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Film Thu Oct 25 2012

Chicago International Film Festival's Black Perspectives Salutes Actress Viola Davis

The Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) is easily recognized as one of the largest and most diverse of its kind; with screenings of over 100 films, this two-week festival, now in its 48th year, is the ultimate cinematic showcase of films--and filmmakers--from all over the globe.

VIOLA.JPG

Actress Viola Davis; photo courtesy of Steve Starr.

One part of the CIFF was the recognition of "Leading Ladies of Cinema," which honored actresses Helen Hunt, Joan Allen and Viola Davis with the Silver Hugo Award for "significant achievements and contributions to the arts."

This past Monday night, the festival belonged to Davis, a Tony Award winner and Academy Award nominee, as she was also honored with the Chicago International Film Festival Career Achievement Award via Black Perspectives, a program within the festival that recognizes films and actors from the black diaspora.

Emceed by FOX-32's Robin Robinson and held at the AMC River East 21 Theater, 322 E. Illinois St., the 16th annual Black Perspectives program consisted of a retrospective of Davis' body of work, with clips from films such as Antwone Fisher (2002), Solaris (2002) Doubt (2008) and The Help (2011).

Actress and director Regina Taylor, who serves as an artistic associate at the Goodman Theatre, conducted the interview with Davis in an "Inside the Actor's Studio" style, and covered subjects including challenges facing black actresses in Hollywood, why she prefers producing over directing ("there's more power in producing"), the "Oscar curse," the rigors of and preparation for awards' season, and the production company she started with husband, actor Julius Tennon.

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Actresses Regina Taylor (l) and Viola Davis (r) at CIFF; photo: Bob Dowey Photography.

But it was during the discussion of her role as maid Aibileen Clark, her character in The Help, when the actress was the most pensive. Despite an inevitable Best Actress Oscar nomination for the part, she admitted she found herself amid a number of [media] "defense tours" as she addressed the barrage of criticism that she, and the movie itself, received. She did, however, manage to move beyond the backlash and accept the lessons learned along the way.

Regarding the film, when Taylor asked, "What was your experience during the press circuit for The Help and what did it teach you?" For Davis, the lesson was simple: "It taught me to find my voice as an artist."

The Chicago International Film Festival closes tonight with a screening of Flight, starring Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington. For more information, visit CIFF or call 312-683-0121.

 
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