UntitledGene Siskel Film Center kicks off the New Year with two innovative, exciting series and a diverse offering of week-long runs filled with Chicago premieres and special guest appearances. The annual Stranger Than Fiction: Documentary Premieres series takes a look at provocative new work in nonfiction cinema January 4 – 31 while Jean Rouch: The Ethnographer as Auteurdelves into the work of one of the most influential French filmmakers, January 13 – 31. The Chicago premiers of The Rabbi’s Cat, Max et las Ferrailleurs, La Rafle, Gegory Crewdson: Brief Encountersand Tiger Tail in Blue are introduced to GSFC audiences for the first time while The House I Live In and Brooklyn Castle among others,are back by popular demand. Audiences are treated to in person discussions with numerous filmmakers, directors and talent from many of the films including filmmaker Chris Sullivan (Consuming Spirits), director Frank V. Ross (Tiger Tail in Blue), Dr. Billy Taylor and directors Daniel Chace and Bob Hercules (Perseverance: The Story of Dr. Billy Taylor)  For more information please visit


Stranger Than Fiction: Documentary Premieres

New documentaries take center stage at the Gene Siskel Film Center January 4 – 31, with Stranger Than Fiction: Documentary Premieres, the annual spotlight on provocative new work in nonfiction cinema. The story behind James Joyce’s monumental novel “Ulysses” and the events surrounding his life are told in Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna’s In Bed with Ulysses; dubbed “the people’s Picasso,” Brazil’s Bel Borba gives new meaning to public art and is no longer Latin America’s best-kept secret in Bel Borba Aqui; filmmaker Daniel Edelstyn discovers a new family business when he comes across his grandmother’s diary in How to Re-establish a Vodka Empire; and filmmaker Peter Nicks get to the heart of our nation’s healthcare system with the highly effective, compassionate, and non-judgmental documentary chronicling the day-to-day life in the emergency room of an Oakland hospital with The Waiting Room, recently announced as part of the 2013 Academy Awards shortlist for Best Documentary.

The mysteries of the universe are tackled most engagingly in Peter Mettler’s The End of Time as he explores the malleable concept of time through various cultures; the intricacies of Middle Eastern culture unfold in The Iran Job, the story of NBA hopeful Kevin Sheppard whoends up playing in the Iranian Basketball Super League for a brand-new underdog team in the ancient city of Shiraz and The Sheik and I, a film originally commissioned as part of a government-funded arts festival in the United Arab Emirates with specific instructions not to mock the nation’s ruler Sheik Sultan bin Mohammad al-Qasimi; Directors Bob Hercules and Daniel Chace and former college football great Dr. Billy Taylor appear in person with the inspiring Perseverance: The Story of Dr. Billy Taylor, which tells the story of a man’s remarkable resurrection and his mission to help others who have similarly touched bottom in their lives; WWII veterans are given the opportunity of a lifetime through the efforts of a small community who rallies together in order to send them to the WWII memorial in Washington D.C. in Honor Flight; and a veteran of the Vietnam conflict receives his due in Leo Evan’s Bill’s Thud.

Jean Rouch: The Ethnographer as Auteur

From January 13 – 31, the Gene Siskel Film Center, in cooperation with Icarus Films and the Institut Français, presents Jean Rouch: The Ethnographer As Auteur, a series of six features and two shorts representing the work of the influential French filmmaker Jean Rouch, who was a key figure in the evolution of ethnographic cinema, the French New Wave and the cinéma vérité movement. Films include Chronicle of a Summer, Brise-Glace, Moi, Un Noir, The Lion Hunters, Jaguar and Little by Little.

Note: on January 25, GSFC will begin the next film/lecture series Revolution in the Air: The Long Sixties–which focuses on experimental videos that emerged from the revolutionary era of 1955-1975–featuring weekly Tuesday lectures by visual artist, video-maker, and SAIC professor Mary Patten. The series will feature fourteen programs beginning with Point of Order!, the definitive film record of the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings.


Chicago premiere! Adapted from the quirky French comic books of Joann Sfar, The Rabbi’s Cat (January 4 – 17), a delightful adult-targeted animation film, is set in Algiers in 1920 where a rabbi’s lean and feisty cat miraculously gains the gift of speech along with a witty intelligence and sly philosophical bent. His crush on his master’s voluptuous daughter temporarily thwarted, the curious feline becomes party to the rabbi’s adventures on a trip through the Sahara in search of a lost Ethiopian city. Filmmakers Antoine Delesvaux (Gainsbourg) and Joann Sfar stir up a wild and provocative mix of cultural and religious confrontations mediated by humor. With voices by Francois Morel, Maurice Benichou, Mathieu Amalric and Hafsia Herzi.

