Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, JUNE 14 - Thursday, JUNE 20 ::


Samuel Fuller's THE CRIMSON KIMONO (American Revival)
Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Patio Theater) - Wednesday, 8pm
Despite being marketed as a salacious B-movie during its original run, Samuel Fuller's THE CRIMSON KIMONO is a complex film noir that uses unexampled variations on familiar plot conventions to scrutinize racial tension. Detectives Sergeant Charlie Bancroft and Joe Kojaku, who had fought together during the Korean War, are assigned to investigate the murder of a buxom blonde stripper after she is shot dead in the street. During their investigation, they interview a young female artist, who later becomes a source of contention between the two. Love triangles and buddy cops are familiar enough as to be generic, but Fuller inserts something else into the mix—Kojaku is a Japanese-American struggling with his multicultural identity. Fuller structures the film almost so as to be deceptive with its intent; the first half embodies the aforementioned conventions in a straightforward sense, with the white detective seemingly getting the girl. In just one scene, Fuller shifts the film from standard movie-going fare to an earnest commentary on race relations in postwar America. As Kojaku and the girl, Christine, begin to fall in love, his docile facade crumbles and his internal struggle is brought outward as he accuses his friend and lover of covert racism. The film is progressive not only for its examination of racial identity, but also in Fuller's recognition of reverse racism. In his autobiography, A Third Face, Fuller says, "I was trying to make an unconventionally triangular love story, laced with reverse racism, a kind of narrow-mindedness that's just as deplorable as outright bigotry. Joe is racist because he transfers his fears to his friend." Though oversimplified, that statement exemplifies Fuller's belief in relationships that transcend racial stigma and personal dogmatism. Nothing less is to be expected of Fuller, whose films present the cynicism and idealism of a man who lived such complexities just as he directed them. Preceded by a TBA short. (1959, 82 min, 35mm) KK
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Peter Strickland's BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (New British)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes
British sound designer Gilderoy (Toby Jones), best known for a documentary about birds, is inexplicably hired by an Italian production company to create the soundtrack for a lurid giallo entitled THE EQUESTRIAN VORTEX, and as post-production drags on Gilderoy's sanity is in increasing danger of collapse. Obsessed with the minutiae of analog tape recording, much of writer/director Peter Strickland's BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO is devoted to lovingly tracing the progress of Gilderoy's hand-drawn sound maps and the hypnotic repetition of recording and reviewing endless takes of seemingly inconsequential sounds. The film is bound to frustrate horror fans and anyone not interested in the painstakingly designed, brilliantly realized recording studio of the film's title. However, anyone willing to peer beneath Jones's stunningly internalized performance and brave Strickland's gleeful defiance of audience expectations will find that BERBERIAN is one of the best films about making films in recent memory. (2012, 92 min, DCP Digital Projection) JC
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John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (American Revival) 
Music Box Theatre - Saturday, Midnight 
High concept and low class, John Carpenter's 1981 sci-fi/action film premises itself on a paranoid endgame scenario: what if crime just keeps going up? Carpenter settles on the conservative trajectory of 400 percent and cedes Manhattan to the most violent criminals, turning it into an island prison and letting it go to ruin. Only the most hardened offenders are sentenced there—new prisoners are given the option of cremation before arrival—making it a particularly bad place for the President (Donald Pleasance) to crash land. Charged with fishing him out within 22 hours, the police commissioner (Lee Van Cleef) offers a full pardon to incoming convict 'Snake' Plissken (Kurt Russell), a former Special Forces operative-turned-criminal—but only if he can successfully recover the President. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK is a wild ride that is at times clever and at other times surprisingly dull. Most interesting is not the search-and-rescue but the creative depiction of a ruined New York and its ad hoc city-life, circumscribed by extreme danger. An old acquaintance, Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine), watches an all-convict Broadway production before making his way uptown with Molotov cocktails at the ready. Shot mostly in darkness, Carpenter succeeds in creating a closed-off atmosphere that is both somehow dingy and futuristic. These touches, along with several solid performances, breathe life into the rote barrel fire-pocked landscape, and Snake himself. (1981, 99 min, Unconfirmed Format) BW
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Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille's THE SOURCE FAMILY (New Documentary) 
Music Box Theatre - Check Venue website for showtimes 
