Filmmakers Speak Review- Director Interviews from the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival

From "Liquid Truth"
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The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival, just concluded, screened dozens of films in 14 categories and hosted numerous Question and Answer sessions with filmmakers, as well as hosting an “Industry Days” program and awarding honors. This writer had the opportunity to interview the directors of three very different, unique and special films. Two of these are documentaries made in the US while one film- from the categories “ International”, and “World Cinema”, made in Brazil- is an imagined scenario that could very well take place anywhere in the world today. Capsule descriptions of the films reviewed follow, along with interview summaries. The focus of my interview was the way each director here was the “inceptor” of their film; it was their vision, passion and desire that got it made.

-“LIQUID TRUTH”, 2017, 87 minutes

DIRECTOR Carolina Jabor


CATEGORY Cinemas of the Americas, World Cinema

A beautifully crafted mystery-cum-social commentary about accusations of child sexual abuse based on absolutely no real evidence, but fuelled by a hue and cry on a parenting website. Masterful performances throughout take us into a failed marriage that has produced a sullen child, who allegedly tells his mother that his sexually ambiguous and fond swimming instructor kissed his lips. Mom puts it up on the web and “send!” the instructor is harried as a pedophile. A very compelling story of jealousy, fear and the potentially destructive use of social media in today’s Brazil.

PRODUCER Leonardo M Barros, Renata Brandão, Maria Amélia M. P. Leão Teixeira


EDITOR Sergio Mekler


CAST Daniel de Oliveira, Marco Ricca

PRODUCTION COMPANY Conspiração Filmes in coproduction with Globo Filmes



Jabor, a deeply earnest and committed intellectual auteur, makes films “as a way to tell stories that are part of contemporary life, that portray different people and points of view.” This film, based on a play by Josep Maria Miró called “Archimedes Principle”, represents “a way to look at modern Brazilian life without a discussion of slums and drug dealers”.  She adds, “Brazil is a full society in crisis, a deep dark time, but the people also have the same types of human and social issues as the rest of the world”. She agreed with me that in this particular film, there is a very strong juxtaposition between the scripted words and the cinematic choices in that “the choice of actors, their facial expressions, the captured or suggested relationships may have as much impact as the script in shaping audience feeling.” There are mysteries in “Liquid Truth” that remain ambiguous at it’s end; the film contains clues which sometimes lead to more mysteries. “The scriptwriter wrote a lot of dialogue- I used less dialogue. The audience must make the decisions”.

From “The Experimental City”


DIRECTOR Chad Freidrichs

COUNTRY United States

CATEGORY Documentary, Spotlight: Architecture

From the acclaimed director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, a look back at a true story that seem like both a sci-fi comic book invention of half a century ago as well as a fable of today’s computer age. In the 1960s, a remarkable American renaissance man/scientist – and by the way, comic-strip cartoonist- Athelbert Stilhaus-and a renowned team of experts set out to create the MXC, an experimental city of the future, initially focused on waste management, ultimately to be “crowned” by a Buckminster Fuller dome. The planned community, whose cost was to be provided by funds “left over” by an early close of the Vietnam War, ran into fatal challenges, ironically by local Minnesota environmentalists/landowners. Extremely well-researched and aided by the use of taped sessions and created imagery of the alcohol fuelled smoke-filled rooms in which the discussions of the planners may have taken place.

PRODUCER Chad Freidrichs, Jaime Freidrichs, Brian Woodman

EDITOR Chad Freidrichs

CINEMATOGRAPHER Nathan Truesdell, Chad Freidrichs

CAST Charles Freidrichs, Tisha Quinn, David Crespy

PRODUCTION COMPANY Unicorn Stencil Documentary Films

FILM SOURCE Unicorn Stencil Documentary Films


As director, editor and producer- not to mention researcher- Freidrichs put an enormous effort into the creation of this film. He was drawn to the concept of the Experimental City, he says “Because I like models, planning and complicated systems”. He was intrigued by “the perpetually-changing city”. He was also inspired by “the ideology behind the project- the enthusiasm of the participants resonated with me”. Further, Freidrichs “was fascinated by Athelbert Stilhaus, a legitimate scientist, war hero, inventor, comic strip creator, professor”.

In preparation for the film, Freidrichs “listened –twice- to 200 hours of audio recordings of workshop and steering committee sessions”. He worked on the project “50-60 hours a week for 2 and ½ years”. He also developed strong working relationships with the narrators of the film, “Louise”, a socialite and friend of Spielhaus, and Todd Lefko, who had been the youngest member of the Minnesota Experimental City Association. He chose to add the images of smoke-filled rooms to “add atmosphere”.

Freidrichs noted, “You need drama to bring a story to life. Here there was a delicious irony in that this project goes down because of the opposition of an environmentalist”.

From “The Rape of Recy Taylor”

-“THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR”, 2017, 91 minutes

DIRECTOR Nancy Buirski

COUNTRY United States

CATEGORY Black Perspectives, Documentary

The director of the highly acclaimed “The Loving Story”, Nancy Buirski, has crafted a summary of the events surrounding a gang rape in 1944 Alabama. Six young white men were never brought to justice for their assault on 24-year-old wife and mother Recy Taylor. Told through the eyes of a loving sister and brother, Robert Corbitt and Alma Daniels, using archival footage of the subsequent efforts of the NAACP and its chief investigator Rosa Parks, as well as snippets from early “race films,” this is a study in the efforts of black women to achieve justice. With a wealth of informative commentary by Crystal N. Feimster, Associate Professor, Yale, Department of African American Studies/American Studies Program.

PRODUCER Excutive Producers: Regina K. Scully, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Amy Tiemann, Mark Trustin, CarolAnne Dolan, Derrick Harkins, Nick Stuart-Jones, Barbara Dobkin, Bobby Kondrat, Jack Turner; Producers: Nancy Buirski, Beth Hubbard, Susan Margolin, Claire L. Chandler


EDITOR Anthony Ripoli


CAST Robert Corbitt, Alma Daniels, Crystal Feimster, Esther Cooper, Jackson James Johnson II, Danielle L. McGuire, Chris Money, Larry Smith, Recy Taylor, Thomas Bernardi, Tom Gibbs, Jack Kyser, John L. Payne

PRODUCTION COMPANY Matador Content, Augusta Films, Cineflix, Sikelia Productions

FILM SOURCE Augusta Films


 Buirski was moved to create this film after reading “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance- A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power”, by Danielle L McGuire, who is interviewed in the film.She had already crafted “The Loving Story”, 2011, a documentary about a couple, arrested for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, whose legal efforts led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on interracial marriage.

Buirski says she was “inspired by how to make the film”, as there was “not much footage” available. Her efforts to recreate the events of Recy Taylor’s life and the legal challenges she faced led her to do “ a lot of research, a lot of interviews”. Buirski notes her approach to a film includes “going into it with a story arc”. Here, that involved “expanding Recy’s story into the larger story”. Working closely with her editor, Buirski “didn’t write it out”, but rather let the script develop. Upon discovering Recy Taylor was still alive, Buirski “very quickly went down to Abbeville”. She developed bonds with the family, and “this is really their story, their chance to get the justice” that Recy Taylor never accomplished. Buirski advised me “There’s an important reveal in this story, in the way women were kept in the background but actually worked in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement”.

All photos courtesy of the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival and Cinema/Chicago

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