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Northwestern Film in April

Writer-director Melvin Van Peebles guest speaker at Block Cinema April 19

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Melvin Van Peebles -- the actor, film director and screenwriter credited with starting the blaxploitation movie genre -- will join Northwestern Professor and playwright Thomas Bradshaw at Block Cinema April 19 after the screening of one of Van Peebles’ early films, “The Story of a Three-Day Pass.”

The discussion is one of several special film events and many programs with in-person guests that are part of the Block’s spring schedule.

Block Cinema will also screen a 35mm print of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, “Psycho” on April 24 in conjunction with A&O Films. “Nairobi Half Life,” a new and impressive first film about a young Kenyan man who leaves his rural village to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor will be shown April 26 as part of the ongoing Passport to Global Cinema: Contemporary International Films series.

All films will be screened in the James B. Pick and Rosalyn M. Laudati Auditorium at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

Unless otherwise noted, general admission to Block Cinema is $6 for the general public or $4 for Block Museum members, Northwestern faculty, staff and students, students from other schools with valid IDs, and individuals aged 65 and older. Quarterly passes are $20. Tickets are available one hour before showtime. For more information, call the Block Cinema Hotline at (847) 491-4000 or visit the Block Cinema website at


The Passport film series continues to show some of the best new films from around the world. Selections include sneak previews of upcoming releases and films without U.S. distribution, providing an opportunity to see some of the most talked-about films from the international film festival circuit yet to be on DVD or at the multiplex. This yearlong film series is part of Northwestern’s Global Languages Initiative emphasizing the need for global fluency in the 21st century, celebrating linguistic diversity and promoting cultural literacy. 


Special Program with Melvin Van Peebles, “The Story of a Three-Day Pass,” 7 p.m. Friday, April 19, Free (Melvin Van Peebles, 1968, France, 35mm, 87 minutes). The Chicago-born Melvin Van Peebles is best known for his 1971 blaxploitation classic “Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.” “The Story of a Three-Day Pass,” Van Peebles’ first feature, was a less militant but equally political exploration of race. It’s the story of an African-American soldier stationed in France on a three-day leave in Paris. There, he begins a romance with a young French shop clerk. The two spend the weekend together, but reactions by others to the interracial couple becomes a complicating distraction. Shot in France, “Three-Day Pass has a clear New Wave influence and a jazzy, improvisational feel. The program includes a live conversation between writer-director Melvin Van Peebles and Northwestern University Assistant Professor of radio, television and film Thomas Bradshaw. The program is co-presented by CIMMFest. 

“Psycho,” 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, Free (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, United States, 35mm, 109 minutes.) Loosely based on the notorious Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, “Psycho” builds on Hitchcock’s masterful use of suspense and psychological terror, adding a new layer of visceral shocks. Anthony Perkins gives a career-defining performance as a motel owner with a dark side and serious mother issues. Janet Leigh is a thieving secretary on the run who stops at the wrong place for the night. Bernard Hermann’s piercing score and John L. Russell’s stark black and white cinematography reinforce the palpable unease that threads its way through this still modern-feeling masterpiece. Do we even have to mention the shower scene? The screening is co-presented by A&O Films.

Passport to Global Cinema, “Nairobi Half Life,” 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, Free with a Northwestern WildCARD (David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga, 2012, Kenya and Germany, video, 96 minutes). The directorial debut of Kenyan filmmaker Gitonga, “Nairobi Half Life” follows Mwas, a young man who leaves his rural village to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor in Nairobi. There, he is robbed, jailed, and falls in with a gang of criminals. Mwas, still set on an acting career, must find a way to balance these two worlds. Part of an incubator initiative to train promising young filmmakers and co-produced by director Tom Twyker (“Run, Lola, Run”), Gitonga’s film is an impressive combination of drama and comedy. It features a stunning, award winning performance by Joseph Wairimu as Mwas. Director David “Tosh” Gitonga will attend the screening. 


A long-term construction project on Northwestern’s south campus has closed vehicle access to the Block Museum and Arts Circle Drive. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum. For directions and parking information, visit

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