Chicago International Documentary Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

Chicago International Documentary Festival 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

The third annual Chicago International Documentary Festival continues Friday through Sunday, April 8 through 10, with screenings at the Beverly Arts Center; Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division; Facets Cinematheque; Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art; Northwestern Univ. Thorne Auditorium; and Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $8.50, $7 for seniors and students, and $6.50 for shows before 2 PM or after 10 PM. Passes are available for $250 (all screenings), $125 (20 screenings), and $70 (10 screenings), but only the first includes admission to the closing-night gala; for more information call 773-486-9612.

Friday 8

Children of the Decree and The Last Godfather

Sicilian reporter Marco Amenta attempts to track down the reputed head of the Cosa Nostra, a fugitive for more than 40 years, in The Last Godfather (2004, 60 min.). In Italian with subtitles. Florin Iepan's Children of the Decree (2004, 52 min.) looks at the years when Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu banned abortion and all forms of contraception. In English and subtitled Romanian. Amenta will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, noon)

Peaceable Kingdom

Filmmaker Jenny Stein tackles the way we treat farm animals, focusing especially on the inhumanity of factory farming. The footage of cows, chickens, and sheep trapped in enclosures only slightly bigger than their bodies and left in the dark much of the time is enough to put you off meat--which of course is precisely the point of this blatantly manipulative 2004 documentary. More effective are interviews with several farmers who talk about their evolving feelings about animals. 70 min. (HSa) (Society for Arts, 1 PM)

The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo's self-portraits have become so iconic that seeing her as a real person in home movies gives an odd little jolt. That's one pleasant surprise in this 2004 documentary on Kahlo's life and--to a frustratingly lesser extent--work. With support from PBS, Amy Stechler (Ken Burns's ex-wife, a writer and editor on several of his early projects) uses the now formulaic mix of photographs, archival footage, and interviews with experts (author Carlos Fuentes is a standout) to take us through Kahlo's life: the traumatic accident, her devotion to Diego Rivera, and her numerous affairs. It's solid and informative, if a bit too familiar. In English and subtitled Spanish. 86 min. (HSa) (Chopin Theatre, 2:30 PM)

Orphans of Nkandla

British directors Brian Woods and Deborah Shipley's documentary (2003, 80 min.) looks at the plight of South African children orphaned by AIDS. In English and subtitled Zulu. (Society for Arts, 3 PM)

R Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

In this occasionally lighthearted but always affecting cautionary tale (2004), Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer trace the history of California's Salton Sea, the result of a century-old irrigation project in the desert that went awry. Now drying up for years, it's become a salty, polluted mess that frequently kills pelicans. Of the structures originally built on the shore, some are shown underwater, others high and dry. Some of the entertaining and eccentric locals would like to move but can't afford to because their homes are worth so little; others seem happy to stay. 86 min. (FC) Metzler will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 4 PM)

Until When . . .

Dahna Aboutahme's 2004 documentary follows four families living in a Palestinian refugee camp. 101 min. In Arabic with subtitles. (Society for Arts, 5:30 PM)

Waiting for Quds

Devorah Blanchor's 2004 feature chronicles the marriage and subsequent travails of her cousin, a New York human rights attorney, and a Palestinian. In English and subtitled Hebrew and Arabic. 79 min. (Facets Cinematheque, 5:30 PM)

Out of the Forest

Limor Pinhasov and Yaron Kaftori Ben Yosef's 2004 feature follows a Lithuanian Holocaust-era diarist. 90 min. In English and subtitled Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, and Hebrew. (Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 6 PM)

R State of Fear

Pamela Yates directed this insightful chronicle of the violence that gripped Peru between 1980 and 2000 as the murderous Shining Path movement waged guerrilla war against the nation's brutally repressive military forces. The film nimbly covers the conflict's background, starting with the Shining Path's founding in 1970 amid a series of military coups, then presents an effectively impressionistic account of the war, which ultimately claimed the lives of 70,000 civilians, and its aftermath. Yates makes good use of her access to participants in Peru's Truth Commission, creating both an engaging historical survey and a timely warning about the perils of declaring war on terror. In English and subtitled Spanish. 94 min. (Reece Pendleton) (Chopin Theatre, 6 PM)

