Alternative Histories of Labor Film Series

Drawing energy from the wave of attention to labor issues prompted by the spread of “right to work” laws and the Fight for Fifteen movement (among others), this series aims to expand on the dominant narrative of labor movements as mostly white and mostly male. These six film screenings and discussions highlight the contributions of women and racial/ethnic minorities to US labor movements.

At each screening, scholars and activists will lead discussions connecting the events in the films to present-day issues in labor organizing and work in general. Speakers include three-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Julia Reichert, art historian Huey Copeland, filmmaker and professor Judy Hoffman, historian Erik Gellman, linguist Kim Potowski, film historian Annie Sullivan, and labor activists from a number of fields. Audiences are encouraged to contribute their own experiences to these vibrant discussions.

At the River I Stand
August 25 at 7pm
Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

Northwestern University art historian Huey Copeland introduces a screening of At the River I Stand, a 1993 film about the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that Martin Luther King Jr. was supporting when he was assassinated. Full details here.

Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle
September 8 at 6pm
Chicago Public Library, Pullman branch, 11001 S. Indiana Ave.

Roosevelt University historians Christopher Robert Reed and Erik Gellman introduce and discuss a screening of Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle, a 1982 film about the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Full details here.

HSA Strike ’75 and I Am Somebody
September 26 at 6:30pm
SEIU Healthcare headquarters, 2229 S. Halsted St.

Filmmaker Judy Hoffman, Stroger Hospital chief medical officer Claudia Fegan, former HSA negotiating and strike committee member Dr. Howard Ehrman, and St. Bernard Hospital crisis worker and SEIU Healthcare member Bonita Williams introduce and discuss a screening of HSA Strike ’75, a 1976 film about a strike for better patient care at Cook County Hospital, and I Am Somebody, a 1970 film about a strike by poorly paid black women hospital workers in South Carolina. Full details here.

last threeFinally Got the News
October 9 at 7pm
Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.

Northwestern University graduate student Annie Morse and former UAW organizer Mike Siviwe Elliott introduce and discuss a screening of Finally Got the News, a 1970 film about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit. Full details here.

El Teatro Campesino
October 19 at 7pm
La Catrina Cafe, 1011 W. 18th St.
Sponsored by Contratiempo and Aguijón Theater

DePaul University associate professor of Spanish Jacqueline Lazú, workers’ rights organizer Martin Unzuela, and Aguijón Theater ensemble member Marcopolo Soto introduce and discuss a screening of El Teatro Campesino, a 1970 film about the theater troupe of the United Farm Workers. Full details here.

Union Maids and The Willmar 8
November 13 at 3pm
Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

Three-time Oscar-nominated director Julia Reichert and Sara Joy Liles, member of the board of directors of Chicago Women in Trades, discuss Union Maids, a 1976 film about women labor organizers in 1920s and 1930s Chicago, and The Willmar 8, a 1981 film about a bank strike over sex discrimination. Full details here.

The series is sponsored by South Side Projections; Illinois Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly; The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana; Black Cinema House; Contratiempo; Aguijón Theater; and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Chicago.

Carol Munday Lawrence’s Animated Kwanzaa Films, December 5

Umoja = Unity
The Tiger and the Big Wind (1972, 8 min.). Lawrence admitted that “I knew nothing about the animation process” when she made the first film in the series. Schoolchildren provided the artworks, which were then cut out and animated against backgrounds drawn by animator Sal Raciti. The theme music is by folk singer Odetta, and the story is based on a tale in William J. Faulkner’s folktale collection The Days When the Animals Talked.

Ujima = Responsibility
Mudope and the Flood (1975)
Imani = Faith
Beegi and the Egg (1976)
Kuumba = Creativity
Simon’s New Sound (1978)
Kujichagulia = Self-Determination
The Kangaroos Who Forgot (1979)
Nia = Purpose
Mary Jean and the Green Stone (1980)
Ujamaa = Economic Cooperation
Noel’s Lemonade Stand (1981)

September 13: Red Squads and Beyond, 1960s to Today

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South Side Projections and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts present a film screening and discussion of police and government surveillance from the 1960s to the present.

During much of the twentieth century, large cities in the United States employed police intelligence units that monitored, harassed, and infiltrated political and social groups suspected of dissent. Informally known as Red Squads, these units were originally formed to keep tabs on suspected Communists, but their purview quickly extended to anyone thought to be subversive. Their activities intensified during the domestic upheaval of the 1960s as police joined forces with the U.S. government to track and disrupt civil rights groups. Red Squads no longer exist, but domestic spying by government actors has continued, with new laws such as the PATRIOT Act and new technology making it easier for the government to monitor and harass those who voice dissent.