In Los Angeles, as the counter culture began to wane, a tall and charismatic man named Jim Baker built one of the sexiest intentional communities in American history, The Source Family. Centered on a health food restaurant favored by celebrities, the family lived in mansions, recorded psychedelic music, and practiced their own brand of sexual meditation. And there to document all of it on celluloid was Isis Aquarian. Before her life in the family, Isis worked in Hollywood and was chosen early on by Father to be the family historian, a role she continues to carry to this day, some 30 years later. The resulting footage is stylish in a way the Urban Outfitter's marketing team can only dream of. Hours and hours of young, longhaired people dressed all in white flowing robes moving as a tribe through an early 70's Los Angeles landscape. As Chicago's own Drag City is the distributor of this straightforward documentary, it makes sense that the ethereal music of The Source Family is a driving force of the movie's rhythm. The filmmakers keep their hand light, using the abundance of archive material and present day interviews to tell the story. The movie gathers perspectives from in and outside of the family and the way the experience has weathered in the minds of those who witnessed it is the meat of this story. The openheartedness of those who wandered into the family leaving all traces of their lives behind is at once beautiful, terrifying, and almost so far from our current social mentality to seem a bit like magic. Co-director Maria Demopoulos will attend the 9:45pm screening on Friday, and there will be a performance by Sourcin, a Ya Ho Wa 13 tribute band comprised of Chicago-area musicians featuring members of CAVE, Plastic Crimewave Sound, Ga'an, and Velco Lewis. (2012, 98 min, Unconfirmed Format) CL 
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Josh Aronson's ORCHESTRA OF EXILES (New Documentary) 
Spertus Institute (610 S. Michigan Ave.) - Thursday, 7pm 
Within the world of music, most people would be satisfied aligning the rebellious spirit of 'sticking it to the man' with rock and punk and calling it a day. But Academy Award nominee Josh Aronson's film finds some cultural radicalism not in the sound of smashing guitars, but in the finely tuned instruments found in a classical orchestra. Aronson's documentary highlights the actions of the Polish violin prodigy Bronislaw Huberman during Hitler's reign over Europe that helped save over a thousand fellow Jewish musicians from certain death. Catalyzed by encroaching German restrictions on Jewish entertainers, Huberman takes it upon himself to use his celebrity status to audition fellow Jews from all over Europe on the eve of the Second World War. The result? More than seventy accomplished musicians immigrated to the cultureless Palestine to create an orchestra whose legacy is still renown worldwide. Through a mixture of tasteful recreations, interviews from those connected to Huberman's orchestra that helped lay the foundation of Israel culture, and narration, Aronson's film explores the history of a child prodigy turned political activist. Aronson's documentary offers a tasteful investigation of the man behind the legend you've probably never heard of, revealing Huberman's virtues as well as faults. Aronson in person. (2012, 85 min, Unconfirmed Format) SW
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Cate Shortland's LORE (New German/Australian) 
Gene Siskel Film Center - Check Venue website for showtimes 
If you missed the earlier showings of Cate Shortland's LORE in town (and why did you?), then count yourself lucky to be given another chance to experience—this time on 35mm. Shortland's feature LORE (pronounced like the English name 'Laura') is a beautiful gem-like film that captures both mind and heart through its strong narrative, tight editing, and strong, decisive camera work. Shortland sets her film apart from the usual flock of WWII films by situating it after the victory of the Allies and during the splitting of Berlin. On the surface, the film is a play on the 'on to grandmother's house we go' by a group of five sibling. The twist? Lore's father and mother were apprehended by American soldiers for war crimes, and the children have no papers to legally travel. One of the greatest assets of the film is Shortland's continual complication of 'right' and 'wrong.' No one is innocent in the wrecked aftermath of Germany, and those who do act innocent are the ones with the most to hide. The notion of whether ethics are relative or absolute is relentlessly questioned, and in each scenario the answer is harder to decide for both the characters and the audience. While quick, hand-held camera work is frequently overused in many films, Shortland's artful and trustful use of it evokes emotion from the audience, as does the smooth soundtrack that neither distracts the viewer from the narrative nor the film's imagery. LORE is a film that will remain with the viewer for long afterwards. (2012, 103 min, 35mm) SW
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Busby Berkeley's THE GANG'S ALL HERE (American Revival)
Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) - Wednesday, 1 and 7:30pm
