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‘Voices’ sings Chicago Fest lead

Travolta to receive Golden Hugo career nod

The 34th Chicago Intl. Film Festival opens tonight with the U.S. premiere of “Little Voice,” a tale of a woman who escapes a painful home life through song. Starring Jane Horrocks, Brenda Blethyn and Michael Caine, the film will be released by Miramax in North America.

The oldest competitive American fest, this year’s event will unspool over 14 days with more than 110 features, including 58 U.S. or North American premieres. Additionally, John Travolta will be honored with Chicago’s Golden Hugo career achievement, and directors John Boorman and Monte Hellman and actress Pam Grier will have special spotlight programs.

Global perspective

Christopher Lee heads this year’s jury, which includes “Antonia’s Line” actress Willeke van Ammelrooy, director Marion Hansel and Italian critic Guglielmo Biraghi. Nineteen features are in this year’s competition, including “Gods and Monsters,” starring Ian McKellen as “Frankenstein” director James Whale, poet Maya Angelou’s feature debut “Down in the Delta,” Claude Lelouch’s romantic saga “Luck or Coincidence,” the Taiwanese allegory “The Hole,” Hungarian filmmaker Gyorgy Feher’s “Passion” based on “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” the acclaimed Russian tale of crime and bonding “Land of the Deaf” and the Brazilian political thriller “Friendly Fire.”

A separate international critics panel will award prizes for first or second films among 12 entries that include behind-the-camera efforts for actors Jerome Krabbe and Joan Chen. Krabbe’s “Left Luggage” centers on the echoes of the Second World War for a couple liberated from a concentration camp, and Chen’s “Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl” is about a young woman sent to a remote province during the Cultural Revolution. Also competing are the Japanese love triangle pic “Falling Into Evening,” the grim futuristic “The Sleepwalker” from Argentina and the Slovenian romantic comedy “Gone With the Train.”

Competition docs

Documentaries being presented in competition include “Return With Honor,” on America POWs of the Vietnam conflict from the makers of Oscar-winning “Maya Lin,” the Sundance preemed “Moment of Impact” and “The Brandon Teena Story.” A noncompeting American indies program will present 14 new features.

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