New Documentaries

Block Cinema is pleased to present an eclectic selection of recent documentary works including sneak previews of two highly acclaimed films, The Art of the Steal, about the heated controversy surrounding the Barnes Foundation art collection, and Prodigal Sons, a deeply moving film about a transgender woman’s homecoming. Also screening is Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Schulman, a celebration of the great architectural photographer. Finally, Block Cinema continues its collaboration with local media arts organization, Reeltime, which has selected two new documentaries that deal with marginalized communities, whether on Chicago’s South Side (Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger) or on the streets of Tehran (The Glass House) and those who dedicate their lives to making a difference. Filmmakers will be present whenever possible.

Prodigal Sons

Friday, February 4, 2011 7:00 PM FREE
(Kimberly Reed, 2009, USA, color, video, 86 minutes )

High-school reunions can be scary, especially for a onetime quarterback-hero who wonders how former classmates will react to her gender transition. One of those classmates is her own adopted brother, from whom she has been estranged, and who just might be, as the family discovers, the biological grandchild of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. These siblings' lives are about to change, in tremendous, touching, tense, and shattering ways. Kimberly Reed filmed the events in her family’s life as they unfolded, yielding an unforgettable tale about the pasts we desire and the ones we try to escape.

Copresented with the Gender Studies program, Northwestern University.

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman

Saturday, February 6, 2010 2:00 PM
(Eric Bricker, 2009, USA, color, video, 83 minutes)

Completed shortly before his death in July 2009, Visual Acoustics celebrates the life and artistic impact of architectural photographer Julius Shulman. Over a career spanning eight decades, Shulman's sensuous and humanistic photographs (he was among the first architectural photographers to pose people in his shots) helped bring southern Californian modernism into the American mainstream. Featuring narration by Dustin Hoffman and personal reflections by the likes of architect Frank Gehry, artist Ed Ruscha, and many others, the film stands as a testament to the power and potential of urban design, and to Shulman’s indelible images.

Co-presented with the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.

Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger

Thursday, February 18, 2010 7:00 PM
(Bob Hercules, 2009, USA, color, video, 58 minutes)

Father Michael Pfleger of Chicago's Saint Sabina Church has stirred up much controversy over the years by using the power of his pulpit to battle inequalities in his South Side parish. This has made him an outspoken hero to some and a renegade to others in the Catholic Church hierarchy. Evanston filmmaker Bob Hercules's comprehensive new film captures Pfleger's charisma and his passion for activism, while exploring issues of racism, theology, and the role of the media.

The Glass House

Thursday, March 4, 2010 7:00 PM
(Hamid Rahmanian, 2009, USA/Iran, color, video, 92 minutes)

In a rare and intimate look at life on the fringes of Iranian society, Iranian-American director Hamid Rahmanian and producer Melissa Hibbard’s The Glass House follows several troubled teenage girls who attend a unique rehabilitation center in Tehran. As they struggle with drug and sexual abuse and familial neglect, these brave and defiant girls find their voice in creative writing and even rap music. Guided by courageous social workers, they struggle to find a place in their society despite cultural and legal restrictions that govern women's roles.

The Art of the Steal

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 7:00 PM
(Don Argott, 2009, USA, color, 35mm, 101 minutes)

In 1922, Philadelphia chemist Albert Barnes opened his personal collection of Impressionist (including dozens of pieces by Renoir, Matisse, and Cézanne), early Modern, and African art to the public, and later left it to a small African American university. Initially dismissed by professional collectors, the Barnes Foundation’s holdings are currently valued at over $25 billion. Now a handful of former students stand between the late chemist’s wish that his collection never be moved, and an alliance of collectors, charities, and local politicians who want his artistic treasures relocated.