Gimme Shelter

This grim 1970 film by David and Albert Maysles documents the Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California, where one spectator was stabbed to death by the Hell's Angels. It's been widely applauded as a more truthful look at the counterculture than Woodstock offered earlier that year, but Woodstock is a great film and Gimme Shelter, despite some great Stones footage, is crippled by its rhetorical pretensions. As Dave Kehr wrote in his original Reader capsule, "The film is a strong example of the cinema verite style at work, yet few films of the school show up the crisis of its 'noninvolvement' policy more tellingly. There is a horrible sense of helplessness as the Maysleses' camera looks on while the Hell's Angels stab an unruly fan to death, and the implications of hippie fascism contained in that image are not meaningfully developed in light of the film's own excessive idolization of Jagger and company. The camera that looks up too easily looks down." 91 min. (JR) (Facets Cinematheque, 7:15 PM)

R Witches in Exile

After a death in northern Ghana, as in other areas of Africa, a female member of the family is sometimes accused of being a witch and of causing the death. These women are beaten, then placed in "witch camps" for life. They often refuse to leave, aware that some women who've tried to return to their families have been lynched. Allison Berg's stunning 2004 documentary offers testimony from the women and from their families, and an African sociologist explains that the fear of being charged with witchcraft is a way of controlling behavior, noting for example that growing "too rich" makes one more likely to be accused. In English and Dagbani with subtitles. 79 min. (FC) Berg will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 7:15 PM)

A Life Without Pain

Could we survive if we never felt pain? This 2005 documentary looks at three families who face that question when their children are born with a rare disorder. From the moment of birth, these girls face a frightening array of dangers. They scratch themselves raw, chew their fingers to bloody pulp during teething, and injure themselves in myriad ways. This is so sad it is frankly hard to watch, but director Melody Gilbert has a gift for interviewing, exploring with great subtlety the families' varying responses to this lifelong challenge. In English and subtitled Norwegian and German. 65 min. (HSa) Gilbert will attend the screening. Also on the program: Patrick Collerton's 56-minute film The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off. (Beverly Arts Center, 7:30 PM)

Fighting for Life in the Death-Belt

Adam Elend and Jeff Marks's 2004 documentary focuses on anti-death-penalty attorney and activist Stephen Bright. 52 min. Marks and Elend will attend the screening. (Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 7:45 PM)

R Highway Courtesans

Director Mystelle Brabbee devoted ten years to this portrait of the Bachara, a community of families in central India whose livelihood consists of prostituting their eldest daughters, some as young as 12, along India's major highways. The tradition goes back centuries, but by tracking the seven-year odyssey of a young girl named Guddi from dutiful daughter to family rebel, Brabbee is able to puncture the system's facade of social acceptability, exposing its contradictions in memorable fashion. In English and subtitled Hindi. 71 min. (Reece Pendleton) (Chopin Theatre, 8 PM)

Dhakiyarr vs. the King

In this 2004 production Australian filmmakers Tom Murray and Allan Collins journey with a group of aborigines as they seek answers from white authorities about the long-ago murder trial and subsequent disappearance of a venerated tribal leader. In English and subtitled Yolngu. 56 min. Also on the program: German director Marc Wiese's Radovan Karadzic--Most Wanted? (2004, 45 min.). In German and Serbian with subtitles. (Society for Arts, 9 PM)

No Regrets

Theodora Remundova's 2003 TV documentary looks at three generations of women in a Czech family. 83 min. In Czech with subtitles. (Facets Cinematheque, 9 PM)

Rhythm Is It!

