Today at the Chicago International Film Festival: ‘Ghost Tropic,’ ‘Initials S.G.,’ ‘Harriet’

Julianne Nicholson, Cynthia Erivo star in notable screenings today.

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‘Initials S.G.’

Chicago International Film Festival

The Chicago International Film Festival continues through Sunday at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois.

‘Ghost Tropic’ (France) Flemish writer-director Bas Devos follows Khadija (Saadia Bentaieb), a 58-year-old office cleaner of Maghrebi background. On a break with co-workers she laughs very hard and very long at a joke about an outsider in a strange land. Then she makes her way home through Brussels at night, after a bit of bad luck on public transportation. Rendered on 16mm color film, her itinerary yields a nuanced European cityscape, as well as insight into a kind soul finding solace from strangers on the night shift. In one encounter she aids an ill homeless man and his dog. Karma ensues. 12:30 p.m. Oct. 26

‘Initials S.G.’ (Argentina/Lebanon/U.S.) Rania Attieh and Daniel García co-write and co-direct what they call “a dark comedy of a deluded individual.” Sergio Garces (Diego Peretti) shares the initials of French singer Serge Gainsbourg, whose tunes he once covered in a Spanish-language LP. This film extra and porn actor gets picked up by Jane (the always amazing Julianne Nicholson), a film distributor from New York City who’s in Buenos Aires for a film festival. S.J. gets an award for appearing in 16 different entries. But the couple find themselves living out a seriocomic noir, complete with a nocturnal burial by the headlights of a car. Enjoy the edgy irony. 5:45 p.m. Oct. 26; 6:45 p.m. Oct. 27

`Harriet’ (U.S.) Minty (Cynthia Erivo) escapes her Maryland owners and calls herself Harriet Tubman. Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”) directs and co-writes this rousing biopic about an underground railroad conductor who turns into a Union Army spy and leads African-Americans into combat against Confederate forces. It comes as no surprise that Lemmons pitched her Harriet as “a young action hero.” Long after Harriet’s proud renaming, her pursuit of liberty continues to this day in the usage “enslaved person” now upgrading the dehumanizing term “slave.” 8 p.m. Oct. 26 

Bill Stamets is a Chicago freelance writer.

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