By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, Chicago Crusader
On consecutive Mondays from June 6 through June 20, the Gene Siskel Film Center collaborates with Human Rights Watch to present a series of three compelling new films with filmmakers in person for discussion. Through the eyes of committed and courageous filmmakers, the films showcase the heroic stories of activists and survivors from all over the world who are facing human rights issues. The featured works put a human face on threats to individual freedom and dignity, and celebrate the power of the human spirit and will to prevail. Chicago premiere! Jamal Joseph in person! Chapter & Verse 2015, Jamal Joseph, USA, 97 min. with Daniel Beaty, Loretta Devine “Chapter & Verse” will screen Monday, June 6, 6:00 p.m. Newly released from prison, Lance (co-screenwriter Beaty) faces down racism, indifference, and the economic lure of the old life in Harlem, in this poignant drama in which personal redemption and the urge to mentor a young gang-banger go hand in hand. Director Joseph builds a case for the power of Black fatherhood as the parolee, working on delivery for a food pantry, comes to the aid of feisty but failing Miss Mandy (Devine in an exceptionally moving performance), and recognizes his younger self in her defiantly cocky grandson Ty, eager to take on the violent initiation ritual of the local street gang. Director Jamal Joseph and Megan McLemore of Human Rights Watch will be present for audience discussion.
Chicago premiere! Schatzi Throckmorton in person! “The Uncondemned,” 2015, Nick Louvel and Mic hele Mitchell, USA/Congo/Nether- lands, 81 min. “The Uncondemned” will screen Monday, June 13, 6:00 p.m. This documentary tells the thrilling story behind an epic 1997 human rights trial that pits a handful of underdog lawyers and traumatized Rwandan rape victims against a system that had never acknowledged rape as a genocidal crime. Reconstructing the three-year legal process step by step, and bringing the narrative forward into the present, the filmmakers trace the history of the Rwandan conflict’s horrific violence against women and profile those brave enough to come forward with testimony, as they recount the work of researchers and lawyers venturing into uncharted territory to build a case. In English, French and Kinyarwanda with English subtitles. Associate producer Schatzi Throckmorton and Sara Darehshori of Human Rights Watch will be present for audience discussion. Chicago premiere! George Kurian in person! “ The Crossing,” 2015, George Kurian, Norway, 55 min. “The Crossing” will screen Monday, June 20, 6:00 p.m. Director Kurian charts the perilous course of a band of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Europe, including a filmmaker, a musician, a TV journalist, and a psychologist. The hardships of a sea journey in an overcrowded boat under the command of venal smugglers is only the start of the ordeal, as a secure future is revealed to remain elusive for the new immigrants in nations including Italy, Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Belgium. Accustomed to professional respect and middle class status at home, they now find themselves adrift on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. In English and Arabic with English subtitles. Director George Kurian and Bill Frelick of Human Rights Watch will be present for audience discussion.
Since 1972, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented cutting edge cinema to an annual audience of 80,000. The Film Center’s programming includes annual film festivals, including Black Harvest Film Festival, that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, rest- orations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful, provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Altogether, the Film Center hosts more than 1,500 screenings and 100 filmmaker appearances every year. The Film Center was renamed the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2000 after the late, nationally celebrated film critic, Gene Siskel.
The Gene Siskel Film Center is located at 164 N. State St. For information, call 312 846- 2075 or visit website at www.siskelfilmcenter.org
Goodman Theatre hosts playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s sister
Recently Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed May 19 as “Lorraine Hansberry Day,” in honor of what would have been the Chicago native playwright’s 86th birthday. The company of “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” which is the mainstage production until June 5, kicked off the special day with a reading of the mayoral proclamation—followed by birthday cake for all.
On the previous day, Goodman Theatre proudly opened its Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) with free opportunities for audiences to sample the variety of programming offered in the theater’s newly dedicated space for classes, lectures, discussions and special performance events. At the Center, you can build a play with your family, try your hand at stage combat, hear Chicago’s finest actors spill stage secrets—and more!
Included in the celebration was a conversation with artists about Hansberry’s body of work, the background and themes of the Goodman’s revival of her rarely-produced play, and her significance among American playwrights. Mamie Hansberry, Lorraine’s older sister, was in town to say a few words, and she visited the Lorraine Hansberry College Prep on the South Side.
I was delighted to attend a screening of the 1961 film “A Raisin in the Sun,” starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands, which was held at the Center located on the second floor of the Goodman at 170 N. Dearborn St. Although I have seen this film many times and even have it at home, I jumped at the chance to see it on the big screen. I wasn’t disappointed and enjoyed every moment of it. The play “A Raisin in the Sun,” written by Hansberry, opened on Broadway on March 11, 1959, and had a run of 350 performances. It was the first play produced on Broadway by an African-American woman, and Hansberry was the first Black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critic’s Circle award.
“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” was her second and last play, and it actually premiered as Hansberry was dealing with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The play is a story about a man named Sidney, his pitfalls within his personal life, and struggles in the Bohemian culture in New York City. The play premiered October 15, 1964, and received mixed reviews; Hansberry died on January 12, 1965. For information about the Goodman and the play, visit goodmantheatre.org.