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May 2009 Film Calendar

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April 10, 2009 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Block Cinema, a collaboration of the Northwestern University School of Communication and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, screens classic and contemporary films. Block Cinema is dedicated to providing the Northwestern campus, the North Shore and the Chicago area with a quality venue for repertory cinema.

All films are screened in the James B. Pick and Rosalyn M. Laudati Auditorium at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum.

Unless otherwise noted, general admission to Block Cinema screenings is $6 for the general public or $4 for Block Museum members, Northwestern faculty and staff, senior citizens aged 65 and older, and students with IDs. Special events are $10. Season passes are $20. Tickets are available 30 minutes before show time. For more information, call the Block Cinema Hotline at (847) 491-4000 or visit the Block Cinema Web site at http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/block-cinema.

Block Cinema is screening films in three new series this spring -- Gordon Parks, Biomimicry and 60s Godard.

The Gordon Parks series complements the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art's Spring 2009 main gallery exhibition "Bare Witnesss: Photographs by Gordon Parks," on display in the Main Gallery through June 28. It celebrates the works of Parks (1912-2006), a barrier-breaking African American artist and photographer. The breath of his work covers journalistic, fashion and fine art photography, feature filmmaking, documentary filmmaking, composing, writing, painting, poetry and activism. Parks turned to cinema writing and music in the late 1960s, directing several motion pictures, including "Shaft" and "Shaft's Big Score." Most of his films, however, were made independently, and many of the 16 mm and 35 mm prints have been lost. Block Cinema has assembled a small selection of rarely shown films that underscore the importance of preserving fragile, pioneering and vital works of art.

The title of the Biomimicry series is borrowed from the name of a field of engineering which uses nature to find solutions to design problems and that has produced Velcro fasteners and autonomous insectoid robots. At its roots, "biomimicry" describes the process of reproducing life with technology. The films selected for this series represent a cross-section of science fiction, drama, action and adventure stories, all of which focus on the divide between human and robot, and explore how technology can, in very real ways, make us less human.

The 60s Godard series examines the 1960s cinema dawning of the French New Wave, the name for a group of directors who drew their inspiration from classic French and American cinema, but made movies for the "baby boom" generation. Among the movement's directors, Jean-Luc Godard led the French New Wave in its honoring and remaking of cinema. He understood that the New Wave needed to do more than inject new energy into cinema -- they had to reinvent it.

Block Cinema will also be the primary venue for The Talking Pictures Festival (May 1 to 3), Evanston's first film festival. The three-day festival is organized by independent filmmakers Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger of Percolator Films, a new Evanston media arts organization that also coordinates the 10-year-old REELTIME film and discussion series. The festival will highlight independent films from around the world as well as new offerings by local filmmakers. Screenings will include short and full-length animated films, documentaries, and feature, fiction, music and youth films.

Block Cinema will also be the venue for an event (May 13) sponsored by Northwestern student group Inspire Films as a part of their Symposium for Social Issues Media. Its three short films will address social issues, including the viability of Israel, sexual assault around the globe and minimum sentencing guidelines for drug-related felonies.

The following is a listing of Block Cinema film screenings and events in May.

MAY 2009 EVENTS

Talking Pictures Festival, "1000 Journals," 6 p.m. Friday, May 1 (Andrea Kreuzhage, 2007, United States, 88 minutes, video). San Francisco artist Someguy became a 21st century version of Johnny Appleseed when he released 1,000 blank journals into the world with an invitation for others to fill them. Andrea Kreuzhage's fascinating "1000 Journals" traces the journey of several of these journals as they pass from hand to hand around the globe and return to the artist filled with personal musings, art and stories.

Talking Pictures Festival, "Treeless Mountain," 8 p.m. Friday, May 1 (So Yong Kim, 2008, Korea, 89 minutes, 35 mm). Set in South Korea, "Treeless Mountain" is a dreamlike tale of a 6-year-old girl and her younger sister whose mother abandons them with an uncaring aunt. Working wonders with her child actors, director So Yong Kim tells a touching, humanistic story through the eyes of these remarkable children.

Talking Pictures Festival, Animation & Shorts Showcase, 1 p.m. Saturday, May 2 (Various directors and countries, approximately 90 minutes, video). Among the Chicago entries in this engaging shorts program are Paula Froehle's wistful "The Collector" and Jodie Mack's animated gem "Yard Work is Hard Work," which is set to original songs and follows a pair of newlyweds as they learn the perils of homeownership. Other titles include the hilarious animated "Token Hunchback" by Tim Reckart and Neil Ira Needleman's bittersweet "Corner Delancey."

Talking Pictures Festival, "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," 3 p.m. Saturday, May 2 (Abigail E. Disney and Gini Reticker, 2008, United States, 72 minutes, video). A small band of Liberian women gathered together in the midst of a bloody civil war, took on the violent warlords and corrupt Charles Taylor regime and won a long-awaited peace for their shattered country. This documentary is an inspiring testament to the power of ordinary people. The screening is co-presented with Amnesty International Group 50 Rogers Park/Evanston and the North Suburban Peace Initiative, and sponsored by Comix Revolution.

