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Siskel Cancels Obama Documentary Screenings

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 8, 2008 6:40PM

2008_1obamaafrica.jpgThanks in part to huge voter turnout partially driven by bonafide grassroots excitement, Barack Obama cruised to victory in Iowa, and is expected to do well again today in New Hampshire. Yet the Siskel Film Center has quietly cancelled screenings of the new documentary Senator Obama Goes To Africa, which were scheduled for later this month. Why? We just told you why.

Marty Rubin, one of the programmers at the Siskel, declined to comment, saying that it was not a programming decision. So we asked the Siskel's executive director, Jean de St. Aubin. "It was not an easy decision to make but as a not-for-profit organization, the Gene Siskel Film Center can not create a perceived aura of support for any political candidate," she replied. "As we are in the middle of a political campaign, we feel it is in the best interest of the Gene Siskel Film Center to postpone the screening of Senator Obama Goes to Africa until after the election. Screening the film at this time could jeopardize our not for profit status."

We certainly respect the Siskel's decision. But it's still unfortunate. There's no doubt that these screenings would have been successful. When the film showed last year at the Chicago International Documentary Festival, it sold out long in advance. The good news is that it's already available on video and for rent from both Netflix and Greencine. There's no word yet from filmmaker Bob Hercules whether or not there are plans to reschedule his film at a different venue.