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Silver Images Film Festival

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Presented by the Chicago-based documentary production and distribution company Terra Nova Films, the ninth annual Silver Images Film Festival continues Friday, May 10, through Wednesday, May 29, at Advocate Health Center-Evergreen Park, 9435 S. Western, Evergreen Park; Bethany Hospital, 3435 W. Van Buren; Casa Central, 1335 N. California; Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; Copernicus Center, 3160 N. Milwaukee; Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State; Holy Covenant MCC Church, 9145 Grant, Brookfield; and the Levy Center, 2019 W. Lawrence. Unless otherwise noted, admission is free and films will be shown on video; films marked with an * are highly recommended. For more information call 773-881-6940. Following is the schedule for May 10 through 16; a complete festival schedule is available on-line at


Short films, program one

In Life Stories (60 min.), John Ankele and Anne Macksoud observe a handful of older adults as they take a writing course from creativity guru Thomas Coles, who mixes in a fair amount of group therapy. The students, most in their 60s and 70s, produce angry screeds about childhood slights or wax lyrical about marriages that went wrong decades earlier, moments that are often moving (one woman dissolves into tears as she reads a poem about her emotionally abusive husband). Yet the intimacy of this 2001 video flirts with voyeurism: one student, a proper southerner, hits the nail on the head when she complains, in a flash of postmodern self-reflexivity, that they're all playing up their traumas for the camera. Walter Rosenblum: In Search of Pitt Street (60 min.) recounts the long and fascinating career of the noted New York photographer. The son of a poor fruit peddler on the Lower East Side, he studied under Paul Strand at the Photo League, witnessed the Normandy invasion and the liberation of Dachau as an army cameraman, and developed a documentary style that was warm but mostly free of sentimentality. In recounting his life story, daughter Nina Rosenblum allows Walter to rattle on like Polonius, sharing his sage observations, and by her estimate he seems never to have made a wrong move, said a harsh word, or taken a photo that wasn't museum quality. When she sticks to the facts, this 1999 film provides a graceful portrait. (Jack Helbig) Also on the program: Martha Heine, Tapestry Weaver and My Father's Hopes. (Chicago Cultural Center, 10:00 am)

Short films, program two

In Bomba: Dancing the Drum, Ashley James profiles the Cepedas, a talented clan of Puerto Rican dancers and musicians dedicated to preserving the bomba, a highly energetic dance created by African slaves who worked the cane fields. Using archival footage and extensive interviews with the Cepedas, James recounts the family's history, captures the intricacies of bomba drumming, and shows how the drums are created from old rum casks. Her 2000 documentary begins as a rather routine family portrait, but once the dancing kicks in, its carnival spirit suffuses the film. 60 min. (Jack Helbig) Also on the program: My Father's Lunch. (Casa Central, 10:30 am)

* Short films, program three

Outside the world of critics, curators, galleries, and museums lies a vast economy of ordinary artists and art lovers; Julia D'Amico's lively documentary The Highwaymen (41 min.) presents a group of African-American painters in Florida who began selling their landscapes in the 1960s, operating from their cars and charging around $25 per canvas. Many are untrained, and some were lured by the money back when field work paid as little as $3.50 a day. Their paintings may look kitschy to some, yet the artists and their collectors genuinely love these depictions of Florida swamps and grasslands. Alex, the main character of Poker Face, is in his late 50s and suffering from memory problems; the poker group he's played in for 15 years is about to replace him with an Argentinean emigre said to be a good player "even though" he's gay. Ana, Alex's wife, won't acknowledge his early Alzheimer's and conceals the diagnosis from her husband, who bungles his game, wanders outdoors, and forgets to light the gas, almost blowing up his building. This is a tragedy with no easy answers, and director Eitan Aner uses compositions to heighten conflict: after Alex vanishes, Ana is framed behind his empty desk. 50 min. (FC) (Chicago Cultural Center, 1:00)

* Hope Along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay

In 1948, Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society of Los Angeles, the first advocacy group for homosexual men in the U.S.--but, as he explains in Eric Slide's documentary (2001, 57 min.), for the first two years he couldn't find anyone else to join. Hay went on to join gay activists in the 1960s and found the Radical Faeries in the 1970s. As profiled by Slide, he seems like the genuine article, a man far ahead of his time who says his greatest compliment came from a young man who whispered, "Thank you for my life." In Beauty Before Age (1997, 22 min.), Johnny Symons focuses on San Francisco's Castro Street to explore attitudes toward aging in the "very ocularly focused" gay community. Younger men avoid seniors and people suffering from advanced AIDS, though one young man says he takes much older lovers for their wisdom and "calm." (FC) Also on the program: Voicing the Legacy (35 min.). (Holy Covenant MCC Church, 7:30)


Short films, program four

Four films: Martha Heine, Tapestry Weaver; My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York; Voice of an Angel; and My Father's Lunch. 61 min. (Copernicus Center, 12:30)


Short films, program five

Two films: My Father's Hopes and My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York. (Levy Center, 10:00 am)

* Rue du retrait

A senior living in squalor (Dominique Marcas) and a workaholic businesswoman (Marion Held) are drawn together in Rene Feret's moving but relentlessly unsentimental adaptation of Doris Lessing's The Diary of a Good Neighbour. Shot in a rough documentary style recalling Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Decalogue, this 2001 French feature shows a side of Paris seldom viewed by tourists; each woman is a victim of urban life, in dire need of companionship but unwilling or unable to find it. Both Marcas and Held give complex and understated performances as they execute the complicated dance of the characters' blossoming friendship. In French with subtitles. 90 min. (Jack Helbig) Also on the program, Frederic Pelle's short film The Crow (10 min.), described by Ted Shen as "a tidy morality tale about a grumpy old man who bickers with his wife but appreciates her anew after an unpleasant scare." Admission is $8, $4 for Film Center members, and $3 for students at the School of the Art Institute. (Gene Siskel Film Center, 3:00)


Short films, program six

Six films: Atlantic, Mr. Reubens Goes to Mars, My Father's Lunch, Voice of an Angel, Buddy and Grace, and My Father's Hopes. 78 min. (Advocate Health Center-Evergreen Park, 10:00 am)

Short films, program six

See listing this date above. (Bethany Hospital, 10:00 am)

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