In French with English subtitles.

The Flat (January 4 – 10) is a gripping detective story leading to astonishing revelations that are all true. It begins with filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger cleaning out the Tel Aviv apartment of his recently deceased German-born mother. Among the books and shoes, he discovers evidence closely linking his Zionist grandparents to a high-ranking Nazi, both before and–more surprisingly–after the war. Following a trail that leads to the Nazi’s surviving daughter, he discovers a shattering secret that raises far-reaching issues of denial, selective memory and survival.

In Hebrew, German, and English with English subtitles.

Chicago premiere! Max et les Ferrailleurs (January 11-17): An underrated figure in French cinema, Claude Sautet moved in his career from tough crime films to subtle psychological/romantic dramas. Max et les Ferrailleurs combines the best of both worlds, depicting a cat-and-mouse game that mixes ruthless justice and unpredictable love to devastating effect. Giving an ironic French twist to the lone-wolf cops of Dirty Harry and The French Connection, Max (Michel Piccoli) is a justice-obsessed policeman who sets out to entrap a junkyard-based gang by tempting them into a heist. Posing as a lonely banker, he feeds information to a prostitute (Romy Schneider) connected with the gang; the hitch in his plan comes when she falls in love with him.

In French with English subtitles.

Chicago premiere! La Rafle (January 18-24): Scenes of carefree children at play in the streets of Montmartre in the early summer of 1942 give way to the darkness of the imminent threat for the Jews of Paris in this heart-rending drama in which every one of the more than 70 central characters is based upon fact. Through the eyes of 11-year-old Jo and his siblings, director Rose Bosch meticulously reconstructs the roundup of 13,000 Jews, who were then confined to a stadium in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower without the most basic human necessities, only the first step in their French government-mandated journey towards death. A world-weary Jean Reno plays the harried Jewish doctor who attempts to minister to the captives, aided by the young Protestant nurse (Mélanie Laurent) whose eyes are newly opened to the tragedy.

In French with English subtitles.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (January 18 – 24): No name in the world of fashion has inspired greater admiration or greater fear than that of Diana Vreeland, eccentrically glamorous, tough, imperious and long-lived editor of “Harper Bazaar” and “Vogue,” then the groundbreaking consultant for the Met’s Costume Institute until her 1989 death. Dubbed “the empress of fashion,” she had brains and charisma in equal measure, as evidenced by this deliciously detailed chronicle of her transition from a Belle Époque ugly duckling to the sleek self-made arbiter of international style. Interviews run the gamut of fashions greats, from Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, and Manolo Blahnik to supermodels and photographers.

In English, French and Italian with English subtitles.

Back by popular demand! The House I Live In (January 18 – 23): Winner of the best documentary prize at Sundance, the latest film by Eugene Jarecki ranks with The Thin Blue Line, Bowling for Columbine and The Inside Job as a great documentary polemic. The subject is the “War on Drugs,” which, as this eye-opening film convincingly shows, is more precisely a war on those who are perceived as class and racial outsiders. Dating back to the 19th century (when opium was used to demonize Chinese immigrants) this war was officially inaugurated by Richard Nixon, escalated by Ronald Reagan and espoused by virtually every major Presidential candidate ever since. Using eloquent analysts, compelling personal stories from all sides and levels of the “war,” and his own experience as a child of Holocaust survivors, Jarecki lucidly and passionately builds an in-depth case against a policy that demonstrably doesn’t work, has a ruinous effect on American society, but remains entrenched, thanks to its profitability and political expediency.

First Chicago Run! Chris Sullivan in person! Over a decade in the making, Consuming Spirits (January 25 – 31) is the hypnotic and elegiac first feature by award-winning animator and SAIC faculty member Chris Sullivan. Set in a dreary Rustbelt town, the film follows late-night radio hose Earl Gray; wilting violet Genny, who cares for her foul-mouthed, Alzheimer’s-stricken mother; and Genny’s sometime boyfriend Victor Blue, whose days teeter at the edge of sobriety. One evening while driving home, Genny hits a nun in full habit on the highway, setting off a string of events that reveal a long and twisty history among Genny, Earl and Victor, involving family dysfunction, foster care, and old wounds longing to heal. Sullivan’s intricate hand-drawn and cut-out animations telegraph his characters’ conflicting and complicated emotions while depicting the minute tragedies and triumphs that make up a life. Winner of the Chicago Award at the 48th Chicago International Film Festival.

Filmmaker Chris Sullivan will be present for audience discussion at the Friday, January 25 and Thursday, January 31 screenings.

