The 56th Chicago International Film Festival awarded its top prize, a Gold Hugo, to “Sweat.” Due to COVID-19, the ceremony was live-streamed Friday morning on YouTube. Apt for pandemic distancing, this poignant drama portrays a lonely online fitness influencer. “Sweat” also won a best art direction award.
“I can only speak into a computer but I guess that’s the life we have nowadays,” said Magnus von Horn, Swedish director of “Sweat.” Zooming from Warsaw, he added: “Because there’s such a big Polish population in Chicago. Pay attention, not only the Poles but everyone else, [to] what’s happening in Poland right now… [T]he government is trying to take away the freedom of choice to women and families and please react strongly. What’s going on is crazy.”
The Silver Hugo Jury Prize went to “Careless Crime,” Shahram Mokri’s remarkable reflexive drama about an Iranian movie theater targeted by anti-Shah arsonists in 1978. Soviet suppression of strikers in 1962 is the timely theme of Andrei Konchalovsky’s “Dear Comrades!” (Russia), which earned him a Silver Hugo for best director.
Other recognition in the International Feature Film Competition included a best performance Silver Hugo for actor Yakusho Koji in “Under the Open Sky” (Japan). Eight actors in “And Tomorrow the Entire World” (Germany) shared a best ensemble performance Silver Hugo.
“Apples” (Greece) received a Silver Hugo for best screenplay. “Night of the Kings” (Côte d’Ivoire, France, Canada, Senegal) copped dual kudos for best cinematography and best sound.
The New Directors Competition jury voted a Gold Hugo for “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time” (Hungary) and a Silver Hugo for “The Special” (Venezuela, U.S.). Chaz Ebert presented the Roger Ebert Award to “Memory House (Brazil, France).
The International Documentary Competition jury gave a Gold Hugo to “Things We Dare Not Do” (Mexico), which also got a Gold Q-Hugo in the Out-Look Competition for entries on “sexuality and identity.” A Silver Q-Hugo went to “Days” by art house auteur Tsai Ming-Liang (Taiwan).
Six shorts won nods from jurors. The Chicago Award for a short made in Chicago or Illinois went to “Patois,” co-directed by Rogers Park native Andre Muir (“4 Corners”) and Columbia College grad Danielle Alston.
Presented by the nonprofit Cinema/ Chicago, the city’s oldest film festival continues through Sunday with online screenings, including “Sweat” and “Careless Crime.” Visit chicagofilmfestival.com
Bill Stamets is a Chicago freelance writer.