Strange Culture | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Strange Culture

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Lynn Hershman Leeson uses interviews, cable news footage, and dramatizations (with actors Thomas Jay Ryan, Tilda Swinton, Peter Coyote) to tell the troubling story of New York professor Steve Kurtz, whose conceptual art got him busted by the FBI as a bioterrorist. In May 2004, medics called to Kurtz's home after his wife died of heart failure spotted the harmless bacterial cultures Kurtz had bought over the Internet and called in the feds. The terrorism case immediately fell apart, and the Justice Department's continuing prosecution of Kurtz on charges of mail and wire fraud seems motivated less by public safety concerns than by the need to smack down the liberal academic community. With a score by the Residents, cartoon art by Warren Heise and Timothy Stock, and scenes of the actors commenting on and interacting with the real-life Kurtz, this 2006 advocacy video brings a jumpy energy to its Orwellian tale. 76 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. a Facets Cinematheque. --J.R. Jones

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