Panahi’s ‘Crimson’ draws gold in Chi

'Distant,' 'Lili,' 'Dragon' also take kudos at fest

CHICAGO — “Crimson Gold,” Jafar Panahi’s portrait of social disparity that remains banned in the helmer’s native Iran, won the Gold Hugo at the 39th Chicago Film Festival.

The special jury prize went to Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan for his examination of two lonely men, “Distant.”

Acting nods went to French thesps Ludivine Sagnier for her leading role in “La Petite Lili” and to Pierre Boulanger, the youngster who plays opposite Omar Sharif in “Monsieur Ibrahim.”

A Gold Plaque went to Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang for his melancholy farewell to a movie theater and its denizens, “Goodbye Dragon Inn.”

A Gold Plaque also honored Manuel Claro’s cinematography in the Danish romantic brainteaser “Reconstruction.”

The Fipresci prize went to Jerome Bonnell’s “Olga’s Chignon.” The international critics jury also bestowed a special mention upon Peter Hedges’ “Pieces of April.”

Nathaniel Kahn’s “My Architect” won the Docufest competition. The Silver Hugo for documentary feature went to “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” by Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain .

France-based Cambodian Rithy Panh’s first-person doc “S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine” shared the Gold Plaque with Jonathan Demme’s “The Agronomist.”

John Cadigan’s “People Say I’m Crazy” won the Silver Plaque.

“We know Chicago’s a sports town — we hope to make it a film town for at least part of the year,” fest founder and artistic director Michael Kutza said shortly after 40,000 competitors in the Chicago Marathon ran by on Sunday during the awards ceremony.

Fest attendance has proved remarkably strong despite citywide fervor for the Cubs, who haven’t got this far in the baseball playoffs since 1945. One of the two fest theaters, the Music Box, is only a few blocks from Wrigley Field, within the radius where parking spots are going for as much as $100.

Fest tributes included a lifetime achievement award to Robert Benton, whose “The Human Stain” opened the fest Oct. 2; a career achievement nod to Robert Downey Jr. and an excellence in filmmaking award to Taye Diggs, this edition’s Black Perspectives honoree.

Although the Cubs were playing a home game, 600 people turned out for a screening of Roger Ebert’s signature pick: Yasijiro Ozu’s 1932 silent classic “I Was Born, But …” with one of Japan’s leading “benshi,” Sawato Midori, performing voice characterizations of all the roles. Ebert was in fine form at his first public appearance following hospitalization for an ongoing medical condition.

Reps from distribs including Palm Pictures, New Yorker Films, Wellspring Media and Manhattan Pictures hit Chicago in search of acquisitions. Paris-based sales agent Claude Nouchi of MGI Intl. came to town to prospect for a U.S. distrib for Fipresci winner “Olga’s Chignon,” which has already sold to 20 territories.

Fest runs through Thursday, with the Audience Choice award to be tallied at the end. Closing night pic is Billy Ray’s “Shattered Glass.”

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