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January Films at Northwestern

Block Cinema to screen film on Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 23 holiday and more

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January 3, 2014 | by Judy Moore
January Films
Block Cinema will screen new documentaries, revivals, rediscovered films, new documentaries about art and artists and contemporary independent films this fall.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University’s Block Cinema will launch its winter film series on Jan. 23 with a documentary about Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights activism from the mid-1950s through 1968. Part of the University’s weeklong celebration (Jan. 20 through Jan. 27) of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., it is the first of three January screenings on human rights issues.

Block Cinema screens new and recent films and revered classics throughout the academic year. 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, on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

SPECIAL JANUARY 2014 PROGRAMS

Block Cinema will present several documentaries, both new and newly restored, that document injustice and inequality from Tennessee to Tehran. They include the recently restored “King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis” on Jan. 23, and the new documentary, “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” from Chicago’s Kartemquin Films on Jan. 30. On Jan. 29, Block will also present several classic short films by banned filmmaker, Kamran Shirdel, one of Iran’s best-known documentarians. Shirdel’s films offer a rare glimpse of Iranian struggles in the 1960s and 1970s.

BLOCK CINEMA WINTER 2014 FILM SERIES

  • The Left Front in Film series coincides with the museum’s main winter exhibition, “The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940,” that opens Jan. 17 and runs through June 22. Block Cinema presents a film series featuring leftist and left-leaning films that include Hollywood productions and independent films made outside of the studio system. The series begins with a newly re-mastered version of Thom Andersen and Noel Burch’s “Red Hollywood,” an exploration of the contributions of communist screenwriters and directors to Hollywood filmmaking in the 1930s and beyond.
  • The “Picturing Fame: Moving Pictures” series takes its name from another Block Museum winter exhibition, “Steichen | Warhol: Picturing Fame,” Alsdorf Gallery, Jan. 17 to April 6,  which examines the legacies of both artists including their groundbreaking portrayals of celebrities of their day. “Steichen | Warhol” presents two major gifts of art to the Block Museum. It highlights the donation of 49 vintage photographs by famed photographer Edward Steichen, donated by collectors Richard and Jackie Hollander to the Block in early 2013. The exhibition also showcases gifts of Warhol photographs and prints made in 2008 and 2013 by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

These stunning portraits feature many luminaries from the early part of the 20th century, including artists, models, dancers, socialites and prominent actors of both stage of screen. To celebrate the donation, this corresponding film series captures many of Steichen’s glamorous portrait sitters in a different light, bringing to life several of the screen actors that Steichen so lovingly captured in his photos, in movies released around the same time that the photographs were taken. A highlight of the series incudes a silent film double feature starring the ultimate “It” girl, Clara Bow, and Josef von Sternberg’s “Underworld,” starring Evelyn Brent.

Unless otherwise noted, general admission to Block Cinema is $6 for the general public or $4 for Block Museum members, Northwestern faculty, staff and students, students from other schools with valid IDs and individuals 65 and older. Quarterly passes are $20. Tickets are available one hour before show time. For more information, call the Block Cinema Hotline at (847) 491-4000 or visit the Block Cinema website.

JANUARY 2014 BLOCK CINEMA FILMS

Special Program, “King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis,” 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, FREE (Ely Landau, Richard Kaplan, Sidney Lumet and Joseph Mankiewicz, 1970, United States, DCP, 181 minutes). A masterfully assembled film consisting mostly of archival footage without narration, “King “ documents Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights activism from 1955 to 1968. Originally screened as a one-night-only event in 1970, the film has been restored by the Library of Congress so that future generations can better understand this turbulent time in our nation’s recent past. From speeches to arrests, from the Montgomery bus protests to the shockwaves caused by his assassination, “King” is a powerful reminder of how far the civil rights movement has come, and a precious record of one of the greatest leaders in American history. Complimentary refreshments will be offered during the intermission. This program is part of Northwestern University’s weeklong celebration (Jan. 20 through Jan. 27) of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Click here for a complete list of related events.

