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The human race is bound together by what we have in common, despite our many differences. Whether we are categorized by age, race, economic status, sex, or political affiliation, we all share the same struggles in keeping this world afloat.
For Americans, we're currently living through a political divide. Both sides--Democrats and Republicans alike--are just plain scared shitless for the future of our nation, and we think our particular political party knows what is best in moving forward.
With just a few weeks left before the presidential election, some minds have already been made up. What's left to ponder though, is what happens next once (or if) the dust settles.
International cinema provides us a glimpse to see what other struggles are out there beyond our borders, and more often than not, those struggles are relatively the same. Family arguments, career choices, communication failures, and hopeless longing are nothing new to our own experiences, but what the Chicago International Film Festival is great at providing, is fresh perspectives from other cultures.
In Ignacio Marquez' The Special (Venezuela), the family dynamic is in full focus: Chuo, a twenty-three year-old with Down Syndrome, lives with his father Jose, who can barely provide for his son let alone deal with the disappointing dreams of an unfulfilled career as a musician.
Too old to remain at a school for children with special needs, Chuo's father allows his son to work at a nearby graphic design studio, where a kindly employee discovers Chuo's passion for painting, and agrees to assist Chuo with applying for an exhibition for Down Syndrome artists.
Comedy, like a documentary, is always better when it's honest. There's truth in comedy as there is truth in documentary, so I guess making documentaries about comedy legends would seem like the right thing to do.
Coincidentally, both men happen to be groundbreaking legends of the comedy world, having ties to the same Chicago institution where they even shared the same space for a moment in time. They also both died way too soon.
What these men also have in common is their extremely complicated dark sides that contrasted with their bright improvisational talents.
Belushi opened this year's Chicago International Film Festival, and is about the late Saturday Night Live veteran. Acclaimed filmmaker R.J. Cutler (The War Room, The September Issue) weaves audio interviews with some of Belushi's most common collaborators (including Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase, Lorne Michaels, and the late Harold Ramis) to narrate his rise and fall, from his Albanian upbringing in Wheaton, Illinois, to his early start at Second City and the National Lampoon Radio Hour, to his eventual rise to stardom in comedy classics like Animal House and The Blues Brothers. Behind his anarchic and unpredictable persona, however, hid a vulnerable, erratic individual who only felt comfortable on stage rather than off it.
The year 2020 feels like something out of a movie, and that's because there are so MANY movies out there that seem to have predicted our current reality: a global pandemic affecting millions of lives, social upheaval charged by political conspiracies, and an overall "us vs. them" vibe plaguing our every corner.
It's no surprise then that some of the films screening at the Chicago International Film Festival this year involve such matters that seem eerily prescient.Two of those films are Apples (Greece/Poland/Slovenia) and And Tomorrow the Entire World (Germany).
Directed by Christos Nikou (a frequent collaborator with Yorgos Lanthimos), Apples gives us an all too familiar scenario involving a mysterious pandemic facing the world; however, the infected don't develop fevers and coughs, they develop amnesia.
One of the seemingly afflicted victims is Aris (Aris Servetalis). After awaking on a bus without any sense of his identity, he's taken to a rehabilitation program called "Learning How to Live." This place returns him to the world not with a face mask in tow, but a Polaroid camera.