Talking Pictures Festival, "Off Off Broadway," 6 p.m. Saturday, May 2 (Jeff Huston, 2008, United States, 81 minutes, video).
This witty "mockumentary" follows hapless filmmaker Art Ferguson as he tries to make a film about a New York avant-garde theater production. The film nails the self-involved, power-tripping traits of its theatrical personas with comedic deftness.

Talking Pictures Festival, To Be Determined, 8 p.m. Saturday, May 2. Please check the Talking Pictures Festival Web site at http://www.talkingpicturesfestival.org.

Talking Pictures Festival, "Sita Sings the Blues," 1 p.m. Sunday, May 3 (Nina Paley, 2008, United States, 82 minutes, video). This animated re-interpretation of the Indian epic "Ramayana" tells of marital woes through the ages as it switches between ancient tragedy and modern comedy: there is the goddess Sita, who is separated from her beloved husband Rama, and then there is Nina, the animator, who carries her share of heartache. The screening is sponsored by Evanston-based Mt. Everest Restaurant.

Talking Pictures Festival, "Bilal," 3 p.m. Sunday, May 3 (Sourav Sarangi, 2008, India, 92 minutes, video).
"Slumdog Millionaire" gave us the fictionalized story of children in the slums of Mumbai; "Bilal" is the real deal. Bilal is 3-years-old, his parents are blind and he is the one who helps his family face the challenges of life in the slums of Kolkata. Sarangi's affectionate yet unflinching camera observes the family's day-to-day life: a poignant mix of love, fun and cruel disappointment. There are no million-dollar rescues, but the characters persevere. The screening is sponsored by Mt. Everest Restaurant.

Biomimicry series Double Feature, "Ghost in the Shell" 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 6 (Mamoru Oshii, 1995, Japan, 82 minutes, 35 mm). What happens when there is no longer a difference between human and robot? In the year 2029 humans and electronic networks have become seamlessly integrated -- and manipulated by criminals. Eyes can be hacked into and minds can be copied and transferred into synthetic bodies. When someone calling himself the Puppetmaster is found to have programmed the minds of upper-level government workers, a new crime-fighting unit is formed. "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence" (Mamoru Oshii, 2004, Japan, 100 minutes, 35mm). Meanwhile a cyborg without a single brain cell is discovered to have a ghost or soul, and Major Motoko Kusanagi is given the case, throwing her into the midst of a cybernetic war, a struggle between ambiguous, ever shifting powers that confuses the very idea of humanity.

60s Godard series, "Band of Outsiders," 8 p.m. Thursday, May 7 (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964, France, 97 minutes, 35 mm).
In Jean Luc Godard's playful heist film, high school students Arthur and Franz convince the beautiful Odile to help them rob her rich Aunt Victoria's estate. Although hesitant, Odile decides to help out the two charismatic boys who increasingly compete for her attentions. The ensuing adventure is more kids-at-recess than a heist as the threesome frolics about Paris -- dancing in public, reenacting the death of Billy the Kid, and running through the Louvre.

Parks series, "Shaft," 8 p.m. Friday, May 8 (Gordon Parks, 1971, United States, 100 minutes, 35 mm).
Gordon Parks clashes classic detective noir with racial cliche in this action-packed blaxploitation crime thriller. Richard Roundtree stars as the now-iconic soul brother John Shaft. The tough-talking Shaft decides to help out gangster Bumpy Jonas by rescuing his daughter from the Italian mafia, a mission that takes Shaft through the streets of 1970s Harlem and into the heart of the mob.

Inspire Films event, "The Case for Israel," 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 13 (Michael Yohav, 2009, United States, 77 minutes, video). Is the Jewish state a defensible concept? Attorney Alan Dershowitz responds to critics of Israel's nationalization, even challenging former President Jimmy Carter, who has characterized Israeli domestic policy as an apartheid system. An impressive array of talking heads sound off, including former Israeli prime ministers, Middle East envoy Dennis Ross and Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky. This film will be immediately followed by "Rape Is…" (Cambridge Documentary Films, 2002, United Kingdom, 32 minutes, video). Every year sexual violence affects millions of women, men and children, many of whom have little recourse to legal action. This documentary surveys the history and global impact of rape, examining why many legal systems still do not deem it a serious crime and why it remains the "most underreported crime" in the United States. The event will close with a screening of "Perversion of Justice" (Melissa Mummert, 2007, United States, 30 minutes, video). Hamedah Hasan, mother of three girls, fled an abusive relationship by moving in with a cousin. When her cousin was arrested for selling cocaine, prosecutors charged Hasan as a conspirator, sentencing her to two life terms. Melissa Mummert, an ordained minister and advocate for incarcerated women, questions America's minimum sentencing guidelines for drug-related felonies.

