By Ray Pride

Chicago Int’l Film Fest Names Mimi Plauché Artistic Director; Founder Michael Kutza Now President-CEO

[PR] Cinema/Chicago, the parent organization of the Chicago International Film Festival, announced the promotion of two long-time employees.  Mimi Plauché has been named Artistic Director of the Chicago International Film Festival and Cinema/Chicago, effective immediately. Michael Kutza, who founded the Festival in 1964 and has since served as Artistic Director, will continue to serve as the President and CEO, with a dedicated new focus on overseeing operations, the branding of the larger Cinema/Chicago organization, fundraising and supporting the expansion of education programs.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the growth of Cinema/Chicago,” said Governing Board Chair Penelope R. Steiner. “Having Michael’s time and attention focused on helming the organization’s year-round branding and fundraising efforts will enable us to expand in a multitude of ways.  Mimi’s extensive knowledge of film, her longstanding relationships with studios and filmmakers and – more than anything — her impeccable taste, make it clear that the artistic leadership of the Festival is in extraordinarily capable hands.”

Plauché has worked in the programming department of Cinema/Chicago since 2006, most recently holding the title of Programming Director. As Artistic Director, she will be responsible for all film programming at the Chicago International Film Festival as well as Cinema/Chicago’s year-round programing including various community partnership-related programming throughout Chicago. She also will scout the latest work of international filmmakers, including established and emerging artists, to identify films and filmmakers to showcase at the annual Chicago International Film Festival and in other programs throughout the year.  She will travel extensively to represent the Festival and Cinema/Chicago across the global film festival scene, including attending film festivals in Cannes, Berlin and many more.

Kutza, who has served as Artistic Director since the Festival’s founding (and has held that title longer than any other Festival artistic director), will now hold the title of President and CEO of Cinema/Chicago, the parent corporation of the Chicago International Film Festival. He will work full time consulting on business affairs of the non-profit arts institution, overseeing the visual representation of the organization’s year-round programs. He will also continue to attend international film festivals and advise on films, galas, special presentations and tributes presented by the organization.

“Having served as Artistic Director for more than 50 years, since the inaugural Film Festival, I can think of no person better qualified to serve as Artistic Director than Mimi,” said Kutza. “From the moment we began working together, we have forged a partnership to curate the Festival’s programming, and she has challenged me to grow the Festival in innovative new directions.  She is smart, forward-thinking and has an incredible eye for talent and excellent filmmaking.  Entrusting her with the artistic leadership of the Festival allows me to focus my attention on other divisions of our organization so Cinema/Chicago can grow into an even more prominent showcase for the best in cinematic arts.”

“It is a great honor to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the organization’s artistic direction, and I am excited to be guiding the continued evolution of our world-renowned film festival,” added Plauché. “Michael has been my mentor and collaborator for more than a decade.  I look forward to carrying on the tradition of bringing the finest in international and independent cinema to Chicago’s adventurous and informed Festival audiences. I am also working to expand the Festival through strategic growth and dynamic community partnerships to better support the international and local filmmaking communities and best serve our audiences.”

About Mimi Plauché

Mimi Plauché was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, and graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina cum laude with a BA in English. Before joining Cinema/Chicago, she earned an MA in Japanese Studies and worked on a doctorate in Japanese literature and film at the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. She is the recipient of Fulbright-Hays, Japan Foundation and Social Science Research Council fellowships, among others. While living in Japan, she worked for the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. During her tenure at Cinema/Chicago, she has programmed documentaries, short films, features and most recently held the title of Programming Director. She has served on juries and as programming advisor at a number of film festivals around the world.

About Michael Kutza

In 1964, at the age of 22, Michael Kutza founded the Chicago International Film Festival. He has been a lifelong advocate for the cinematic arts, and is responsible for having served as artistic director of 52 Chicago International Film Festivals.  He was among the first to showcase the emerging work of some of the film industry’s most remarkable directors, including Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Tsai Ming-liang, Mike Leigh, Michael Moore, John Carpenter, and Taylor Hackford, among many others. 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, Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine, François Truffaut, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Jodie Foster, Halle Berry, Clint Eastwood, Sidney Poitier, and many more.

Kutza was 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 at the 32nd Venice International Film Festival, awarded for organizing a special section devoted to US 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, 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 Knight of the Legion of Honour 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.”

About the Chicago International Film Festival and Cinema/Chicago

Founded in 1964, the Chicago International Film Festival is North America’s oldest competitive film festival.  Its parent corporation, Cinema/Chicago, brings a diverse array of year-round events and activities celebrating international film to Chicago to enrich the community. These include its Education Program, which brings independent and international film to thousands of Chicago Public School students each year; the Chicago International Television Festival celebrating the art of the small screen; the annual CineYouth Festival showcasing the work of young filmmakers; and free weekly film screenings over four months of the summer presented in collaboration with the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and with its Chicago-based consular and cultural partners.

Michael Kutza is the President and CEO of Cinema/Chicago.  Mimi Plauché is the Artistic Director of the Chicago International Film Festival and Cinema/Chicago, continuing to report to the CEO in both her roles.  Vivian Teng is the Managing Director of Cinema/Chicago, also reporting to the CEO.

The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival will take place October 12-26, 2017 at Chicago’s AMC River East theater; entries are now open at  Cinema Chicago will host a series of free International Screenings May 31 – Oct. 4.  For additional information on all programs and events, visit

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