Stranger Than Fiction: Documentary Premieres

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  1. Stranger Than Fiction:
  2. Documentary Premieres

New documentaries take center stage at the Gene Siskel Film Center from January 4 through 31, with our annual roundup of some very special new releases. Get cozy with James Joyce with IN BED WITH ULYSSES; discover a unique artist in BEL BORBA AQUI; get a peek at an unorthodox business plan in HOW TO RE-ESTABLISH A VODKA EMPIRE; or go behind the scenes in our healthcare system with THE WAITING ROOM.

The mysteries of the universe are tackled most engagingly in THE END OF TIME, while the intricacies of Middle Eastern culture unfold in THE IRAN JOB and THE SHEIK AND I. 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. WWII veterans bask in a community’s gratitude in HONOR FLIGHT, and a veteran of the Vietnam conflict receives his due in BILL’S THUD.

—Barbara Scharres

SATURDAY DOUBLE-BILL DISCOUNT!

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 $4. (This discount rate applies to the second film only. Discount rate available only at the Film Center box office.)

PERSEVERANCE: THE STORY OF DR. BILLY TAYLOR

Showtimes

Fri, Jan 4th at 8:00pm
Sat, Jan 5th at 5:00pm
Average: 3 (3 votes)

Chicago premiere!
Dr. Billy Taylor and filmmakers
in person!

  1. PERSEVERANCE:
  2. THE STORY OF DR. BILLY TAYLOR
  1. 2012, Daniel Chace and Bob Hercules, USA, 52 min.

There was a time when no college football athlete seemed more assured of a brilliant future in sports than Billy Taylor when he starred as Michigan’s running back under coach Bo Schembechler. But two family tragedies later, Taylor’s life began a downward spiral that led to alcohol, drugs, prison, and shame, leaving him a derelict on the streets of Detroit until a mysterious voice called his name. PERSEVERANCE is the story of a man’s remarkable resurrection, and of his mission to help others who have similarly touched bottom in their lives. HDCAM video. (BS)

Dr. Billy Taylor and directors Daniel Chace and Bob Hercules will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

See video

HONOR FLIGHT

Showtimes

Sat, Jan 5th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jan 9th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.7 (9 votes)

Chicago premiere!

  1. HONOR FLIGHT
  1. 2012, Dan Hayes, USA, 83 min.

"Enormously moving."
—Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times

A powerfully moving film of tears, unexpected joy, and cathartic stories untold for more than 60 years, HONOR FLIGHT chronicles the snowballing efforts of a handful of citizens of a small Midwestern town to send its World War II veterans on the trip of a lifetime to visit the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C. A community opens its heart and mobilizes with money, scores of volunteers, and a homecoming complete with bands and cheering crowds. At the heart of it all are the vets, now in their 80s and 90s, experiencing the trip to Washington for an unforgettable day that triggers memories and engages their families, friends, and neighbors. HDCAM video. (BS)

See video

HOW TO RE-ESTABLISH A VODKA EMPIRE

Showtimes

Sun, Jan 6th at 3:15pm
Tue, Jan 8th at 8:00pm
Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

Chicago premiere!

  1. HOW TO RE-ESTABLISH
  2. A VODKA EMPIRE
  1. 2012, Daniel Edelstyn, UK, 75 min.

“Guaranteed to produce a warm afterglow.”
—Sophie Kingston-Smith, Cine-vue.com

“A barnstorming tale of vodka and revolution.”
—Libby Purves, BBC Radio

A journey through history merges with a bizarre foray into the unfamiliar world of advertising for London filmmaker Edelstyn when he discovers his late grandmother’s diary detailing the lost manufacturing empire of his Jewish Ukrainian family. One visit to the Ukraine later and he is heir, sort of, to a struggling vodka distillery in a remote village gobsmacked by poverty. Quirky historical reenactments reveal one woman’s view of the Russian Revolution, while in a parallel narrative her grandson documents his present-day adventures in the attempt to launch an artisanal brand of vodka bearing the ancestral name. HDCAM video. (BS)

See video

BILL’S THUD

Showtimes

Sun, Jan 6th at 5:00pm
Mon, Jan 7th at 7:45pm
Average: 3 (2 votes)

Filmmakers in person!

