Skip to main content

February Films at Northwestern

Block Cinema continues series on new documentaries and vintage films set in the Himalayas

  • ‘Framing the Himalayas’ film series complements Block’s winter 2015 Buddhist art exhibit
  • ‘Lay of the Land’ series of contemporary documentaries has ties to new MFA program 
  • Author/co-producer Deborah Willis to attend “Through a Lens Darkly” screening
  • Greek filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari to present two of her most recent short works

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Block Cinema’s Winter 2015 film schedule continues in February with an ongoing series of contemporary documentaries programmed in conjunction with the Northwestern University School of Communication’s new program, MFA in Documentary Media. Films in the “Lay of the Land: New Documentaries” series will include “Marmato” and “Blurring the Lines: Shorts that Challenge Documentary Form.”

Also scheduled this winter is a program of classic and contemporary films, which offer different portrayals of the Himalayan region. Films in the “Framing the Himalayas: Kashmir and Tibet on Screen” series relate to the Block Museum’s Main Gallery winter 2015 exhibition, “Collecting Paradise: Buddhist Art of Kashmir and Its Legacies,” which runs through April 19.

Block Cinema also is presenting a variety of special programs, including the Feb. 20 guest appearance of Deborah Willis, author of the book “Reflections in Black, Through a Lens Darkly” and co-producer of the film “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” a 92-minute film that will be screened during her visit to the Block Museum. This event is free.

The “Collecting Paradise” exhibition features Buddhist objects, including manuscripts, paintings, and sculptures in ivory, metal and wood, dating from the 7th to 17th centuries. With 44 objects, the exhibition presents an original and innovative look at art from the region of Kashmir and the Western Himalayas, as well as how it has been “collected” over time.

The exhibition was curated by a leading scholar in the field, Robert Linrothe, associate professor of art history in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, with the support of Christian Luczanits, the David L. Snellgrove Senior Lecturer in Tibetan and Buddhist Art at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

“‘Collecting Paradise’ is the most ambitious exhibition in the Block’s history, and we are very grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts for recognizing its significance,” said Lisa Corrin, the Ellen Philips Katz Director of the Block Museum. “As part of our new global initiative, this exhibition brings together works of Asian art that are true masterpieces -- among the most important of their kind in the U.S.”

A companion exhibition, “Collecting Culture: Himalaya through the Lens,” which runs through April 12, in the Alsdorf Gallery, further examines the impact of centuries of collecting in the region. Co-curated by Kathleen Bickford Berzock, the Block’s associate director of curatorial affairs, and Robert Linrothe, “Collecting Culture” looks critically at U.S. and European engagement in the Himalayas beginning in the mid-19th century through lenses, including photography, cartography, natural science and ethnography. It reflects on the ways Westerners have perceived, defined and acquired the Himalayas, raising questions about what is gained and what is lost when objects are removed from their intended cultural context.

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

Visit the Block website for a complete list of series descriptions and programs at:


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 60 and older. Quarterly passes are $20. Tickets are available one hour before show time and space is limited. For more information, call the Block Cinema Hotline at 847-491-4000 or visit the Block Cinema website at


• Lay of the Land, New Documentaries series, “Marmato,” (Marc Grieco, 2014, Colombia, video, 87 minutes) 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5. FREE FOR NORTHWESTERN STUDENTS. “Every day in Marmato, a 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

• Framing the Himalayas series, “Black Narcissus” (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947, United Kingdom, 35mm, 100 minutes) 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6. One of the glories of Technicolor cinema, Powell and Pressburger’s “Black Narcissus” is a ravishment for the eyes. Only fitting, as the film is about excesses of desire and emotion, and the dangers of trying to repress them. The story is about a group of Anglican nuns who have come to found a convent deep in the Himalayas, and the relationship of one in particular, Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) with a British Agent (David Farrar). The exotic locale has an almost mystical influence on the sisters, kindling both romantic and carnal releases that threaten their mission, their state of mind and their way of life.

• Lay of the Land, New Documentaries series, “Blurring the Lines: Shorts that Challenge Documentary Form” (various directors, 1953-2014, various formats, approximately 90 minutes), 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12. FREE FOR NORTHWESTERN STUDENTS.

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. IN PERSON: Deborah Stratman.