This program will examine domestic surveillance through two films about police spying during the 1960s and 1970s, followed by a wide-ranging discussion with people who have been spied on and harassed by the police and federal government from the 1960s through the post-9/11 era.

Films

April 27 (Chicago Newsreel, 1968, 10 min., video projection) documents a Chicago peace march turned violent by an unprovoked attack by police less than a month after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and just four months before the police riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Red Squad (Steven Fischler, Joel Sucher, Howard Blatt, and Francis Freedland, 1972, 45 min., 16mm print) documents the surveillance activities of the New York City Police Department’s Bureau of Special Services, known as the Red Squad. When the filmmakers, NYU students enrolled in Martin Scorsese’s production class, began to photograph people they saw photographing others at political events, they became targets of police and FBI harassment and arrest themselves. They in turn documented their harassers, leading Vincent Canby to remark in his New York Times review that the film becomes “funny, in the way that two spies are funny when they suddenly discover they’re spying on each other. Yet it’s dead serious, the record of when four young filmmakers decide to run their own surveillance on the surveillants.”

Discussion

Discussants will include civil rights attorney Matthew Piers, filmmaker Peter Kuttner, and activist Micki Leaner, who were involved in the Alliance to End Repression et al. v. City of Chicago et al. civil suit whose 1982 settlement expressly prohibited political harassment and spying by the City of Chicago. Also joining us will be Hatem Abudayyeh, director of the Arab American Action Network, who will discuss government harassment of antiwar and Palestinian rights activists. The moderator will be art historian Rebecca Zorach, who has conducted research on police and FBI surveillance of the Black Arts Movement.

When: Sunday, September 13 at 5pm
Where: Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., Second Floor Screening Room
How much: Free

Red Squad print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. April 27 DVD courtesy of Kartemquin Films.

All of our programs are supported in part by a grant from The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

The Shepherd of the Night Flock (1975), August 12

Photo by Chris Stam
Photo by Chris Stam
The Shepherd of the Night Flock (George C. Stoney, James Brown, Paul Barnes; 1975, 56 min., 16mm) is a documentary about Reverend John Garcia Gensel’s jazz ministry at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan. Gensel had started the Jazz Vespers for those musicians of his growing night ministry who couldn’t make it to Sunday morning service after playing late Saturday night gigs. It became the church home for many musicians including Zoot Sims, Billy Strayhorn, and Billy Taylor, and the legendary jazz great Duke Ellington, who was a frequent worshipper. He called Pastor Gensel “the shepherd who watches over the night flock” and wrote a hymn with that title, which is how the film was named. The film contains footage of Ellington’s last concert and Father Gensel’s eulogy for him at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The great jazz writer Nat Hentoff wrote of Gensel: “When Pastor John Garcia Gensel entered a jazz club, as he very often did, he was warmly welcomed by the musicians—and by those of the laity who had come to know him as an integral part of the jazz scene. Pastor Gensel was on the staff of Saint Peter’s Church in New York, but he had a special beat, as journalists say. His ministry was to serve the jazz community. He presided at memorial services for jazz musicians who had finished their last chorus. And early every Sunday evening, he was there to present—and manifestly enjoy—jazz vesper services.”

16mm print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Shepherd of the Night Flock has been preserved with funding from the New York State Library, Division of Library Development.

When: Wednesday, August 12 at 7pm
Where: University Church, 5655 S. University Ave.
How much: Free

All of our programs are supported in part by a grant from The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Everything Must Come to Light: The Films of Mpumi Njinge, July 18

Still from "My Son, The Bride"

South African clothing designer, actor, and filmmaker Mpumi Njinge completed just two films before his death of AIDS-related illness in 2002. Both films are informal documentaries exploring the lives of queer folk in the townships of South Africa. My Son the Bride (2002, 24 min.) documents what is thought to be the first same-sex marriage between black men in South Africa, exploring a young man’s struggle with his family and his community to accept his sexual preference and bless his union. Everything Must Come to Light (co-directed by Paolo Alberton, 2002, 25 min.) tells the stories of three lesbian sangomas (traditional healers) in Soweto, delving into their relationship with their ancestors, and the role their ancestors play in their healing powers and sexuality.