  1. BILL’S THUD
  1. 2012, Leo Evans, USA, 77 min.

A dying Vietnam vet, memories of an unpopular war, and a man’s promise add up to an unexpected final journey for one scuttled F-105 Thunderchief aircraft, affectionately known as Thud. When Tulsa resident Clark Wiens discovers that his beloved brother-in-law Bill has only months to live, he forms a plan to track down his old plane and move it to the former Air Force pilot’s hometown of Centralia, Illinois, where it will stand in a park as a long-awaited public monument to the sacrifice of Vietnam veterans. The project becomes both more difficult and more rewarding than Clark had originally envisioned. DCP video. (BS)

Director Leo Evans and producer Clark Wiens will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

See video

THE SHEIK AND I

Showtimes

Fri, Jan 11th at 8:15pm
Sat, Jan 12th at 4:45pm
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Chicago premiere!

  1. THE SHEIK AND I
  1. 2012, Caveh Zahedi, USA/UAE, 104 min.

“A peevish and hypertalkative but ultimately likable Everyman, a kind of Persian Woody Allen crossed with Michael Moore.”
—Randy Kennedy, The New York Times

“Tests the limits of freedom of expression in the Middle East…undeniably provocative conversation-starter.”
—Peter Debruge, Variety

Commissioned to make a film as part of a government-funded arts festival in the United Arab Emirates, filmmaker Zahedi (I AM A SEX ADDICT) is cautioned that there are a few restrictions. Chief among them is that he may not mock the nation’s ruler Sheik Sultan bin Mohammad al-Qasimi. To an eye-poking provocateur like Zahedi, it sounded like an irresistible invitation to cut loose with satire. In this film within a film, the resulting production becomes a pawn in a reckless game in which the filmmaker dares his nemesis the sheik to do his worst. HDCAM video. (BS)

See video

THE IRAN JOB

Showtimes

Sat, Jan 12th at 3:00pm
Tue, Jan 15th at 8:15pm
Average: 5 (8 votes)

Chicago premiere!

  1. THE IRAN JOB
  1. 2012, Till Schauder, USA/Iran, 90 min.

“Exceptional in its storytelling…so intimate it could be a home movie.”
—Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

“Inspiring…a complicated, accessible and heartfelt human drama.”
—Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com

Striking out in his bid to play for the NBA, lanky, charismatic basketball player Kevin Sheppard ends up on the international circuit, playing in the Iranian Basketball Super League for a brand-new underdog team in the ancient city of Shiraz. As the only African American most of his new friends and teammates have ever seen in the flesh, he encounters some double takes. The culture shock cuts both ways, and Sheppard’s friendship with three outspoken but properly veiled young women who defy the law to befriend him becomes the definitive experience of his new life. DCP video. (BS)

In cooperation with Pasfarda Arts and Cultural Exchange, producer Sara Nodjoumi will be present for audience discussion in our gallery/café after the Saturday screening, followed by a reception hosted by Pasfarda.

See video

IN BED WITH ULYSSES

Showtimes

Fri, Jan 18th at 6:15pm
Sat, Jan 19th at 3:15pm
Wed, Jan 23rd at 8:15pm
Thu, Jan 24th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Chicago premiere!

  1. IN BED WITH ULYSSES
  1. 2012, Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna, USA, 80 min.

“Lets fresh air into Ulysses like a gust from the Irish sea.”
—Andy Webster, The New York Times

The story behind James Joyce’s monumental novel is a saga that rivals fiction in its wild and woolly detail. Filmmakers Adelson and Taverna blend a review of pertinent historical events, including Limerick’s 1904 anti-Jewish riots, with an engaging account of the highlights of Joyce’s life, including his courtship of the earthy Nora Barnacle, his checkered career as a husband, the couple’s wandering life across Europe, and the scandals provoked by “Ulysses.” Actors including Kathleen Chalfant read evocatively from the novel, and Irish novelist Edna O’Brien and National Book Award winner Colum McCann provide insight. HDCAM video. (BS)

See video

BEL BORBA AQUI

Showtimes

Sat, Jan 19th at 5:00pm
Mon, Jan 21st at 8:15pm
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Chicago premiere!

