Today at the Chicago International Film Festival: Ken Loach takes on the gig economy
Also screening: Chinese live streamers in “Present. Perfect.’ and an animated look at the Taliban in ‘The Swallows of Kabul’
The Chicago International Film Festival continues at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois.
‘Sorry We Missed You’ (U.K./ France/ Belgium) Lefty auteur Ken Loach once again dramatizes economic injustice in the lives of workers. Loach — whose “I, Daniel Blake” screened at the 2016 festival — depicts a family where both parents have “zero-hour contracts,” sort of like piecework sped up in the so-called gig economy. Martin drives a truck to deliver packages to “clients.” Abby does home care for ill, elderly and disabled “clients.” Long hours stress out their 11-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. The family is fracturing. Loach gives us compassionate sociology, not knee-jerk propaganda. 5:45 p.m. Oct. 20
‘The Swallows of Kabul’ (France/ Switzerland/ Luxembourg) Adapting a trilogy authored by Yasmina Khadra, Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec co-direct an indelible tale of tragic sacrifice by freedom seekers enduring Taliban repression. Four characters will connect: a Soviet war vet overseeing a small jail, his dying wife, and a young couple forbidden to teach history and drawing. A public execution in a soccer field looms. Swallows — shot out of the bright sky with Kalashnikovs — symbolize freedom. This animated drama employs a watercolor look and hand-drawn figures, although the Taliban are often eyeless. One special detail: English-language lyrics sampled from “Burka Blue,” a 2002 music video illegally shot by a burka-clad trio. 11 a.m. Oct. 20; 2:15 p.m. Oct. 25
‘Shorts 5: Life and Something More.’ Two fine shorts in this program observe role players. In “The Role” (Iran) by Farnoosh Samadi, a movie extra auditions for a part. He brings his wife and little daughter. He’s awful. Then she’s asked to read lines of his character’s wife. Cue a symbol: a white dove stuck behind a glass door flies free. Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite” and “The Lobster”) directs a truly weird little story titled “Nimic” (Germany/UK/U.S.) Matt Dillon plays a musician heading home from rehearsal when a woman on the subway asks, “Excuse me, do you have the time?” Somehow he loses his wife, three kids and his place in the orchestra. 1:45 p.m. Oct 20; 2:30 p.m. Oct. 21
‘Present.Perfect.’ (U. S./ Hong Kong) Shengze Zhu, who got an MFA at School of the Art Institute, edited 800 hours of black-and-white video she found on Chinese internet sites. People live-stream themselves at work and at home. Live-streamers see comments texted by their viewers, and reply on camera in real-time. We watch a sad sort of isolated labor. Live-streamers who feel unseen in real life work online to earn the attention of strangers who feel no one sees them either, except through their own screens. Paying attention is a two-way transaction. It’s community building in post-Communism. 2:30 p.m. Oct. 20
‘Cordillera of Dreams’ (Chile/ France) Patricio Guzmán fled his country in 1973 to finish making “The Battle of Chile,” a documentary trilogy on the fall of socialist Salvador Allende and rise of dictator Augusto Pinochet. His latest work is a poetic essay on his past and political history. As in “Nostalgia for the Light,” Guzmán seeks symbols in nature. This time it is the majestic mountain range that defines Chile: “It has seen things that people have hidden from us. If we could translate what the rocks say, we would have the answers today. 6 p.m Oct. 20; 1 p.m. Oct. 22