Chicago premiere! Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (January 25 – 31): The haunting, melancholy photographs of Gregory Crewdson describe a shadowy world of small town decay, mystery and solitude. Influences as diverse as Psycho, Blue Velvet, the paintings of Edward Hopper and the photographs of Diane Arbus come to mind in the somberly surreal narratives his photographs suggest. For a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of one of the most acclaimed photographers of our time, filmmaker Ben Shapiro followed Crewdson’s decade-long creation of his epic series “Beneath the Roses,” involving the artist’s use of massive sets and large-scale crews and equipment on locations in western Massachusetts.

Limited Engagements

New restoration! Nominated for six Academy Awards and winner of three, Roman Polanski’s long-unavailable Tess (January 12 and 14) is presented in a gorgeous new DCP restoration supervised by the director himself. Adapted from Thomas Hardy’s classic Victorian novel “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” the film draws an affecting performance from 17-year-old Nastassja Kinski as a strong-willed but vulnerable peasant girl whose family pressures her to improve her social station, leaving her vulnerable to seduction by a faux-aristocratic cad (Leigh Lawson) and compromised in her love for an idealistic parson (Peter Firth). A brilliant and sometimes underrated adapter, Polanski once again manages to be remarkably faithful to the source while pursuing his personal themes of innocence coming to terms with evil in a hostile world.

Chicago premiere! Frank Ross in person! Tiger Tail in Blue (January 26 and 27): Recently married Chris (Frank V. Ross), an aspiring writer and waiter who works the late shifts, and his wife Melody (Rebecca Spence), a high school teacher made edgy by the financial precariousness of their lives, have become like roommates passing in the night. Enter Chris’s co-worker Brandy (Megan Mercier), the flirty brunette bartender who is the spitting image of Melody. For his sixth feature, Chicago filmmaker Ross layers bait-and-switch perceptions evoked by this not-quite-a-triangle for a subtle narrative of twenty-something suburban restlessness that simmers just beneath the surface. Nominated for a Gotham Film Award.

Director Frank V. Ross will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

Back by popular demand! Brooklyn Castle (January 26, 27 and 30): Kings, queens and knights come to the rescue of a winning crew of Brooklyn inner-city middle school students when chess becomes their game of choice and their overwhelming obsession. Brooklyn Castle follows the dramatic story of how a new chess program at a failing school becomes the driving force in the lives of at-risk kids, most from families below the poverty level. The chess team of I.S. 318 scales the heights of the chess world, becoming the top-rated junior high team in the nation. Prodigy players including Rochelle, Justus, Pobo and Alexis are posed for the opportunities of a lifetime just as their school’s hard-won success is threatened by budget cuts.

All screenings and events are at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, located at 164 N. State St.

The Gene Siskel Film Center’s theaters and main office will be closed on December 24, 25, and 31, and January 1.

Tickets to each screening–unless stated otherwise–are $11/general admission, $7/students, and $6/Film Center members. All tickets may be purchased at the Film Center Box Office. Both general admission and Film Center member tickets are available through Ticketmaster, 800-982-2787,, and all Ticketmaster outlets. The Film Center and its box office are open 5:00 to 8:30 pm, Monday through Friday; 2:00 to 8:30 pm Saturday; and 2:00 to 5:30 pm Sunday.

Please note the following:

Sunday double-bill discount for the Stanger Than Fiction: Documentary Premieres:buy a ticket for the first Stranger Than Fiction film on any Saturday in January (and on Sun., Jan. 6), and get a ticket for the second Stranger Than Fiction film that day at this discount rate (tickets must be purchased at the same time): General Admission $7; Students $6; Members $5. (This discount rate applies to the second film only. Discount rate available only at the Film Center box office.)

Sunday double-bill discount for the Jean Rouch: The Ethnographer As Auteur: Buy a ticket for the first Jean Rouch film on any Sunday in January, and get a ticket for the second Rouch film that day at this discount rate (tickets must be purchased at the same time): General Admission $7; Students $6; Members $5. (This discount rate applies to the second film only. Discount rate available only at the Film Center box office.)

A Film Center membership is a year-round ticket to great movies for only $6 per screening! Memberships are $50 (Individual) and $80 (Dual). For more information, call 312-846-2600 or visit

Discounted parking is available for $14 for nine hours at the InterPark SELF-PARK at 20 E. Randolph St. A rebate ticket can be obtained from the Film Center Box Office.


For more information about the Film Center, call 312-846-2800 (24-hour movie hotline) or 312-846-2600 (general information, 9:00 am-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday), or visit

The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago celebrates 40 years of presenting cutting edge programs, independent and international cinema, premieres, retrospectives, and classic films. Internationally recognized for its original film programming, the Film Center is a vibrant cultural destination in Chicago that attracts a diverse and creative annual audience of over 89,000.

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs to nearly 3,200 students from around the globe. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC’s resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit