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The Chicago International Film Festival: An MSLCE perspective

by Imani Davis

There are so many things in Chicago that can quench the creative thirst of MSLCE students looking to make the most of their time in the program. A hallmark of the film community in the city is the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF), founded in 1964. There are a variety of ways for people to get involved in the festivities outside of being an attendee; attending Industry Days, Volunteering, and Interning. This year, I volunteered at the festival and had the privilege of interviewing MSLCE alum Yuki Solomon ’19, who was a programming intern reporting to artistic director, Mimi Plauche at the time of our interview and who now works as Special Events Coordinator for the festival.

Volunteering with CIFF is a fun way to meet people and lend a helping hand to the mission. It is also one of the best ways to make yourself competitive for paid opportunities with the festival. During the volunteer orientation, our presenters—who are paid seasonal employees of the festival—all mentioned how they started off with volunteering. Even if a seasonal position with the festival isn’t one of your goals, it is still a great way to mingle with other film lovers and creatives. During my shifts, I met people who have been volunteering with CIFF for decades.

It was great to find out that MSLCE students can and have had the opportunity to intern with CIFF. They offer a wide variety of areas to intern with and learn more about the film festival industry including arts administration, programming, development & membership, education, event management, and marketing/publicity. I got the chance to sit and chat with Yuki Solomon ’19, an MSLCE alum, programming intern, and documentary filmmaker. This was not Yuki’s first film-related internship in Chicago. She also took on an internship with Full Spectrum Features during her time with MSLCE. She still keeps in touch with her mentors at Full Spectrum, saying: “we get connected through the Chicago film events including festivals and special events—I appreciate having a relationship with them”.

Once her Full Spectrum internship concluded, recognizing the importance of festivals and their power in showcasing underrepresented voices, she turned her attention to CIFF. In her role as a programming intern for the Chicago International Film Festival, she is one of two to work with artistic director Mimi Plauche, who is responsible for all film programming at the Chicago International Film Festival as well as Cinema/Chicago’s year-round programming throughout the city. Yuki provides support to Plauche by watching the submitted films and contributing in other areas as well. Yuki is especially proud of the representation of Japanese films in the festival’s line-up this year. As a Japanese speaker, she was able to have great influence on this area. With so many submissions and films to curate, it can be hard for Plauche and the rest of the festival programmers to pay close attention to every single country. Recruiting a diverse set of interns and staff can help with this immensely, as shown through Yuki and her accomplishments.

Overall, my experience with CIFF was one that I’ll always remember. I am consistently reminded of all the vibrant creative spirit of the city, especially during big headline events such as this. People are so kind and welcoming, which is just another reason to invest artistic energy in Chicago. I am thankful for MSLCE and its many connections to the festival. The program and the opportunities it provides to immerse students in the Chicago creative industry are extremely valuable. The relationships that you can build through Industry Days participation, volunteering, and interning are what makes Chicago a place that is rife with opportunity.

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