• Framing the Himalayas series, Haider” (Vishal Bhardwaj, 2014, India, DCP, 160 minutes) 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13. FREE FOR NORTHWESTERN STUDENTS. In the latest film by Bollywood director Vishal Bhardwaj, a young man returns to Kashmir after his father's disappearance to confront the uncle who had a hand in his father's fate. “Haider” is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” displacing the action from Denmark to the city of Srinagar in the war-torn Kashmir of the mid-1990s. A critical success in India and abroad, the film caused a stir in India, angering government officials and Hindu nationalists who claimed it glorified terrorists and called for a boycott. The Times of India called it “superb, witty, violent, tragic - magic.”

• Framing the Himalayas series, “Valley of Saints” (Musa Syeed, 2012, United States, DCP, 82 minutes) 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19. Widely considered to be the crown jewel of Kashmir, Dal Lake is a sprawling aquatic community where erupting political violence often distracts from the natural beauty. Gulzar, a young, working-class boatman, plans to skip town with his best friend Afzal in search of a better life, but a weeklong military curfew (and a beautiful ecologist, Asifa) delays their departure. With the end of the conflict looming, Gulzar has to choose between a new life and a new love. Shot during the military curfew of 2010, “Valley of Saints” weaves together documentary and fiction, ancient myths and contemporary issues, and the beauty and danger of Kashmir to tell a story of finding one’s path home in a changing world.

• Special Programs series, “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” (Thomas Allen Harris, 2014, United States, DCP, 92 minutes) 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, FREE. Inspired by Deborah Willis’ book, “Reflections in Black, Through a Lens Darkly” casts a broad net that begins with filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris’ family album. It considers the difference between black photographers who use the camera to define themselves, their people, and their culture and some white photographers who, historically, have demeaned African-Americans through racist imagery. The film embraces both historical material (African-Americans who were slaves, who fought in the Civil War, were victims of lynchings or were pivotal in the civil rights movement) and contemporary images made by such luminaries as Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks and Carrie Mae Weems. The film reveals deeply disturbing truths about the history of race relations while expressing joyous, life-affirming sentiments about the ability of artists and amateurs alike to assert their identity through the photographic lens. -- Film Forum. In person: Author Deborah Willis, co-producer of the film, will attend the screening. 

• Special Programs series, Athina Rachel Tsangari in Person, 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, FREE. A leading light in Greek cinema's renaissance, filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari (“Attenberg”) appears in person to present two of her most recent short works. Commissioned for the annual DesteFashionCollection, whose goal is to create dialogue between the world of cinema, fashion and fine arts, “The Capsule” (2012, DCP, 35 minutes) is a mythopoeic Greek gothic work in which seven young women gather to perform surreal and mysterious rites of desire, discovery and discipline. Featuring works by cutting-edge fashion designers, it's equal parts horror film, dreamscape and absurdist send-up of the fashion industry's conceits of "femininity." It will be preceded by Tsangari’s micro-short, “24 Frames Per Century” (2013).

• Special Programs series, “The Stuart Hall Project” (John Akomfrah, 2013, United Kingdom, DCP, 103 minutes) 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, FREE. Acclaimed British documentarian and film essayist John Akomfrah’s portrait of the late sociologist and cultural critic Stuart Hall (who died in 2014) is a remarkable look at one of the great contemporary intellectuals. Hall was Jamaican-born, black, and rose up through the 1950s white academic establishment in Britain, not only becoming a respected professor and writer but also a public figure who used the mass media to discuss race, class, politics and more. It is these television and radio appearances that Akomfrah primarily draws from, letting Hall’s own words shape the film, along with excerpts of jazz great Miles Davis, a particular passion of Hall’s. Akomfrah creates an intimate, accessible document without sacrificing the ideas that dominated Hall’s thinking and life.

• Special Programs series, “Girlhood” (Céline Sciamma, 2014, France, DCP, 113 minutes) 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27. Fed up with her abusive family situation, lack of school prospects and the “boys’ law” in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her style, drops out of school and starts stealing to be accepted into the gang. When her home situation becomes unbearable, Marieme seeks solace in an older man who promises her money and protection. Realizing this sort of lifestyle will never result in the freedom and independence she truly desires, she finally decides to take matters into her own hands. The film will be screened in French with English subtitles.

Editor's Picks

Back to top