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April Films at Northwestern

Huston’s 1952 fictionalized biopic of Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Moulin Rouge” featured

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Block Cinema’s spring 2015 film series gets underway April 2 with a 1924 silent film co-directed and starring iconic American actor, vaudevillian, filmmaker and stunt performer Buster Keaton (1895-1966).

Keaton’s film, “The Navigator,” is part of Block Cinema’s new “Buster on the Run” series highlighting the actor’s wide range of comedic and dramatic on-screen roles. It will be screened to live piano accompaniment by David Drazin and is one of 20 film programs presented by Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

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


•  “Buster on the Run,” April 2-May 29, is a small selection of Buster Keaton films that feature an assortment of “Busters” on the screen. There is the wealthy Keaton of “The Navigator,” fleeing from a marriage proposal gone wrong; the middle-class Keaton running off to college to try and impress a girl; and the working-class Keaton dashing away from both the anarchist gangs and the cops in a selection of shorts.

• Special Programs, April 3-June 5, features an eclectic assortment of one-night screenings, including visits from the Iranian documentarian Pouran Derakhshandeh and Chicago-based experimental filmmaker Chris Sullivan; a screening of John Huston’s 1952 film “Moulin Rouge”; an evening of rare documentary films on American and African poets; a free screening of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”; and two annual programs: Sonic Celluloid and Rare Baseball Films.

• Art on Screen, April 9-May 7, Block Cinema’s ongoing series of films about art continues with recent documentaries about two different national galleries -- the recently renovated Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery in London.

• Lay of the Land: New Documentaries, April 24, which was launched this winter continues into spring with an evening screening that shines a light on war, economic hardship and European immigration. The series, co-curated and co-presented with Northwestern’s MFA in Documentary Media program, is FREE for Northwestern students with IDs. 

•  “The Last Supper: Race, Class and Justice on the Screen,” May 1-June 4, complements the Block Museum’s May 9-Aug. 9 “The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of U.S. Death Row Inmates,” an exhibition by contemporary artist Julie Green, who has painted images of the last meal request of death row inmates onto second-hand ceramic plates. The companion film series asks similar questions about the ambiguity of guilt, the finality of death and the role race and class play in the judicial system. The series includes documentaries on the death penalty in America and fictional films that offer different historical and cultural perspectives on the issue of capital punishment and the complexities of justice in societies struggling with inequality. It also examines how social media shapes the national discussion about race, law and the limits of police power.

Visit the Block website for a complete list of series descriptions and spring 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


• Buster on the Run, “The Navigator” 7 p.m. Thursday, April 2 (Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp, 1924, United States, 35mm, 59 minutes). After an unsuccessful marriage proposal, Rollo Treadway (Buster Keaton) decides to sail away from his sorrows by going on his honeymoon cruise alone. In his rush to get away, he leaves for the dock at night, accidentally boarding a ship that his would-be fiancé’s father has just sold to a small country at war. The intricate set-up comments on the absurdity of war and provides a brilliant excuse for a slew of gags about everything from the wealthy learning to take care of themselves (without servants, can you imagine?) to the ingenuity required to retrofit a giant cruise ship to the needs of two guests. How do you make breakfast for two in a galley meant to cook for thousands?  The film will be screened to live piano accompaniment by David Drazin.

• Special Programs, “Moulin Rouge” 7 p.m. Friday, April 3 (John Huston, 1952, United Kingdom, 35mm/digital, 119 minutes). With the student-curated exhibition “Toulouse-Lautrec Prints: Art at the Edges of Modernity” on view in the Katz Gallery through April 19, escape to 19th-century Paris with the 1952 Lautrec biopic “Moulin Rouge.” Director John Huston followed up his hit “The African Queen with this Technicolor adaptation of a fictionalized biography of the French artist. The film uses complicated narrative storytelling to depict Lautrec’s life story and transports the audience to turn-of-the-century France. Huston’s own painting background is on display in the intricate design of the film, which won Oscars for set decoration and art direction.

• Art on Screen, “National Gallery,” 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9 (Frederick Wiseman, 2014, United States and France, DCP, 181 minutes.) Wiseman’s most recent documentary, “National Gallery,” places viewers within the cacophonous bustle of one of the world’s great museums, the National Gallery, London. Wiseman has been making movies for nearly 50 years, challenging the understanding of subjectivity and documentation. Since the debut of “Titicut Follies” in 1967, his distinctive voice never includes voiceovers or talking heads, letting the sounds of a place rise up to meet the audience. Often mistaken as cinema verité, Wiseman breaks the rules, editing his films non-sequentially -- culling and collaging a portrait of an institution as striking and unforgiving as the works on the walls. The film will be introduced by Lisa Corrin, director of Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

• Buster on the Run, “College,” 7 p.m. Friday, April 10 (Buster Keaton and James W. Horne, 1927, United States, 35mm, 65 minutes). The movie begins with high school valedictorian Ronald (Buster Keaton) giving a graduation speech on “The Curse of the Athlete.” But then, in the century-old practice of reinventing oneself at college, Ronald gives up books to try out for the baseball team. It’s all for the love of Mary (Anne Cornwall) and not for the love of baseball. The tryout ends disastrously. Next Ronald walks on to the track team, but no one runs quite like him. Will he ever have a chance to show Mary his devotion? Keaton’s virtuosic performance of failure reaches a feverish height in this lovely send up of middle-class values.

