Siskel Film Center’s ‘Film Center from your Sofa’ presents new releases

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By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) continues “Film Center from Your Sofa: Stay Connected and Stream with Us.” New releases that started late last month are “Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things” and “The Invisible Witness.” Note that links of new releases will not become active until midnight the day the films open. If patrons are experiencing difficulties with streaming links, send a message through the Film Center’s Facebook page or to [filmcenter@saic.edu].

The Film Center now presents its virtual offerings as open-ended runs, and “John Lewis: Good Trouble” will also be available for streaming on July 17. The John Lewis film streaming will be immediately followed by a pre-recorded discussion between Representative Lewis and Oprah Winfrey, filmed last month and being made available exclusively for virtual cinema and in-theater engagements of the film. This is a wide-ranging, informal, 16-minute conversation that’s a perfect follow-up to the documentary and could not be more relevant.

In Ella Fitzgerald’s film, the legendary “First Lady of Song” gets a long-overdue documentary tribute in this lively overview of a remarkable career. After surviving a rough childhood and adolescence that included abuse, reform school, and homelessness, Fitzgerald won the Apollo Amateur Night contest in her first public appearance at age 17.  Despite lacking conventional good looks (“I ain’t no glamor girl”), she achieved early fame with such hits as “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” in the 1930s, became a key member of the Bop revolution in the 1940s, broadened her appeal with the celebrated composer Song Books of the 1950s and 1960s, and toured almost constantly in the 1960s and 1970s. Fresh interviews with such musical legends as Norma Miller, Tony Bennett, Smokey Robinson, Johnny Mathis, Cleo Laine, and Itzhak Perlman testify to Ella’s greatness, while her once-estranged son Ray Brown Jr. provides a more intimate perspective. (Description by Martin Rubin). Visit [https://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/ellafitzgeraldjustoneof].

Ella Fitzgerald

“The Invisible Witness” is a film-noir plot full of double-crosses and deceptive alibis that is spiced up with giallo flash and a good old-fashioned locked-room mystery in this nifty, twisty Italian thriller. Hotshot entrepreneur Adriano (Riccardo Scamarcio of “Pasolini” and “John Wick, Chapter 2”) wakes up in a hotel room with the bloody corpse of his mistress (Leone) beside him. He insists that another person in the room was the real killer, even though there was no apparent possibility of anyone else entering or exiting. Adriano’s fate rests in the hands of an invincible super-lawyer (Mario Paiato) who insists on knowing the whole truth. Her relentless questioning uncovers layers of deceit in a world seemingly devoid of moral reckoning, but justice might be arriving from an unexpected source. In Italian with English subtitles. (Description by Martin Rubin). This film is available to be purchased as a gift to stream. This film is Closed Captioned.

John Lewis’ film is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dawn Porter and chronicles the life and career of the legendary civil rights activist and Democratic Representative from Georgia.  Using interviews and rare archival footage, the film chronicles John Robert Lewis’ 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration. Using present-day interviews with Lewis, now 80 years old, Porter explores his childhood experiences, his inspiring family and his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957. In addition to her interviews with Lewis and his family, Porter’s primarily cinéma verité film also includes interviews with political leaders, Congressional colleagues, and other people who figure prominently in his life. (Description courtesy of Magnolia Films).

I enjoyed watching Lewis as he watched some of this archival footage for the first time. He was totally engrossed and appeared to be humbled by it all. One of the major highlights was a segment where Lewis watches footage of when he crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Another nice clip shows his excitement about a well-earned political achievement, and he is taped dancing to “Happy,” the song by Pharrell Williams. This film is available to be purchased as a gift to stream. This film is also Closed Captioned. All ticket buyers are welcome to stream a live panel discussion presented by the Freedom Rides Museum of Montgomery, Alabama, featuring Freedom Riders Dr. Bern- ard Lafayette and Dr. Rip Patton in conversation with director Dawn Porter. In partnership with the Capri Theater. The live panel will be archived to watch afterward. To purchase tickets in advance, visit [https://watch.eventive.org/johnlewis/play/5ee025dbb17f7600682154f6].

Note the following about “Film Center from Your Sofa:”

These are films the Film Center has screened in the past, would have been screening now, or reflect the venue’s critically acclaimed programming.

Due to the many different sources, there is a range of prices and available dates for each film. However, none of the prices are more than what one would pay for a single, non-member movie ticket.

Please note that viewers will be required to set up individual accounts through streaming services and distributors in order to stream “Film Center From Your Sofa;” having a Film Center account will not apply.

Because the Film Center is connecting audience members to a variety of platforms, member or any other discounts for streaming cannot be offered. To compensate, Film Center membership expiration dates will be extended to exclude this period of suspended programming. All proceeds during this challenging time will help the Film Center and partnering distributors to continue operating.

Other films are also available via streaming. Visit [filmcenter@saic.edu] for more information.

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