  1. BEL BORBA AQUI
  1. 2012, Burt Sun and Andre Costantini, Brazil, 95 min.

“Brazil’s Pied Piper of street art.”
—Larry Rohter, The New York Times

“Boundlessly energetic, iconoclastic.”
—Ronnie Scheib, Variety

Brazil’s prolific and exuberant wild man of public art is no longer Latin America’s best-kept secret. Dubbed “the people’s Picasso,” artist Bel Borba is seen lavishing the streets, walls, and houses of impoverished neighborhoods in his native Salvador, a 500-year-old city in Bahia, with vibrant super-sized murals and colorful mosaics fashioned from broken glass and pottery. A master of the found object who can transform virtually any discarded materials into the fanciful forms of his art, Borba at work is a show in itself, as captured here in all his non-stop glory. In Portuguese and English with English subtitles. HDCAM video. (BS)

See video

THE WAITING ROOM

Showtimes

Sat, Jan 26th at 3:15pm
Mon, Jan 28th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Chicago premiere!

  1. THE WAITING ROOM
  1. 2012, Peter Nicks, USA, 81 min.

“This is human drama at its most intense and universal…the rare film that can change the way you think and see the world.”
—Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

“Scrupulously apolitical…the opposite of a polemic like Michael Moore’s SICKO.”
—Stephen Holden, The New York Times

One viewing of THE WAITING ROOM could possibly cut through a thousand debates on health care in the U.S. This highly effective, compassionate, and non-judgmental documentary gets to the heart of the issues as filmmaker Nicks chronicles day-to-day life in the emergency room of an Oakland hospital, where the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, and the mentally ill come because there is nowhere else for the uninsured to go. No TV doctor drama compares with the low-key but powerful stories that emerge over five months of his extraordinary behind-the-scenes access. DigiBeta or DCP video. (BS)

See video

THE END OF TIME

Showtimes

Sat, Jan 26th at 5:00pm
Thu, Jan 31st at 8:00pm
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Chicago premiere!

  1. THE END OF TIME
  1. 2012, Peter Mettler, Canada/Switzerland, 114 min.

“Polished and spectacular…recalling the work of Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog, and the late Chris Marker.”
—Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter

“A ripping pool of sounds and images…splendiferously trippy.”
—Jason Anderson, Cinema-Scope Magazine

From the bowels of the world’s largest particle physics laboratory deep in a Swiss cavern to a Hawaiian mountain where lava creeps in fiery majesty to the tree where Buddha was enlightened, filmmaker Mettler (PICTURE OF LIGHT; GAMBLING, GODS AND LSD) explores the malleable concept of time. This spellbinding documentary is no scientific treatise but a wide-ranging, mind-bending meditation on the measurement and interpretation of time through the practices of many cultures and through nature’s own unalterable rhythms of decay and renewal. DCP video. (BS)

See video

THE IRAN JOB

Showtimes

Fri, Mar 29th at 8:00pm
Sat, Mar 30th at 3:15pm
Sat, Mar 30th at 7:45pm
Sun, Mar 31st at 5:00pm
Mon, Apr 1st at 6:00pm
Wed, Apr 3rd at 6:00pm
Thu, Apr 4th at 8:15pm
No votes yet
  1. THE IRAN JOB
  1. 2012, Till Schauder, USA/Iran, 90 min.

“Exceptional in its storytelling…so intimate it could be a home movie.”
—Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

“Inspiring…a complicated, accessible and heartfelt human drama.”
—Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com

Striking out in his bid to play for the NBA, lanky, charismatic basketball player Kevin Sheppard ends up on the international circuit, playing in the Iranian Basketball Super League for a brand-new underdog team in the ancient city of Shiraz. As the only African American most of his new friends and teammates have ever seen in the flesh, he encounters some double takes. The culture shock cuts both ways, and Sheppard’s friendship with three outspoken but properly veiled young women who defy the law to befriend him becomes the definitive experience of his new life. DCP video. (BS)

See video