Post-screening conversation will be led by Andrew Brown, who is finishing a PhD in performance studies at Northwestern University. Andrew has conducted collaborative ethnographic performances with LGBTI refugees in South Africa since 2011. Their play, Home/Affair, which premiered at the 2013 National Art Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, addresses the lives of queer refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries who find that despite South Africa’s constitutional promise of human rights for LGBTI people, the reality on the ground is much less sanguine. Next year, Andrew will be joining Western Washington University as Assistant Professor of Performance Art.

When: Saturday, July 18 at 7pm
Where: Hyde Park Free Theater, 1448 E. 57th St.
How much: Free

Sponsored by the Black Arts Initiative at Northwestern University.

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All of our programs are supported in part by a grant from The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

“Prisoners: Rights and Wrongs” + 96 Acres project, June 17

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Cook County Jail, the largest single-site jail in the United States, looms large in Chicago history. Occupying 96 acres of land in the west side neighborhood of Little Village, it employs more than 10,000 guards and civilians and admits nearly 100,000 inmates annually. Since a 2008 federal investigation found rampant abuses of inmates’ constitutional rights, the jail has operated under a consent decree with the Justice Department. The government argues that violence and violations have abated, but a federal lawsuit alleging a “culture of brutality” is currently proceeding through the courts. But beyond these allegations of violence, what effects does Cook County Jail have on the community surrounding it, and what effects does mass incarceration have on communities of color? This program attempts to address these questions through viewing a snapshot of the culture of incarceration as it existed twenty-five years ago and discussing how the issues raised then still resonate today.

Prisoners: Rights and Wrongs (1991, 58 min., video projection) is an episode of the Emmy-winning public TV program The 90s, which showcased the work of independent video makers from around the country in themed episodes. This episode addresses mass incarceration in the United States through segments devoted to racism in the criminal justice system, gangs, increasingly rare educational and rehabilitation programs in prisons, incarcerated women, Mumia Abu Jamal, and supermax facilities, among others. Several segments address Illinois jails and prisons, including Cook County Jail, Lake County Jail, and Marion Federal Prison, which at the time was a supermax. Also screening is Blues in the Big House (1993, 5 min., video projection), about an R&B group consisting of inmates and guards at Cook County Jail. Both videos are courtesy of Media Burn Independent Video Archive.

96acresFollowing the screening, organizers of the 96 Acres project will talk about their work. 96 Acres is a series of community-engaged, site-responsive art projects that involve community stakeholders’ ideas about social and restorative justice issues, and that examine the impact of incarceration at the Cook County Jail on Chicago’s West Side. 96 Acres uses multi-disciplinary practices to explore the social and political implications of incarceration on communities of color. Through creative processes and coalition building, 96 Acres aims to generate alternative narratives reflecting on power and responsibility by presenting insightful and informed collective responses for the transformation of a space that occupies 96 acres, but has a much larger reaching outcome.

When: Wednesday, June 17 at 6pm
Where: Toman Library, 2708 S. Pulaski Rd.
How much: Free

All of our programs are supported in part by a grant from The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

The Streets and the Classrooms: Educational and Industrial Films in an Era of Massive Social Change

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Throughout much of the twentieth century, millions of students learned about the world by watching educational films, and many workers learned their jobs by watching industrial films. These films are mostly forgotten today (or remembered for their unintentional comedic value), but looking at how they addressed important issues can tell us how and what students learned about the tumultuous changes in American and global society after World War II. This in turn can give us new insight into how modern media is used for education.

The four screenings in this series look at how educational and industrial films addressed massive social change, how that social change affected the films, and how working on these films affected documentary filmmakers in Chicago. Speakers at each screening will introduce the films and then lead a discussion about what the films said about the era in which they were made, and how they continue to be useful tools for social analysis.

Friday, April 24 at 7pm
Kartemquin Members’ Work for Hire

Presented by Judy Hoffman (University of Chicago, Kartemquin Films member) and Gordon Quinn (Kartemquin Films Co-Founder)
Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th Street

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 12.50.39 PMChicago’s Kartemquin Films is known for its socially engaged documentaries, but funds haven’t always been plentiful. So, like many Chicago-based documentary filmmakers, they did work for hire to raise money for their projects and pay their rent. But it wasn’t just about getting paid: they used this work as an opportunity to hone their craft and learn about different worlds of work, from fast food to organ transplants to automotive plants. This in turn opened the filmmakers up to thinking about their own relationship to the film industry. In films like Strange and Beautiful (about quality control at McDonald’s) and Roadmap for Change: The Deming Approach (about a radical experiment at a Pontiac factory), the filmmakers behind such classic documentaries as The Last Pullman Car and Hoop Dreams figured out how to survive and perfect their craft. Most of these films have never screened publicly.
1976-1990, 81 min., 16mm and video projection