Thomas Grube and Enrique Sanchez Lansch's 2004 feature chronicles a youth outreach program undertaken by the Berlin Philharmonic. 100 min. In English and subtitled German. (Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 9:15 PM)

R Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons

Produced for the BBC, this excellent documentary profiles one of the most important but overlooked pop musicians of the 60s--country rock pioneer Gram Parsons, whose exquisite heartache lit up the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin, and two brilliant solo albums before he died of an overdose at 26. German director Gandulf Hennig has rounded up most of the relevant witnesses to Parsons's tragically short life, from the remnants of his wealthy southern family to his musical collaborators (Chris Hillman, Bernie Leadon, James Burton, Emmylou Harris) and his repellent drug buddies. Backed up by rare performance footage, they paint a portrait of a spoiled, charming, emotionally crippled young man whose shoddy treatment of people was always forgotten as soon as he opened his mouth to sing. 90 min. (JJ) Hennig will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 9:45 PM)

SATURDAY 9

R Witches in Exile

See listing for Fri 4/8. (Chopin Theatre, 11 AM)

Twist of Faith

An Academy Award nominee for best feature documentary, this 2004 film from director Kirby Dick (Derrida) tracks the struggles of Toledo firefighter Tony Comes after he files a lawsuit charging his diocese with the cover-up of his and others' sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. 87 min. (Northwestern Univ. Thorne Auditorium, 12:30 PM)

But the Hour Is Near

Yuris Poskus's 2004 feature follows two Riga street preachers. In Latvian with subtitles. 87 min. (Society for Arts, 1 PM)

Fighting for Life in the Death-Belt

See listing for Fri 4/8. (Chopin Theatre, 1 PM)

Mission Accomplished and Torture in the Name of Freedom

In Mission Accomplished (2004, 45 min.) German documentarist Helmut Grosse argues that the U.S. invaded Iraq only to secure its oil supply; Jor Armbruster and Armin Stauth's Torture in the Name of Freedom (2004, 45 min.) examines the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Both films are in German with subtitles. (Society for Arts, 3 PM)

R Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

See listing for Fri 4/8. Director Chris Metzler will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 3 PM)

The Real Dr. Evil and Seoul Train

First-time filmmakers Jim Butterworth and Lisa Sleeth teamed up with director Aaron Lubarsky to make Seoul Train (2004, 54 min.), which focuses on North Korean refugees living underground in China. In English and subtitled Korean, Mandarin, and Polish. BBC producer Rob Lemkin profiles North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il in The Real Dr. Evil (2003, 44 min.). In Korean with subtitles. Sleeth, Butterworth, and Lubarsky will attend the screening. (Northwestern Univ. Thorne Auditorium, 3 PM)

Banffy Castle

Tobias Muller's 2004 documentary looks at the inhabitants of a psychiatric hospital in rural Romania. In German and Romanian with subtitles. 45 min. Also on the program: Phantom Limb (28 min.), San Francisco filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt's reflections on the childhood death of his brother 40 years ago. The directors will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 5 PM)

The Men Who Would Conquer China

New York investment banker Mart Bakal, who specializes in privatization in formerly communist countries, attempts to take his act to China in this 2004 documentary. His well-connected Hong Kong partner, Vincent Lee, is far more appealing, telling the obnoxiously aggressive Bakal he's too impatient and condescending; Lee's also the one who comes up with a workable plan. This is most intriguing as a portrait of an arrogant American: Bakal doesn't want to build relationships with Chinese partners by buying a small company; he wants to invest big and become a billionaire who leaves his mark on the world. The overly picturesque imagery isn't nearly as interesting--director Nick Torrens includes way too many airplane takeoffs and pans up skyscrapers. 78 min. (FC) Torrens will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 5 PM)

The Five o'Clock Tea and Welcome Mr. Postman

Manuel Canibe offers a portrait of two young people living in Mexico City in The Five o'Clock Tea (2002, 49 min.). In Spanish with subtitles. And Danish filmmaker Madeline Bondy chronicles the lives of mail carriers in four different countries in Welcome Mr. Postman (2004, 52 min.). In English and subtitled Danish, Spanish, and Japanese. (Society for Arts, 7 PM)

