Chicago film fest head Mimi Plauche receives award from the Ministry of Culture’s Order of Arts and Letters

Cited as an “internationally recognized programming director” committed to “bringing the best French cinema to Chicago audiences,” Chicago International Film Festival artistic director Mimi Plauche has been named Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres — a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, administered by the French Ministry of Culture.

Previous recipients of the honorary distinction include Marlene Dietrich, George Clooney, Sting, and Chicago International Film Festival founder Michael Kutza. Former Tribune film critic and current New York-based Museum of Modern Art film curator Dave Kehr is another past awardee of the Chevalier medallion.

The French culture ministry can award up to 200 Chevalier recipients in a given year, with both French and foreign nationals eligible if they’ve “significantly contributed to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance,” per culture ministry regulations.

Plauche receives her medallion in Chicago on Sept. 13 in a ceremony hosted by Tanguy Accart, the local Cultural Attaché of the French Consulate. It’ll be a part of the nonprofit Cinema/Chicago’s “Light, Camera, Chicago” fundraiser. More information is available at

Second only to U.S. titles, contemporary French cinema typically accounts for the most prominent programming block on the annual Chicago International Film Festival calendar. “The way I see my relationship to French cinema and French culture is to introduce new voices and new directors to Chicago,” Plauche told the Tribune.

Given the second-year persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, this fall’s festival will, like last year’s, constitute a hybrid with some in-person screenings and many virtual offerings. The festival will use a wider variety of venues than it has in recent years, Plauche noted, declining to discuss specifics.

She spoke of a pandemically evolving festival model that requires — perhaps indefinitely, if vaccination rates fail to reach herd immunity levels, and if variants such as the current delta strain remain in circulation — ”what will work best in this new world.”

There are three levels comprising the Order of Arts and Letters. Above Chevalier, the Officer grade has been awarded in past years to everyone from choreographer Bill T. Jones to Hollywood legend Faye Dunaway to writer-director Jim Jarmusch.

At the top, the mighty Commander grade is represented by Bob Dylan, Audrey Hepburn, Kong Kong master filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, Clint Eastwood, Patti Smith and — yes, damn it, he deserved it — Jerry Lewis.

The 2021 Chicago International Film Festival will be held Oct. 13-24, with venues and the full line-up announced Sept. 20.

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

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Twitter @phillipstribune

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