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What to see at the Chicago International Film Festival, organized by genre

Written by
Grace Perry

It’s movie nerd Christmas, folks—The Chicago International Film Festival is back! Over 150 different indies, locally-made flicks, foreign films and Oscar contenders will be screened across the city this month. It may not be the most critic-attended festival out there (CIFF always falls towards the end of the year), but this year’s fest includes an impressive slate of exciting new films nonetheless. Not sure where to start? We broke down the festival hits by cinematic genre to make sure you can catch something you like.


The winner of the Palme d’Or in Cannes, The Square is a hilarious, satirical take on art world pretentiousness. It’s directed by Ruben Östlund (2014’s Force Majeure) and stars Claes Bang and recent Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss.

Director Aki Kaurismäki tells the story of Khaled, a Syrian asylum seeker in Finland, in The Other Side of Hope. The film tackles anti-immigrant rhetoric with bone-dry deadpan.

The brilliant Frances McDormand stars in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, wherein a woman paints three controversial messages directed at the chief of police (Woody Harrelson).


Margot Robbie stars as the titular role in I, Tonya, the story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan’s notorious rivalry in the 1994 Olympics. It’s bound to be smashing good time.

Filmmaker Sam Pollard tells the story of the Rat Pack’s most complicated figure in his documentary Sammy Davis Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me. Pollard interviews Davis’s pop-culture contemporaries like Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg.


Already garnering Oscar predictions, Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name details a heart-wrenching romance between two young men (Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer) over an Italian summer.


Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is a fantastical fairy tale set in Cold War America. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) develops a meaningful relationship with a top-secret government experiment—a lizard-like creature living in a high-security laboratory.

A group of Japanese vampires lures unknowing humans into a building to create a private blood farm in director Sion Sono’s Tokyo Vampire Hotel. Come ready for a whole lot of bloodsucking.


Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan as a feisty teenager fighting tooth and nail to get out of Sacramento. It’s a semi-autobiographical piece that looks at the understated beauty of home.

A teen boy is sent to the Patagonian forests to live with his estranged father in Hunting Season. Natalia Garagiola directs this carefully crafted exploration of teen anger and aggression.


An aspiring young cop teams up with a rebel girl named Tiger to wreak unnecessary havoc in response to everyday misogyny in Jakob Lass’s Tiger Girl.

In Aaron Katz’s Gemini, a personal assistant (Lola Kirke) finds herself in a tight spot when her famous boss (Zoe Kravitz) is found dead. The modern film noir is set in L.A. and grapples with the intersection of fame and identity.


Let The Sunshine In is a rom-com, albeit French as French can get. Juliette Binoche stars as a middle-aged divorcée looking for Mr. Right, flanked by French heavyweight actors Gerard Depardieu and Beau Travail.

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