Summer Gala Honors Kutza

Summer Gala Honors Kutza

More than 300 guests came together for Cinema/Chicago’s Summer Gala honoring Michael Kutza’s extraordinary 55-year career leading the Chicago International Film Festival on Saturday, July 14. Chaired by Chaz Ebert, Candace Jordan and Maria Pappas, the event featured film industry luminaries including Kathleen Turner, Paula Wagner, Terrence Howard, Andrew Davis, Joe Swanberg and Steve James, among others.

Honorary Chairs were Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner. Many past Festival guests and honorees sent special congratulatory videos, including Tom Cruise, Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Douglas, Taylor Hackford, Sophia Loren, Helen Mirren, Martin Scorsese, Liv Ullmann and Robert Zemeckis. VIP Chicagoans in attendance included current board members Robert Scarpelli and Randy Crumpton, Victor Skrebneski (a long-time supporter who had created many of the Festival’s iconic posters), Ken Nordine (the “voice” of Cinema/Chicago), Desiree Rogers, Linda Johnson Rice, Christie Hefner, Stanley Paul and Tom Kehoe, as well as Artistic Director Mimi Plauché and Managing Director Vivian Teng. The event was produced by Donna LaPietra and Bill Kurtis.

Earlier this year, Kutza, Founder and CEO of Cinema/Chicago, announced that he will be retiring from his role at the end of 2018.

The highlight of the evening was a career retrospective conversation between Ebert and Kutza, during which he reminisced about the early days of the Festival, how he had reinvented the programming over the years and guests who had made a particularly striking impression on him. Following the conversation, Kutza strolled the room and publicly acknowledged friends who had supported the Festival over the decades. To conclude the evening, singer Kari Keillor took the microphone and surprised the crowd with a performance of the Barbra Streisand classic “You’re Gonna Hear from Me,” the song that inspired the title of Kutza’s forthcoming autobiography.

Kutza founded the Chicago International Film Festival at age 22 in 1964 with silent screen star Colleen Moore; the Festival made its debut at the Carnegie Theatre at Rush and Oak Streets on November 9, 1965. Kutza served as Artistic Director through 2017, holding that title longer than any other film festival artistic director, at which time he passed the baton to Plauché and was promoted to CEO. Following Kutza’s retirement, he will become Emeritus CEO. Cinema/Chicago will continue to operate with Teng as Managing Director and Plauché as Artistic Director. No replacement has been named to succeed Kutza.

Over the course of his 55-year career, Kutza was responsible for supporting the early careers of directors who have gone on to be regarded as some of the film industry’s most acclaimed figures, including Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Krzysztof Zanussi, Claude Lelouch, Wim Wenders, Margarethe von Trotta, Tsai Ming-liang, Mike Leigh, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, John Carpenter, Joe Swanberg and Taylor Hackford, among many others. He also continuously programmed cutting-edge films from across the globe to draw attention to previously untold stories and undiscovered new talent. Under his leadership, a who’s who of the film industry’s elite has attended the Festival and its special events, including Harold Lloyd, Bette Davis, Jack Lemmon, Vincente Minnelli, Sophia Loren, Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine, François Truffaut, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood, Liv Ullmann, Jodie Foster, Halle Berry, Al Pacino, Sidney Poitier, Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda, Chadwick Boseman, Vanessa Redgrave, and many more.

Kutza has been awarded countless honors over the course of his storied career, including being named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, awarded by French Minister of Culture Jacques Lang, at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984. He also received the Silver Lion Award from the 32nd Venice International Film Festival, awarded for organizing a special section devoted to U.S. independent filmmakers. He received the Chicago Sun-Times award for "Exceptional Contribution to Chicago.” In 2010, Chicago Magazine included Kutza on their list of “Top 40 Chicago Visionaries.” In 2012, he received the Sydney Pollack Award from the American Cinematheque, honoring a person “who has been of critical importance and continuing influence in non-profit film exhibition, film preservation and/or independent film distribution.” In June 2015, Kutza was named a Chevalier de la Legion of d'Honneur by the President of the French Republic for his achievements as "an internationally recognized graphic designer, filmmaker and the Founder of the Chicago International Film Festival." And, in 2017, Kutza received the Onorificenza di Cavalierato, the highest honor awarded to a person in the arts, from the President of the Italian Republic.

Thee 54th Chicago International Film Festival will be presented October 10-21, 2018.