R Hitler's Hit Parade

Oliver Axer and Susanne Benze collect two dozen big-band recordings from Nazi Germany, illustrating the songs with footage from period musicals, cartoons, newsreels, propaganda, and home movies to create a swirling impressionistic collage of pop culture in the Third Reich. Unlike the directors of East Side Story (1996), which looked at musical comedies from the Soviet bloc, Axer and Benze dispense with any narration, interviews, or captioning of source material, making their rhetorical points through fluid editing as the silver-screen fantasy of a joyous fatherland is gradually punctured by shots of dead soldiers and doomed Jews. Given the beauty of some of the color animation and dance numbers--and the scant attention paid to this chapter in cinematic history--the filmmakers' ambitions seem rather limited. But the sheer magic of the music and images, and the horrors they concealed, put any receptive viewer in an unexpected and uncomfortable position. In German with subtitles. 76 min. (JJ) (Chopin Theatre, 7 PM)

Crossover

This 2004 basketball documentary, shot in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Taiwan, sees the game as uniting individuals across national boundaries. The business side is here--we see players chosen for an NBA draft and learn that one who tried very hard was later cut--but the core message is that a passion for basketball will reward all who are "true to the game," even those who add hip-hop moves that can cost them a win. Kip and Kern Konwiser mix playground games, professional ball, and a spirited narration by Chuck D to suggest that basketball has an almost mystical power to lift players out of themselves regardless of the material rewards. 84 min. (FC) (Beverly Arts Center, 7:30 PM)

Tell Them Who You Are

This 2004 documentary by Mark Wexler is a portrait of his father, Chicago-born cinematographer Haskell Wexler. 95 min. Mark Wexler will attend the screening. Tickets are $15. (Northwestern Univ. Thorne Auditorium, 8 PM)

Waiting for Quds

See listing for Fri 4/8. (Chopin Theatre, 8:30 PM)

Waking Up Dead

Fabio Jafet's 2004 feature follows Phil Varone, a wannabe rock star. 88 min. Jafet and Varone will attend the screening. (Chopin Theatre, 10:15 PM)

SUNDAY 10

Screening of 2005 prizewinners (Facets Cinematheque, noon)

Peaceable Kingdom

See listing for Fri 4/8. (Society for Arts, 1 PM)

The Power of Nightmares

Adam Curtis's three-part BBC documentary (2004) argues that neoconservatives and radical Islamists alike have cultivated a culture of fear in order to achieve their own ends in the war on terror. 155 min. (Chopin Theatre, 1 PM)

Dust Games

Martin Marecek's feature (2001, 86 min.) chronicles the protests that crowded the streets of Prague during the meetings of the IMF and World Bank in September 2000. In Czech with subtitles. Also on the program: the 37-minute Czech documentary The Ill-Fated Child, whose directors, Lucie Kralova and Miloslav Noval, will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 2:30 PM)

Crossover

See listing for Sat 4/9. (Chopin Theatre, 4 PM)

The Children of Morelia

Juan Pablo Villasenor's 2004 documentary looks at the more than 400 children who were forcibly shipped to the Mexican city of Morelia during the Spanish civil war. In Spanish with subtitles. 90 min. (Society for Arts, 5 PM)

La sierra

In the hillside slums of Medellin, Colombia, paramilitary groups and leftist guerrillas battle for control. As this 2004 documentary shows, this isn't about political ideology--it's a turf war among thugs. To give this nightmare a human face, filmmakers Scott Dalton and Margarita Martinez profile three people: a 22-year-old paramilitary commander with a fatalistic outlook, a 19-year-old soldier who's lost a hand to a grenade and now spends most of his time high, and a pregnant 15-year-old who's trying to remain optimistic about her jailed boyfriend. The intense focus on this trio makes for good portraiture, but it left me hungry for more about the social context that shaped them. In Spanish with subtitles. 86 min. (HSa) (Beverly Arts Center, 5 PM)

A Life Without Pain

See listing for Fri 4/8. Director Melody Gilbert will attend the screening. Also on the program: Richard and Kathryn Bucher's nine-minute No Gray Twilight. (Chopin Theatre, 6 PM)

R Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons

See listing for Fri 4/8. Director Gandulf Hennig will attend the screening. (Society for Arts, 7 PM)

Screening of 2005 prizewinners (Chopin Theatre, 8 PM)

Screening of 2005 prizewinners (Society for Arts, 9 PM)

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
20,000 Leagues Under the Seas Lookingglass Theatre Company
June 06
Performing Arts
Tempel Lipizzans Tempel Farms
June 19

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories