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Chicago Humanities Festival: Film

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 30, 2006 3:10PM

While many of the lectures and panels for this year's Chicago Humanities Festival are already sold out, there still seem to be plenty of tickets left for the film series. The theme is “Peace and War,” a subject which is (unfortunately) as timely as ever, and Facets program director Charles Coleman has put together a superb lineup. All of the chosen films guarantee plenty of food for thought, some to an uncomfortable degree. We'd like to call attention to just a few.

battle_algiers%2C0.jpgThe Battle of Algiers
Tuesday, October 31, at 6:30 p.m.
This astonishing portrayal of the Algerian independence movement in the 1950's was filmed pseudo-documentary style on the actual locations with a largely unprofessional cast. The result is so searingly real that at times you won't believe it was all staged. Director Gillo Pontecorvo passed away only a few weeks ago, but he lived long enough to see his film reappreciated, in no small part due to its uncomfortable parallels to the war in Iraq. In a grim bit of irony, it was shown to Pentagon officials after 9/11 as an education tool, a glimpse into the “mindset of terrorists,” yet one of the points of the film seems to be that without conquering hearts and minds, it's impossible to win a war militarily.

Hearts and Minds
Winter Soldier
Wednesday, November 1, at 6:30 (Hearts and Minds) and 8:45 (Winter Soldier)
It seems almost unthinkable that a raw, painfully methodical examination of the US and the Vietnam War could have won the 1974 Oscar for Best Documentary, and yet that's exactly what happened. Hearts and Minds remains the definitive document of the period. If you haven't seen it before, prepare to have your eyes opened. It's a million miles away from Oliver Stone (or even Stanley Kubrick), and it makes a harrowing double bill with Winter Soldier. Soon after the My Lai massacre, a public inquiry into war crimes was held at a Howard Johnson in Detroit. Winter Soldier is a relatively straightforward documentation of the event, and the testimonies of dozens of veterans captured on film are alternately sobering and sickening. “It is a film that must be shown in prime time on national television, and never will be,” wrote the Village Voice. Look for John Kerry.

Other films in the series include Full Metal Jacket, The Big Red One, Three Kings and Camp Thiaroye. The complete schedule is online, but tickets can only be purchased by phone at 312-494-9509. All screenings are at Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton.