Chicago International Film Festival: Into the Clouds We Gaze (MCOM 4735, 6735 / IFDI 5735: Documentary Filmmaking Critical Viewing Assignment)

For my documentary film class, I also had to see a film at the Chicago International Film Festival.

MCOM 4735, 6735 / IFDI 5735:  Documentary Filmmaking

Critical Viewing Assignment – Due:  October 27th


Part of the fun of being a filmmaker is that you’re expected to watch A LOT of films.  It’s no different in this class, as one of your assignments is to view a documentary film at the upcoming film festival.


The 50th Annual Chicago International Film Festival will be taking place in Chicago on October 9th through October 23rd.  There are several documentary films that will be shown throughout the course of the film festival.  Please check the Chicago International Film Festival’s website for film descriptions, showtimes, and the theatre’s location:  It is not unusual for a film’s director or cast member to take part in a Q&A sessions after the screening.  If this is the case with your film, your participation is highly recommended, as you can learn a lot about the filmmaking process from these industry professionals.


Your papers should be 3-7 pages long (double-spaced) and it should include the following things:

  • A summary of the film
  • Production elements (demographics, overall theme(s), shooting techniques, etc.)
  • Personal reflection on your experience at the film festival

I hope you enjoy the festival!


Ellis Sutton

MCOM 4735, 6735 / IFDI 5735:  Documentary Filmmaking

Critical Viewing Assignment

On Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 4:30 PM, I went to the Chicago International Film Festival at the AMC River East 21 theater to see the documentary film Into the Clouds We Gaze.  It follows a young man named Rada who lives in the northern Bohemia region of the Czech Republic.

Rada seems to have only one thing that he truly cares about in life: his car, a Ford Escort, and customizing it with stereos and lights.  Rada also goes to festivals where electronic dance music is played, and where people show off their cars at night while playing their music.

Rada also has practical things to care about.  He does not have stable employment throughout the documentary.  Near the beginning of the film, he gets a job at a factory.  He eventually changes to jobs to one at a farm, handling the heavy machinery there.

In the meantime, Rada spends time with his girlfriend who has a young daughter from a previous relationship.  She at one point expresses how she is afraid to tell her daughter the truth about her father who abandoned them when she became pregnant.

Rada eventually leaves her for another young woman that he cares more about and had stronger feelings for.

The film ends with Rada doing what he has done throughout the entire film: meandering about through his life not having any real direction.

The documentary was directed by Martin Dusek.  I watched an interview with Dusek, and he said that his goal was to document a young man who has no real purpose for his life that he has determined, and who is not particularly unique or interesting.

Thinking about this film, it is hard to understand the point, but the director’s words make it clear that the point is that there is no real point at all.

The film does not seem to have much of a real story arc, and while things happen, they did not seem to add anything to the film.  It was just a documentation of a young man who does things without much of a real purpose.

The production aspects were interesting.  The documentary is in a cinema verite style.  There is no narration.  There are no lower-thirds or “talking head” interviews.  The subjects are followed as they engage in their day to day lives.  They do not seem to acknowledge the camera.

The cinematography looked clean and clear.  There was a variety of camera angles such as close-up, long shots, medium shots, and anything one could think of.

This was only the second time I went to the Festival. (I had gone the previous day.)  I knew what to expect, and therefore, things were straight forward.

An interesting thing about the screening is that the director of the documentary attended the screening, and he introduced the film, which was great.

This concludes my paper.  While, I did not completely enjoy the film, and I considered it to have its share of flaws, I am more than willing to attend the CIFF again next year.



Chicago International Film Festival: Tir (MCOM 4731 / 6731 & IFDI 5731: Screenwriting Critical Viewing Assignment)

For my screenwriting class, we had to attend the Chicago International Film Festival and write a paper on our experiences there.

MCOM 4731 / 6731 & IFDI 5731: Screenwriting

Critical Viewing Assignment – Due: October 29th

Part of the fun of bring a filmmaker is that you’re expected to watch A LOT of films.  It’s no different in this class, as one of your assignments is to view and critique a recent narrative film.


We are very lucky to live in the city we do, as film is a very appreciated art form in

Chicago. An example of this appreciation is the Chicago International Film Festival that is being held at the AMC Theatres (River East), from October 9th – October 23rd. You are expected to view one narrative film that is being shown as a part of the film festival. Please be aware that the tickets to the film festival sell out fast, so it’s highly recommended that you buy your tickets ahead of time.