The Left Front in Film series, “Red Hollywood,” 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24 (Thom Andersen and Noel Burch, 1996-2013, United States, Digital, 114 minutes). “Red Hollywood” is a riveting exploration of the contributions of communist screenwriters and directors to Hollywood filmmaking in the 1930s through 1950s. Acclaimed film essayist and professor Andersen (“Los Angeles Plays Itself”) and film theorist and historian Burch combine a wealth of clips (many from long-forgotten films) and interviews with victims of the blacklist (including “Force of Evil’s” Abraham Polonsky) to show how these politically-committed artists were able to inject progressive ideas about class, race, gender and capitalism in the products of an essentially conservative studio system.

Picturing Fame: Moving Pictures series Double Feature, “Underworld,” 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 (Josef von Sternberg, 1927, United States, 35mm, 81 minutes). “Underworld” was recent Austrian emigre Josef von Sternberg’s breakthrough American film. A silent masterwork, it’s a gritty depiction of Chicago’s mob world and those caught in its tangled web. Shocking in its day, the film is widely considered to have inspired the gangster film genre. “Underworld” co-stars Evelyn Brent as “Feathers,” a gangster’s moll who comes between two kingpins. A leading player in the 1920s, Brent remains largely forgotten today. Sternberg cast her in three of his films and her beauty was also captured by Steichen in a stunning portrait made the same year the film was released. Followed by: “It,” (Clarence Badger, 1927, United States, 35mm, 72 minutes). Clara Bow may be best remembered as a cultural icon -- the celebrated “It Girl” of the 1920s -- but, as demonstrated in this “namesake” film, she was also a talented performer with deft comedic skill. She did, of course, really have “it” -- a magnetic presence and sex appeal -- which is taken full advantage of in this entertaining romantic comedy. The story about a department store salesgirl who has her sights set on the boss is simple, but allows for a series of misunderstandings that complicates and threatens their relationship even before it begins. Director Clarence Badger keeps things moving with a brisk pace and plenty of humor. “It” is ultimately a showcase for Bow, whose beauty, moxie and charm all shine through. Pianist David Drazin will provide live musical accompaniment for both silent films.

Special Program, “The Short Films of Kamran Shirdel,” 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29 (Kamran Shirdel, 1965-1974, Iran, DVCam, 85 minutes). Shirdel (b. 1939) is one of Iran’s best-known documentarians whose films offer rare glimpses of his country and the struggles of his countrymen and women. Shirdel studied filmmaking in Rome in the 1960s and was influenced by Italian neorealism. Often covering taboo subjects, including the plight of the poor in an otherwise oil-rich nation, his films were banned by the Shah’s government and were impossible to see for many years. This program brings together a selection of some of his finest works. Collectively known as “The Four Blacks,” these films, including “The Night it Rained,” “Women's Quarter,” “Women's Prison” and “Tehran Is the Capital of Iran,” illustrate the dark side of Iran and the struggles of its underprivileged citizens. The screening will be introduced by Hamid Naficy, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani Professor in Communication.

Special Program, “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 (Bill Siegel, 2013, United States, DCP, 92 minutes). There seem to be no shortage of films about the legendary boxer. “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” by Chicago’s Kartemquin Films, digs deeper, uncovering the man behind the myth, including his anti-war activism and refusal to go to Vietnam, and his subsequent fight to overturn a five-year prison sentence. Covering his early days as Cassius Clay, his conversion to Islam, the stigma perpetuated by the media and the present day Ali, the film illustrates his perseverance during difficult times, peeling back the image of the outspoken champion and presenting Ali in his greatest battle, the fight for his own personal and political convictions. The screening is co-presented with Inspire Media.

CONSTRUCTION ALERT

A long-term construction project on Northwestern’s south campus has closed vehicle access to the Block Museum and Arts Circle Drive. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum. For directions and parking information, visit the Block Museum. 

Topics: Campus Life