• Special Programs, Hiss! Dokhtarha faryad nemizanand! (Hush! Girls Don’t Scream!) 7 p.m. Thursday, April 16 (Pouran Derakhshandeh, 2013, Iran, DVD, 104 minutes) FREE. On her wedding night, Shirin, who seems to be psychologically distressed, murders her building’s doorman. As she is interrogated by the police and the case gradually unravels, it becomes clear that she suffered sexual abuse in her childhood and her act of homicide was to save another child from being abused. In a society that highly favors family “honor” above anything else, the victim of abuse is not supposed to be heard. Her life is at the mercy of the court and the judicial system. The film won widespread national and international acclaim for daring not only to speak about a taboo subject but also to address issues such as capital punishment in Iran. Derakhshandeh spent three years researching the problem and interviewing hundreds of the victims of pedophilia. The film will be introduced by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ Brian T. Edwards, Crown Professor in Middle East Studies, associate professor of English, comparative Literary studies and American studies, and program director of the Middle East and North African Studies (MENA). A Q&A with director Pouran Derakhshandeh and Hamid NaficyWeinberg College of Arts and Sciences film studies professor, will follow the screening. The screening will be preceded by a 6 p.m. reception at Block Cinema.

• Special Programs, “Bist” (“Twenty”) 7 p.m. Friday, April 17. FREE (Abdolreza Kahani, 2009, Iran, DVD, 90 minutes). “Twenty,” produced by Pouran Derakhshandeh, is the story of the abusive relationship between Soleimani, the owner of a reception hall, and his employees. Suffering from psychological problems, Soleimani decides to close down the hall in 20 days. The film narrates the personal and collective suffering of the employees facing the abuse of their employer and the uncertainty of the future. Shot mostly in closed spaces and directed with attention to details, “Twenty” is a humanist allegory of contemporary Iran. It won several international and national awards including the Special Jury Prize at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (2009). The film will be introduced by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ Brian T. Edwards, Crown Professor in Middle East Studies, associate professor of English, comparative Literary studies and American studies, and program director of the Middle East and North African Studies (MENA).A Q&A with producer Pouran Derakhshandeh and Professor Hamid Naficy will follow the screening.

• Special Programs, 7 p.m. Thursday, April 23, FREE, Poetry on Public Television: the 1960s.” “Concrete Poetry” (Michael Warshaw, Pyramid Film and Video, 1968, United States, 16mm, 12 minutes); “Robert Duncan and John Wieners” (Richard O. Moore, WNET US: Poetry Series, 1966, United States, 16mm, 30 minutes); “Gwendolyn Brooks” (Aida Aronoff, WNET Creative Persons Series, 1966, United States, 16mm, 29 minutes); and “David Rubadiri, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Bernard Fonlon, Wole Soyinka” (Lewis Nkosi, WNET African Writers of Today Series, 1964, United States, 16mm, 29 minutes). The Northwestern University Poetry and Poetics Colloquium presents an evening of rare documentary films on American and African poets, all produced for National Educational Television in the mid-1960s. Writers include Robert Duncan, John Wieners, Gwendolyn Brooks, Leopold Sédar Senghor, David Rubadiri and a variety of concrete poets. (Editor’s note: “concrete or shape poetry is poetry in which the typographical arrangement of words is as important in conveying the intended effect as the conventional elements of the poem, such as the meaning of words, rhythm and rhyme.” The program opens the symposium “Radical Poetics: Archives, Forms, Social Movements” ( It will be introduced by Northwestern’s Harris Feinsod, assistant professor of English and comparative literary studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.  It will be preceded by a 6 p.m. reception at Block Cinema.

• New Documentaries, “Waiting for August” 7 p.m. Friday, April 24, FREE for Northwestern University students (Teodora Ana Mihai, 2014, Belgium and Romania, DCP, 88 minutes.) Georgiana Halmac turns 15 this winter. She lives with her six younger brothers and sisters on the outskirts of Bacau, Romania, where employment is scarce. Their mother, Liliana, found work in Turin, Italy, over a thousand miles away. She won’t be back before summer. Georgiana has been catapulted into the role of head of the family, caring for her siblings. Caught between puberty and responsibility, Georgiana moves ahead, improvising as she goes. Phone conversations with her mom are her only guidelines. Intimate scenes from their daily life show the seven siblings interpreting their experiences with great imagination. Film description was adapted from the online distributor’s notes: will be preceded by Half-Life of War” (Kyle Henry, 2014, United States, digital, 7 minutes). More than 30 wars and 1.5 million dead soldiers are memorialized at sites across the United States. How many of us see the radioactive trace of these past conflicts? What is the best way to remember the trauma of war? The screening will be introduced by director Kyle Henry, assistant professor of radio, television and film in Northwestern’s School of Communication. 


The Block Museum’s galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The Block is closed on Monday.

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