Friday, May 1 at 7pm
Using Classroom Films to Teach about Race

Presented by J. Andrew Uhrich (Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive)
South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S. Michigan Ave.

inner city dwellerDespite the cliched idea that educational films were pedantic and authoritative they were, at times, in touch with changing political opinions and social movements. This program, drawn from the collection of the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive, examines how educational filmmakers in the late 1960s and early 1970s reflected upon the struggle for racial equality and expressions of Black pride. The classroom screen became less a place of rote transfer of visual information than a site to examine what it meant to be Black in America. Films like Portrait of a Disadvantaged Child and Real Self were created to explain African American culture to white educators and reflect their own experience to students of color. Others, including The World of Julian Bond and Inner City Dweller, were made by African Americans and represented initial attempts to redress the discrimination behind the camera.
1965-1973, 74 min., 16mm projection

Saturday, May 9 at 4pm
For Educational Purposes Only:
The Jamaica Film Unit Works, 1951-1961

Presented by Terri Francis, Indiana University Department of Communications and Culture
Washington Park Arts Incubator, 301 E. Garfield Blvd.

Formed by the British Colonial Film Unit as part of its efforts to decentralize colonial film production, the Jamaica Film Unit produced films specifically tailored for Jamaican audiences. It used film to instruct local audiences, but increasingly the films came to be used to push the local government’s broader propaganda campaigns. Often, the Unit’s mobile cinema brought electricity to rural areas for the first time. Three films exemplify the output of the Unit: Farmer Brown Learns Good Dairying (1951) teaches management of dairy herds, Let’s Stop Them (1953) looks at the effects of crop theft on farmers, and It Can Happen to You (1956) teaches the importance of treating venereal disease. Prof. Terri Francis will discuss how these films serve different purposes today than when they were produced: they provide a historical record of pivotal moments in Jamaican history, but they also document cultural producers, including musicians, actors, and the fledgling filmmakers who made them.
1951-1956, 56 min., video projection

Saturday, May 16 at 4pm
Urban Renewal and Its Aftermath

Presented by Judy Hoffman (University of Chicago) and Ronit Bezalel (filmmaker)
Black Cinema House, 7200 S. Kimbark Ave.

TheLivingCityPostwar urban renewal programs redesigned the urban landscape, ostensibly to solve problems of overcrowding and decay in inner cities. Often this meant the destruction of historic architecture and the mass displacement of residents. “Slum clearance” affected hundreds of thousands of African Americans, leading James Baldwin to dub urban renewal “Negro removal.” The Oscar-nominated The Living City (1953) celebrated these programs as the only hope to save major cities, but as the century progressed it became obvious that urban renewal just created new problems, exacerbating the concentrated poverty of high-rise public housing. Indiana University’s Inner City Dweller: Housing (1973) addresses the failures of urban renewal programs twenty years on, and Voices of Cabrini (1999) asks what comes next as Chicago’s Cabrini Green is demolished.
1953-1999, 85 min., 16mm and video projection

Support

This program is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly. Further support comes from The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; Black Cinema House; the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Arts + Public Life, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture, and the Film Studies Center at the University of Chicago; and Media Burn Independent Video Archive.

Print Sources

We would like to thank the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive, Chicago Film Archives, Kartemquin Films, Dirk Wales, Ronit Bezalel, and the National Library of Jamaica for providing prints and/or video files of these films.

The Films of Mpumi Njinge

Still from "My Son, The Bride"

In his short life, South African clothing designer, actor, and filmmaker Mpumi Njinge (1966-2002) completed just two films, each exploring the lives of queer folk in the townships of South Africa. My Son the Bride (2002, 24 min.) documents what is thought to be the first same-sex marriage between black men in South Africa. The film explores Hompi’s struggle with his family and his community to accept his sexual preference and bless his union. Everything Must Come to Light (co-directed by Paolo Alberton, 2002, 25 min.) tells the stories of three lesbian sangomas (traditional healers) in Soweto. The film explores their relationship with their ancestors, and the role their ancestors play in their healing powers and sexuality.