60s Godard series, "La Chinoise," 8 p.m. Thursday, May 14 (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967, France, 96 minutes, 35 mm). In Godard's 1967 film on Maoism and the New Left in France, red fills the frame. The film depicts five activists living in one apartment for the summer. Both funny and incredibly insightful, Godard's portrait of radical youth and political culture forecasts the violent student protests a year before they became a reality in France.

Biomimicry series, "RoboCop," 8 p.m. Friday, May 15 (Paul Verhoeven, 1987, United States, 103 minutes, 35 mm). A near-future dystopian Detroit is ravaged by violent crime, so the city decides to hire megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to revive their ineffectual Police Department. OCP creates a human/cyborg crime-fighting hybrid called RoboCop, which proves to be a highly effective, hyper-violent policing machine. But when a run-in with one of his murderers unlocks his human memories, RoboCop overrides his pre-programmed system and seeks vengeance. "RoboCop" is Dutch director Paul Verhoeven's brilliant parody of the trifecta of American progress -- technology, militarism and big business.

Art Theory & Practice series, "A Talk by Zuzana Stefkova: Socially Sensitive Issues in Central European Contemporary Art Practice," 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 20. Zuzana Stefkova is a curator at the Centre of Contemporary Art, Prague. Her talk will explore a range of issues related to the development of a theoretical framework for socially critical art within the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Ranging from the reinterpretation of the term "political art" after the fall of the iron curtain to recent cases of censorship within Central European democracies, Stefkova will sum up current art strategies dealing with chauvinist nationalism, racism and corruption. The artistic responses to these challenges are diverse, including social interventions such as community based art projects, self-reflexive analyses of the status and impact of "political art" and direct confrontational actions that critique specific policies and power relations. Admission is free. The event is co-sponsored by the department of art theory and practice.

"Sonic Celluloid," 8 p.m. Thursday, May 21. Sonic Celluloid is a collaboration of WNUR, Northwestern's non-commercial radio station (89.3 F.M.), and Block Cinema. In its sixth year, Sonic Celluloid features musicians performing live musical accompaniment to silent and experimental film. Admission is $10.

Northwestern Student Film Festival, 8 p.m. Friday, May 22. The Northwestern University Student Film Festival is a competitive festival that brings together the best of the past year of Northwestern University student filmmaking. The program will feature the competition's award winners.

Art: "Empathy is a Tool for Making the Cruelty More Precise," 6:30 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 27.
This event will be comprised of two programs. Program One, Touch Touch Touch Touch Feel at 6:30 p.m. will be curated by Abina Manning & Steve Reinke. Imagining touch -- how another experiences touch -- is the beginning of empathy. One may be able to share in the experience of looking, hearing, tasting and smelling, but one cannot feel the pain of another. When artists work with touch, they necessarily also bring into play aspects of empathy. Can one talk and feel at the same time? Yes, but not really feel: for that you need to remain silent and close your eyes. This would seem to suggest that video is a particularly anti-haptic medium. But this program will feature 13 videos that suggest otherwise: they feel. Program Two, "How to Die Like an Animal" at 8 p.m. was curated by Steve Reinke. The program will feature recent videos by younger artists exploring empathy, morality and mortality through human/animal relations and anthropomorphized cartoon animals, like Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby's "Beauty Plus Pity" (2008), which combines ditties, stories, cartoons and scavenged video footage to investigate the perverse relations among adults, children, animals and God, and Jean-Paul Kelly's "When all is said and done" (2009), which composites live action, miniatures and animation to tell the story of a farm-house ghost who mercy kills a cat and dog because of an approaching tornado.

60s Godard series, "Alphaville," 8 p.m. Thursday, May 28 (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965, France, 99 minutes). With "Alphaville," Godard mixes the dystopian science fiction genre with his beloved film noir. Lemmy Caution, a private eye, travels to the futuristic city of Alphaville to take down the creator of the Alpha 60 computer, which is programmed to destroy artists, thinkers and lovers. Godard uses the portions of Paris, which he considered nightmares of impersonality as his backdrop for "Alphaville" -- and as an exploration of imagination's battle with logic in modern society. Featuring Godard's muse, the beautiful Anna Karina, "Alphaville" remains one of the few science fiction films to rely not on special effects but rather unconventional filmmaking to convey a futuristic society.

Parks series, "Solomon Northrup's Odyssey," 8 p.m. Friday, May 29 (Gordon Parks, 1984, United States, 115 minutes). In 1841 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., two white men persuaded Solomon Northrup, a free-born African-American and father of three, to travel with them to Washington D.C. on the promise of work as a violinist for a traveling circus. Drugged and bound in a hotel Northrup was then sold to a cotton plantation in Louisiana. It would take several years for his wife to discover his plight and 12 years for his release. Based on Northrup's autobiography, published the year of his rescue, Parks' gripping drama plainly and earnestly portrays the tragedy of a man whose humanity exceeded the cruelty and bigotry of his captors and owners.
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