(CBS) — Before Sundance, before Toronto, there was Chicago. Recognized as the first international film festival in North America, this year marks its 50th anniversary.

“It’s a big celebration of founder Michael Kutza who is still the artistic director, his tenure here as well as an amazing 50 years of great films in Chicago,” said Mimi Plauche, Programming Director, Chicago International Film Festival.

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“One of the things I love about programming the festival is that it is really international in nature and we have such great audiences that really love everything from Indie stuff and really quirky funny stuff to really intense, powerful drama.”

The Chicago International Film Festival is even better known around the world than it is in the United States.

“We’re showcasing films from over 70 countries this year. We have such a great ethnic population in Chicago and people come out to see movies from their home country,” said Plauche.

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This year’s committee, made up of film professionals, watched 4,500 submitted entries ranging from short films, to documentaries to narrative features, rated them and cut it down to the 200 that will be featured over 15 days.

“Final decisions are made here by the programming team. We do to try to have a nice mix of comedy and drama. We have great light hearted and some great dark comedies from Scandinavia this year.”

Over the past 50 years, everyone from Bette Davis to Jack Nicholson, to Martin Scorsese to Clint Eastwood have either been featured or were in attendance.

This year’s 50th anniversary Festival will also feature a selection of special screenings, featuring the work of returning filmmakers like Oliver Stone and Michael Moore who will be in attendance. Stone will be screening the director’s cut version of “Natural Born Killers” and “Alexander.”

Colin Farrell is expected to be on hand when his film, “Miss Julie,” kicks off the film festival Thursday at the Harris Theater.

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60,000 people are expected to attend The Chicago International Film Festival which takes place Oct. 9-23 at AMC River East.