Your paper should be 2-3 pages long (single-spaced) and should include the following elements:

  • A summary of the film and it’s structure – what was the film about, who the main characters were, etc.
  • Obvious production elements (shooting techniques, editing style, etc.)
  • Character Analysis – were the characters within the film interesting, was it an active or inactive protagonist, was the antagonist superior to the protagonist, did the characters have interesting relationships with the supplemental characters within the film, etc.
  • Personal reflection on your experience watching the film – would you recommend it to a friend, did you gain something from watching it, etc.
  • And finally, what was your impression of the film festival? Did you enjoy the overall experience? Would you attend the film festival again?


The website for the Chicago International Film Festival is the following:


Ellis Sutton

MCOM 4731 / 6731 & IFDI 5731: Screenwriting

Critical Viewing Assignment


On Monday, October 20, 2014 at 1:00 PM, I went to the Chicago International Film Festival at the AMC River East 21 theater to see the movie Tir.  It focuses on two men: Branko and Maki.  They are truck drivers who take turns driving a freight truck all over the continent of Europe.  The film is an Italian-Croatian co-production, and it is spoken in the Croatian, Italian, and Slovenian languages.

Branko struggles with this job because it requires him to be away from home from his wife Isa for what appears to be many weeks and maybe a few months at a time.  He was a teacher back home, but changed careers in order to preserve his family’s financial security.  Not only that, working as a truck driver enables him to earn three times more money than he could earn working as a teacher.  Maki’s role in the film is as Branko’s friend.

It is difficult to discuss the film’s plot.  That is mainly because this film does not have a plot.  It simply meanders about for around ninety minutes depicting things such as the two men driving, unloading cargo from the truck, Branko talking to his wife on the phone, and lots of things.  Nothing really made sense.  Things happened for no real reason.

Late in the film, Branko tries to park his truck somewhere, but he struggles to find a place because a large number of men are protesting, I assume, unfair working conditions and such for truck drivers.  However, I did not understand, precisely, why they were protesting or what they had to gain from it.  It simply made no sense.

The ending also does not make much sense, and it seems as though there is no real, true resolution.  Branko simply continues on with his job as a truck driver.  Earlier in the film, he received a call from his wife, letting him know that a teaching position opened up, and he could finally give up his job as a truck driver and come home, but he refused to take it because of money reasons.  On the one hand, I can understand his viewpoint because sometimes people have to do what they have to do rather than follow their hearts.  Branko seems to simply move on with his life as it already is, and he makes no changes.  He does not grow as a person, as far as I could tell.  He does the same thing at the end of the story as he did at the beginning of the story., and there seems to be no reason why that is the case; there is a lack of introspection and character insight to explain why Branko ends up in the exact same place that he was in the very beginning of the movie.

The look of the film was rather nice.  It looked lively during daytime scenes, and the look of the film always matched the mood of the scene.

Closeups were effective in conveying emotional scenes such as the phone conversations Branko had with his wife.  There were also several scenes where we saw the perspective of Branko or Maki driving the truck; in other words, it was a first-person view of the road.  There were also several beautiful shots of the expressways.

The theme of the film is about how people are often forced to choose give up their passions so that they can earn enough money to be financially stable.  The film, however, was not structured well enough to fully explore that theme.

With regards to my experience at the film festival, there was a bit of hassle.

First, I procrastinated.  I did not make plans to pick a film and go to the festival until the weekend before.  There did not seem to be much of a selection left, and therefore, I was somewhat concerned with there not being anything interesting to see.  Looking through the schedule days later, I learned that there were screenings of old, classic movies such as Psycho and A Star Is Born.  I would have loved to see films such as that on the big screen.

When I got to the theater I remarked to myself that it is how the film festival will be in a normal movie theater.  I figured that the reason was, perhaps, that while things are changing, the film industry in Chicago is not as strong as it is in New York City and, of course, Los Angeles.  Also, I was not aware of any famous people coming to the theater.

This was a special experience for me because this was the first time since Father’s Day 2010, when my family and I saw Toy Story 3.  Lack of money, time, and people willing to go with me prevented me from being able to see any movies until the CIFF.

I liked the theater.  It was the biggest one I had ever been in.  The individual screens were smaller than other theaters I got into.  A classmate was also there.

This is all I can say about my experience of the festival.  I hope to be able to do it again next year.