Lay of the Land: New Documentaries - Winter: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Lay of the Land: New Documentaries - Winter

Lay of the Land: New Documentaries

Event Details

Date & Time:

Fri January 16, 2015 - Thu February 12, 2015


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


Our focus on new documentaries returns this winter with a diverse selection of recent films that shine a light on contemporary issues from the environment to homelessness, the economy, and more. The theme that unites the films in this series is the idea of land and place, whether it’s the search for home, work, or community; the fight to preserve the environment and natural landscapes; and the dilemmas faced by communities overtaken by outsiders, whether jobseekers, corporations seeking to exploit natural resources, or even those looking for a respite from the rest of world (or the end of the world as we know it).

We open the series with Jesse Moss’ award-winning new film, The Overnighters, which captures a telling moment in the economic realities of America today, focusing on the many unemployed migrants who stream into a small North Dakota town seeking work in the oil fracking industry and the enigmatic pastor who battles his community to provide the men with shelter. Filmmaker Margaret Brown will be present for a screening of her acclaimed documentary, The Great Invisible, an eye-opening investigation of the devastating effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and those whose lives were forever changed by it. Marmato centers on a Colombian town under threat by a corporate gold rush that threatens to destroy residents’ homes and level their beautiful mountaintop for an open-pit mine. Also screening is Bugarach, a portrait of an unassuming village in the south of France that was forever impacted by a bizarre rumor that the village would be the only place on the planet to survive the Mayan apocalypse of 2012. The series closes with Blurring the Lines, a program of short films that challenge viewers’ perceptions of what a documentary is, blending “fact” and fiction.

Co-curated and co-presented with Northwestern’s MFA in Documentary Media program. All screenings in this documentary series are free for Northwestern students with ID.

The Overnighters

Friday, January 16, 2015 7:00 PM
(Jesse Moss, 2014, US, DCP, 102 min.)

Jesse Moss’ Sundance award-winning documentary captures a telling moment in the economic realities of America today. Lured by the prospect of steady work in the oil fields, thousands of unemployed migrants stream into the small town of Williston, North Dakota. Once there, they discover that the work is scant and affordable housing is even more rare. Pastor Jay Reinke opens his church to these men, providing overnight lodging and a supportive ear. But his congregation and the townsfolk begin to complain, and the town council threatens to shut things down. Moss’ powerful film is about disillusionment and despair, hope and charity, and the difficulties of living a life and living one’s word. "Riveting...superior documentary filmmaking"—The Hollywood Reporter


The Great Invisible

Thursday, January 22, 2015 7:00 PM
(Margaret Brown, 2014, US, DCP, 92 min.)

In April 2010 communities throughout the Gulf Coast of the United States were devastated by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore oil-drilling rig operated by BP. The blast killed 11 of the rig’s crewmembers and dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of oil in the ocean, shutting down the local fishing industry, polluting the fragile ecosystem and raising serious questions about the safety of continued offshore drilling. In The Great Invisible award-winning documentarian Margaret Brown travels to small towns and major cities in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas to explore the fallout of the disaster on the people of the region, creating an intimate and emotional look at the many people still haunted by the Deepwater Horizon explosion long after the story has faded from the front page. 

In person: Margaret Brown



Thursday, January 29, 2015 7:00 PM
(Ventura Durall, Salvador Sunyer, Sergi Cameron, 2014, Spain/Germany/France, DCP, 90 min.)

No one took much notice of Bugarach, a quiet, unassuming village in the south of France until word spread of the impending Mayan apocalypse in early 2012. Somehow, a rumor surfaced that when the apocalypse hits, Bugarach will be the only place on the planet to survive. The story gathered global attention, attracting the interests of international media, mystics, and many others not quite ready for the end of the world. Bugarach playfully documents it all, including the town’s 197 residents, who are less concerned with the doomsday prophecy than with the massive influx of oddball outsiders that are overtaking their quiet rural community.



Thursday, February 5, 2015 7:00 PM
(Marc Grieco, 2014, Colombia, video, 87 min.)

Every day in Marmato, a shimmering Colombian mountain town, families pray for safety as their men walk out their doors and down into the mines, scratching out a living with little more than shovels and outdated sulphur lamps. Beneath their village lies one of the largest gold reserves on the planet. In 2006, the Colombian government invited foreign investors to the region to stimulate economic growth, unleashing a corporate gold rush. As plans progress to destroy residents’ homes and level the beautiful mountaintop for an open-pit mine, Marmato charts the mounting crisis as the local community struggles to protect its way of life and economic sovereignty. – Sundance Film Festival



Blurring the Lines: Shorts that Challenge Documentary Form

Thursday, February 12, 2015 7:00 PM
(Various directors, 1953-2014, various formats, Approx. 90 min.)

This program of short films challenges viewers’ perceptions of what a documentary is. Paired with some of the most innovative short documentaries of the past year are Lindsay Anderson’s 1953 short O Dreamland, a Free Cinema exploration of carnival attractions, and Arthur Lipsett’s Very Nice, Very Nice (1962), which Stanley Kubrick called “one of the most imaginative and brilliant uses of the movie screen and soundtrack I have ever seen.”  Peter Greenaway’s darkly comic Windows (1974) plays on dual obsessions of statistics and death. Notes on Blindness (2014) is a stunning realization of John Hull’s audio diary of the experience of losing his sight. Finally, Chicago filmmaker Deborah Stratman will be present for the screening of her film Hacked Circuit (2014), a thought-provoking meditation on surveillance and privacy.

Crime: The Animated Series (Alix Lambert, Sam Chou, US/Canada, 2014, video, 4 min.)
Notes on Blindness (James Spinney, Peter Middleton, UK/US/Australia, 2014, DCP, 12 min.)
O Dreamland (Lindsay Anderson, 1953, UK, video, 12 min.)
Love. Love. Love. (Sandhya Sundaram, 2014, Russia, video, 10 min.) 
Very Nice, Very Nice (Arthur Lipsett, 1962, Canada, video, 7 min.)
Hacked Circuit (Deborah Stratman, 2014, US, DCP, 15 min.)
Windows (Peter Greenaway, 1974, UK, 16mm, 4 min.)
I Think This is the Closest to How the Footage Looked (Michael Vaknin, Yuval Hameiri, 2014, Israel, DCP, 10 min.)

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at