New Documentaries

Our focus on contemporary documentaries returns this season with a diverse selection of brand new films that shed light on topics both entertaining and important. Included in the program are award-winning social issue documentaries, including Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz's much-lauded The Interrupters, about an incredible group of volunteers dedicated to stopping gang violence in some of Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods, and Heather Courtney's Where Soldiers Come From, a moving portrait of a group of tight-knit friends from Northern Michigan who grapple with emotional issues after serving in Afghanistan. The series also includes two films about the vibrant musical and culinary arts in Southern Europe: from the storied and sensual music of Naples in John Turturro's Passione, to the trailblazing Spanish chef, Ferran Adriá, and his world-renowned restaurant, elBulli. Plus films about mysterious tiles, fast talkers, and an ambitious urban housing project. Several filmmakers in person.

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Thursday, September 29, 2011 7:00 PM
(Jon Foy, 2011, USA, Video, 86 min)

Starting in the 1980s, handmade tiles bearing the words "Toynbee Idea / In Kubrick's 2001 / Resurrect Dead / On Planet Jupiter" began appearing embedded in the streets of Philadelphia, and spread to other US cities, even winding up in South America. Philly-based artist Justin Duerr first encountered them in 1994 and soon became obsessed, vowing to solve this urban mystery. Was this the work of a well-traveled outsider artist? A network of cryptic pranksters? Or do these curious artifacts offer clues about a diabolical political conspiracy? Resurrect Dead is an immensely entertaining real world detective tale and was a sleeper hit at the Sundance Film Festival. 

FREE TO NORTHWESTERN STUDENTS!

The Interrupters

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 7:00 PM FREE
(Steve James, 2011, USA, video, 125 min.))

This highly praised new documentary from director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and producer Alex Kotlowitz follows three “interrupters” who work to prevent violence in some of Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods. Their outreach is a project of the grassroots organization CeaseFire, whose founder believes that solutions must actively incorporate prevention. Over the course of a year, the filmmakers document the interrupters as they forge relationships in their communities, attempting to change minds and save lives. The Interrupters is an inspiring and emotional look at the dedicated efforts of those who have rejected their own criminal past to truly make a difference. “Mighty and heart-wrenching”—Roger Ebert


IN PERSON Producer Alex Kotlowitz
Co-presented by Northwestern’s Center for the Writing Arts, Center for Civic Engagement, and Medill
Please note the early (6 pm) start time! 

Where Soldiers Come From

Thursday, October 27, 2011 7:00 PM
(Heather Courtney, 2011, USA, video, 91 min)

Where Soldiers Come From is an intimate and powerful portrait of a group of young men from Northern Michigan who are thrust into the harsh reality of the Afghan war. Director (and NU alum) Heather Courtney returns to her hometown to follow the lives of these soldiers as they transform from small-town teens to 23-year-old combat veterans. Courtney sets aside politics to look at the effect that war has on those who serve and on the friends and family who remain behind. As these young men struggle to reintegrate into society, the physical and emotional costs of war are literally brought home.
Followed by a panel discussion with director Heather Courtney; Brent E. Huffman, documentary filmmaker and NU assistant professor of journalism; Michael J. Allen, historian of war and politics in the twentieth-century and NU associate professor of history; and the film's co-editor and NU assistant professor of film production, Kyle Henry.

Co-sponsored by the Departments of History and Radio/TV/Film, and Medill. 

Passione

Friday, November 4, 2011 7:00 PM
(John Turturro, 2010, Italy/USA, video, 93 min)

talian-American actor John Turturro directs this joyous celebration of Neapolitan music, a tradition centered in Naples but filled with international influences. Part documentary, part performance film, with a stunning cast of musicians who bring the traditional and contemporary songs of Naples to life, Passione features vibrant location shooting and playful staging, but the real star here is the music, the city, its history and its people. “The music in Passione combines sensual suavity with raw emotion, mixes heartbreak with ecstasy, acknowledges the hard realities of poverty and injustice and soars above them.”—A.O. Scott, New York Times

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Thursday, November 10, 2011 7:00 PM FREE
(Chad Freidrichs, 2011, USA, video, 83 min.))

Once hailed as a model of the future of public housing, the Pruitt-Igoe housing development in St. Louis soon became a site of decay and dysfunction and a symbol for those who were critical of attempts at “urban uplift.” Chad Freidrichs’ compelling documentary incorporates amazing archival footage and new interviews with former residents at Pruitt-Igoe to explore its history—the utopian impulses that created it and the series of events and decisions that led to its demise—and to debunk the persistent myth that attempts to assist the poor are doomed to failure. The reality is never that simple.

Co-sponsored by the Department of African American Studies

Fast Talk

Thursday, November 17, 2011 7:00 PM FREE
(Debra Tolchinsky, 2011, USA, video, 56 min.)

Forget everything you think you know about college debate teams. By following Northwestern’s own elite debate team over the course of a year, director and NU professor Debra Tolchinsky reveals the surprising intensity, ruthless competition, and blistering speed of contemporary college debating, while exploring larger questions: Is the debate style of “fast talk” (where the participants speak so quickly that they are nearly incomprehensible) sacrificing effective argumentative skills to the desire to win? How do race, gender, and social privilege intersect with debate culture? Part competition film, part cultural investigation, Fast Talk is also a portrait of longtime NU debate coach Scott Deatherage.

IN PERSON Debra Tolchinsky

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

Friday, November 18, 2011 7:00 PM
(Gereon Wetzel, 2011, Germany, video, 108 min.)

Acclaimed Spanish master chef Ferran Adrià takes his cooking seriously. So much so that he closes his world-famous restaurant in Catalonia, elBulli for six months each year, and relocates to an off-site kitchen to brainstorm, experiment, and finally create the mind-blowing menu for the next season. Adrià and his team of elite chefs utilize all manner of techniques—vacuumizing, freeze-drying, infusing—to arrive at utterly original dishes. Eschewing traditional talking-head interviews in favor of a rigorous observational style, this fascinating film takes us behind the scenes to witness the innovation and imagination of a man for whom the “culinary arts” are a way of life.