Post-screening conversation will be led by Andrew Brown, who recently finished his PhD in performance studies at Northwestern University. He has conducted research with LGBTI refugees in South Africa since 2011, much of it in townships. His play, Home/Affair, which premiered at the 2013 National Art Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, addresses the lives of gay refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries who find that despite South Africa’s constitutional promise of human rights for LGBTI people, the reality on the ground is much less sanguine.

When: TBD
Where: TBD
How much: Free

Sponsored by the Black Arts Initiative at Northwestern University.

BAIlogomedium

We Grew Up Here & Kate Schell of Paper Thick Walls, April 2

Josh Ohms Copyright
South Side Projections returns to the Co-Prosperity Sphere after a winter hiatus with We Grew Up Here (2014, 86 min., video projection), a locally produced film starring members of the Chicago band Paper Thick Walls. An official selection at the 2014 Chicago International Movies & Music Festival, it’s the story of a musician, struggling to cope with his split from his lover and muse, who begins to suspect that his past is being erased. As videos and songs Liam (Eric Michaels) and Lauren (Kate Schell) recorded together disappear from tapes, and mutual friends deny they know him, Liam hits the road on a desperate journey to prove to himself and everyone else that he’s not insane—that the life that they built together, and that he threw away, was real.

Director Kevin Pickman and costar Kate Schell will be in attendance for a Q&A.

After the film, Kate Schell performs her first solo show featuring all-new material since the band that Rolling Stone called “one of six Chicago bands to watch” went on hiatus. Processing personal trauma through a frenzy of personal songwriting, Schell promises that her first outing will be “a show of harsh truth, anger, and sadness.” A departure from the orchestral indie pop of Paper Thick Walls, Schell’s solo performance will be just her, a keyboard, and a lot of heartache.

Read an interview with filmmakers Kevin Pickman and Stefeni Tormanen.

Where: Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St.
When: Thursday, April 2. Doors at 7:30, film at 8:00, Q&A at 9:30, music shortly thereafter
How Much: $5

All of our programs are supported in part by a grant from The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Rescheduled! When Harold Washington Beat the Machine, February 15

Harold Washington

Please note new date and time: Sunday, February 15 at 4pm.

As the 2015 Chicago mayoral election approaches, pitting a seemingly unbeatable incumbent against a variety of underdog challengers, join us and our partners at the Black Cinema House for a look at another mayoral election, more than thirty years ago: Harold Washington’s improbable election to become the first African American mayor of Chicago. Three rarely screened films about that election and Washington’s brief tenure as mayor explore the role of racism and entrenched Democratic machine power in that historic era.

In 1983, reluctant outsider candidate Harold Washington achieved the impossible when he defeated incumbent mayor Jane Byrne in the Democratic primary, a victory that relied on record numbers of new African American voters and a two-way split of the white vote between Byrne and Richard M. Daley. Battling entrenched racism and the Democratic machine’s unwillingness to concede power in the general election, Washington went on to win, becoming the first African American mayor of Chicago.

These three radically different locally made films survey the election, Washington’s tenure as mayor, and his fight to change the way the city was governed. Running with the Mayor (Community TV Network, 1984, 12 min., video projection), created by Hispanic students of Chicago’s Community TV Network, follows Washington on the campaign trail, asking whether Washington will be a force for change for Hispanic as well as African American residents. Why Get Involved (Jean Young, 1983, 30 min., video projection), shot on election night as Washington and his supporters anxiously awaited the results, is a star-studded who’s-who of African American celebrities and power brokers, including Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson, and Ben Vereen; the film asks these and other supporters why regular Chicagoans should get involved in Washington’s crusade. Finally, Bill Stamets’s new 40-minute edit (with additional footage not included in the original) of his 1987 film Chicago Politics: A Theatre of Power focuses on the two elections that Washington won, capturing Washington’s unforgettable way with words and the context of 1980s racism. Also included are rarities from the Media Burn Independent Video Archive, including selected campaigns ads that directly confront the racism implied by the “before it’s too late” motto of his Republican challenger, as well as Washington’s appearance on The Bozo Show.

In conversation: Javier Vargas, who worked on Running with the Mayor as a student; Bill Stamets, the director of Chicago Politics: A Theatre of Power; and John Blanton, videographer of Why Get Involved.

Videos courtesy of Media Burn Independent Video Archive, Community Television Network, Jean Young, Bill Stamets, and Floyd Webb.

Where: Black Cinema House, 7200 S. Kimbark
When: Sunday, February 15 at 4pm.
How much: Free admission, but we urge you to RSVP to ensure you have a seat.

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