- challenging the mechanics of storytelling by mix-mashing various genres together.
About the Juries
The 2022 International Competition Jury includes Paris and Luxembourg-based film journalist Boyd van Hoeij; Kim Nguyen, writer and director of THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, and Salma Hayek, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival; award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer Lucía Carreras, whose LA JAULA DE ORO (THE GOLDEN DREAM) won the Gold Hugo in the Chicago International Film Festival’s New Directors Competition in 2013; German and Paris-based actor Mala Emde; and Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member Namir Smallwood, who appears in the Showtime series RUST and stars in ROUNDING, which screened at this year’s Festival.
The New Directors Competition Jury includes CEO of Ebert Digital LLC and publisher of RogerEbert.com Chaz Ebert; Kalisha Cornett, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of Instruction at Northwestern University where she teaches courses on Hollywood cinema, international film history, and film genre; and Fernando E. Juan Lima, President of the Mar Del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina.
The International Documentary Competition Jury includes experimental documentary maker Tirtza Even, whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art NY, the Whitney Biennial, and in galleries, museums, and festivals in the U.S., Israel, and Europe; Brazilian screenwriter and director Marcelo Gomes, whose PALOMA appeared in this year’s Festival; and Marjon Javadi, Vice President, Disney Documentary Films and Docuseries.
The OutLook Competition Jury is comprised of Angellic Ross, whose short documentary film revoLUZion won first place at the My Hero Festival; Chicago-based film critic and discussant Lee Shoquist; and Takashi Shallow, a socially specific artist and University of Chicago lecturer whose experiments intersect visual art with technology and performance.
The City & State Competition Jury, which selects the best project made in Chicago, Illinois, or by a local filmmaker, includes award-winning filmmaker Margaret Byrne, whose ANY GIVEN DAY appeared in the 57th Chicago International Film Festival; owner of RCW Media Productions, Inc. Rita Coburn, whose MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE won a Peabody Award; and Akanksha Cruczynski, whose short CLOSE TIES TO HOME COUNTRY received the Chicago Award Honorable Special Mention at the 57th Chicago International Film Festival.
The Shorts Competition Juries are comprised of Gustavo Martín Benites Gálvez, Christian Mejía, and Juefang Zhang in the Live Action Jury; Malia Haines-Stewart, Paige Taul, and Waldemar Wilk in the Documentary Jury; and Erica Duffy, Katie Rife, and Dena Springer in the Animation Jury.
For more information, visit the Festival’s website at https://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/.