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Chicago International Film Festival Announces Full Lineup

“The French Dispatch” opens, “King Richard” closes 57th Edition of North America’s longest-running competitive festival, October 13 – 24, 2021.

Featuring tributes to Sir Kenneth Branagh and Rebecca Hall; world premieres of “Mayor Pete,” “Punch 9 For Harold Washington” and more; visionary big-screen adventure “Dune” and historical epic “The Last Duel”

The Chicago International Film Festival recently announced the full lineup of its 57th edition, running October 13 – 24, 2021. This year’s festival expands across the city, with screenings at AMC River East 21, Music Box Theatre, Gene Siskel Film Center, drive-in screenings at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen, and neighborhood pop-up screenings at Bronzeville’s historic Parkway Ballroom. The program includes nearly 90 feature films and 70 shorts, four World Premieres, one International Premiere, 17 North American Premieres, and 17 U.S. Premieres, and showcases cinema from countries including France, Turkey, Colombia, Sweden, Japan, Canada, India, Chile, and Egypt, representing every continent – including the Antarctic. 

The 57th Chicago International Film Festival opens at the Music Box Theatre with Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” a love letter to journalists featuring an all-star cast, and “The Velvet Underground,” the Opening Night at the Drive-In presentation at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen, with a special virtual Q&A with director Todd Haynes.

WILL SMITH STARS as Richard Williams, along with Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton in “King Richard.” (Photos courtesy Chicago International Film Festival).

The Closing Night film is “King Richard,” the inspirational journey of Richard Williams (Will Smith), an undeterred father raising two of the extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time — Venus and Serena Williams. 

Based on the true story that will inspire the world, King Richard” follows the journey of Richard Williams, an undeterred father instrumental in raising two of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time, who will end up changing the sport of tennis forever. Driven by a clear vision of their future and using unconventional methods, Richard has a plan that will take Venus and Serena Williams from the streets of Compton, California to the global stage as legendary icons. The profoundly moving film shows the power of family, perseverance and unwavering belief as a means to achieve the impossible and impact the world. Two-time Oscar nominee Will Smith (“Ali,” “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Bad Boys for Life”) stars as Richard, under the direction of Reinaldo Marcus Green (“Monsters and Men”).

The Centerpiece Film is “C’mon C’mon,” a powerfully resonant and hopeful portrait of our times starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Mike Mills. The Festival will also host the Chicago premieres of Denis Villeneuve’s hotly-anticipated “Dune;” Pablo Larrain’s portrait of Princess Diana, “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart; and visionary director Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” a gripping tale of betrayal and vengeance set against the brutality of 14th century France. The full schedule is available in the digital Festival Program.

HAROLD WASHINGTON Raises Arms Punch 9 Photo Credit Marc PoKempner
LATE MAYOR HAROLD WASHINGTON in a jubilant pose in a scene from “Punch 9 for Harold Washington.”

World Premieres

The Festival presents the World Premieres of four films including “Mayor Pete,” Jesse Moss’ behind the scenes look at the campaign of the first openly LGBTQ presidential candidate; Joe Winston’s “Punch 9 For Harold Washington,” telling the story of Chicago’s first Black mayor, among other titles. The Festival will host the International Premiere of “The Last Execution,” a white-knuckle political thriller based on the true story of Werner Teske from director Franziska Stünkel.

25th Anniversary of Black Perspectives

Founded in collaboration with Spike Lee to showcase the excellence and diversity of films by African Americans and the African Diaspora from around the world, this year’s Black Perspectives program, celebrating its 25th anniversary, showcases nine feature films and six shorts, including the Closing Night film, “King Richard,” and a Special Presentation of “Passing.” Other features include Jaymes Samuel’s action-packed revenge Western “The Harder They Fall;” “Citizen Ashe,” a profile of groundbreaking tennis star and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe from co-directors Sam Pollard and Rex Miller; and Francesco Zippel’s “Oscar Micheaux – The Superhero Of Black Filmmaking,” among other titles.

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.
ANY GIVEN DAY follows three Chicagoans who participate in a probation program for people with mental illness who have committed “crimes of survival.”

Local Stories In the Spotlight

Showcasing the best and the brightest local productions, the 57th Chicago International Film Festival’s City & State program includes six features and eight short films. “Punch 9 for Harold Washington” – In this epic story of American politics, race, and triumph against all odds, director Joe Winston chronicles the captivating rise, surprising reign, and enduring legacy of Chicago’s first African American Mayor, Harold Washington.

Steeped in archival footage capturing a 1980s Chicago rife with corruption and discrimination, “Punch 9” features candid interviews with Jessie Jackson, Vice Mayor Richard Mell, and others on the frontlines and in the backrooms of power as it follows the charismatic politician’s shrewd maneuverings, stinging betrayals, and unlikely victories. Inspiring and compelling, Washington’s journey continues to resonate for a city and nation confronting the same enduring social issues.

International Competitions

The Festival is the longest-running competitive festival in North America, and in its 57th year, the tradition of introducing U.S. audiences to bold and accomplished new films from around the world continues with a slate of titles representative of their countries’ styles, stories, and cultures.

Drive-In Screenings

 Building on the success of last year’s Drive-In Screenings program, the Festival will present titles at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen.

Virtual Screenings and Programs

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 CT through Sunday, October 24, 2021.


Festival Passes are on sale now, with individual tickets going on sale September 21 for Cinema/Chicago members and September 24 to the general public. Passes can be purchased at

Festival Sponsors and Partners

The 57th Chicago International Film Festival’s Major Sponsors include; Goldman Sachs, Xfinity; Festival Sponsors: Baker Tilly, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, ComEd, Dark Matter Coffee, Goose Island, Hamilton Watch, Heineken 0.0, Panavision, Light Iron, SAGindie and the Chicago Film Office, among others.

This program is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, among other additional support. Refer to the Festival’s health protocols webpage for the most up-to-date information.

For more information, visit the website at Facebook: Twitter: @ChiFilmFest Instagram: @ChiFilmFest Hashtag: #ChiFilmFest

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