CHICAGO, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- The 49th Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) rolled out red carpet Thursday evening for celebrities and filmmakers at the opening ceremony at the Chicago Theater.
As the longest running film festival in the United States, the opening of this year's CIFF was dedicated to Roger Ebert, a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in April 2013. He was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1975.
"Roger has been an integral part of the Chicago International Film Festival from its earliest days," said Festival Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kutza.
Chez Ebert, Roger Ebert's wife, attended the opening ceremony.
"Roger was very much a fan of movies from China," she told Xinhua.
She said CIFF features many films from all over the world. "That's another thing he (Roger Ebert) really appreciated about the Chicago International Film Festival."
A total of 180 films from 60 countries will be presented at 2013 CIFF and will compete in several categories, such as the International Feature Competition and the New Directors Competition.
"The Blinding Sunlight" directed by Liu Yu, China, will compete in the New Directors category. It tells a story of three generations of men living together in a poor Beijing neighborhood through very realistic lens. It is the film's premiere in the United States.
Meanwhile, 13 films worldwide will run for CIFF's inaugural Q-Hugo Film Award that focuses on sexuality and identity. "Voyage from Hong Kong" directed by Scud and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" from Taiwan director Arvin Chen are selected for this competition.
Presented at the opening night is the U.S. film "The Immigrant," directed by James Gray and starring Academy Award-winning actress Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner.
James Gray told Xinhua the film is a combination of family story with history.
"I had a great aunt who was 104 years old when she died," said Gray. "She would tell me stories about coming to the United States and what it was like. And I started writing them down."
Gray said he had been to China a few times and knew quite a few Chinese filmmakers.
"Many interesting things are coming out of the country," he said.
Lana Wachowski, well-known director of The Matrix, Speed Racer, and Cloud Atlas who was born and raised in Chicago, told Xinhua: "I've been attending the Chicago Film Festival since I was very little. I saw so many important movies that were huge influences on me."
"In many ways, I'm a filmmaker because of this film festival,"she added
CIFF's films will be on show at AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois St. until October 24.