Dali's dream sequences in Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND seem to get all the notoriety, however there are fewer images in 1940's cinema more surreal than that which closes THE GANG'S ALL HERE. A field of disembodied heads (among them, Benny Goodman's!) floating in a vast sea of electric blue. All of them singing at full volume. It's only the capper in a movie full of deeply weird things. A forest of artificial palm trees, their fronds shimmery green satin, crowned with fake coconuts but real monkeys. Edward Everett Horton coated with bright red lipstick. And, of course, Carmen Miranda in her tutti-frutti hat. At one point in the movie a character cries, "We haven't got time to be sensible!" It's nothing less than the movie's manifesto. The filmmakers know that we don't care a fig about the plot, and so the "story" is little more than a collection of era-specific elements: a solider, a chorus girl, mistaken identities, a benefit show. In the best tradition of surrealism, the story is just a device that lets the real movie in. Namely, the exhilaration of casting aside any pretense at naturalism—the wildest production design captured in the most hallucinogenic Technicolor this side of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. They really don't make 'em like they used to. (1943, 103 min, 35mm) RC
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Steven Spielberg's RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 3pm and Thursday, 6pm
A monument in the Cold War's conservative cinema of reassurance, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is today undeniably a fairy tale about the origin of the atomic bomb. While in reality, nuclear weapons were the intentional outcome of a race between America and Germany's large-scale militarization of the physical sciences, here they are represented not as a technological invention of bureaucratic rationalism but as an archaeological re-discovery, of the Old Testament's famously powerful Ark of the Covenant. Mild-mannered, crushworthy, U of C-educated anthropology professor Jones—teaching at a time when one was morally obligated to kill as many Nazis as possible in the course of one's fieldwork—teams up with his former advisor's daughter (now a hard-drinking expat Nepalese barmaid) to engage in battles of dubious detective-work and elaborately staged, violent fisticuffs with rival archaeologist Belloq, a variety of expendable German soldiers, and the seemingly re-indentured residents of Egypt. At stake is the primary fetish object of the Books of Joshua and Samuel, certainly the closest material embodiment of God in the Bible; however, like GHOSTBUSTERS—which also treated the Abrahamic religions as a mere historical elaboration on occult Mesopotamian ritual—RAIDERS romanticizes the agnostic and empirical logic of its hard-nosed protagonist, who eventually realizes that the only way to escape The Lord's wrath is to close one's eyes to His power. This reassurance returns conclusively in the coda, which seems to say: oh, the wrath of God, we'll never use that again; we're just filing it away with the fruits of America's other positivist projects in some Library of Babel-sized warehouse. (1981, 118 min, 4K DCP Digital Projection) MC
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Robert Zemeckis' BACK TO THE FUTURE (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 5:15pm and Tuesday, 6pm
Back in the mid-1980s, the white, suburban, heterosexual American male was in crisis, threatened on all sides: globally, by the Middle East's control of oil production; culturally, by the emergence of chart-topping R&B and rap that imperiled the perceived hegemony of heavy metal and unspirited blues-rock; and locally, in the unrelenting crime waves of urban gangs, emerging from a dissolved patriarchy and reportedly expanding ever-outwards from the city centers. The successful reconstitution of this masculinity was produced primarily by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale's BACK TO THE FUTURE, an admittedly glorious genre-crossing inversion of the Oedipus mythology (protagonist Marty must overcome not a present, unconscious desire for his mother and rivalry with his father, but instead must overcome his mother's desire for him and actively facilitate the transformation of his milquetoast father into a confident figure of authority). The conflict is enacted in the oneiric space of small-town 1955 California, primarily through the repeated ritual humiliation of the seemingly-invincible Teutonic drive-creature Biff, but also through Marty's requisition—on behalf of wimpy caucasians everywhere—of the heritage of both civil rights (encouraging the local malt-shop busboy to become mayor) and rock n' roll (producing, for Chuck Berry and an audience of bewildered squares, "the sound you've been looking for"). All of this (including the role of the Benjamin-Franklin-esque Doc Brown) is then not simply in the service of some trite, individualist Protestant ethic ("if you put your mind to it, you could accomplish anything": murmured mantra-like from start to finish); for those voters still baffled by the persistency of conservative politics, why look any further? (1985, 116 min, 35mm) MC
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Věra Chytilová's DAISIES (Czech Revival)
Logan Theatre - Thursday, 11pm
Věra Chytilová's films have earned her acolytes and enemies at an equal rate—particularly DAISIES, an anarchic, poetic, visually exhilarating film lacking in any affirmation whatsoever. In more recent years, it has cemented Chytilová's stature as an avant-garde genius, a feminist icon, and a major influence behind films such as CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING and MULHOLLAND DRIVE. In the period immediately following its release, Chytilová was marked as both a dangerous dissident (by the Czechoslovak government, who unofficially blacklisted her) and a political traitor to the Left (by Godard, who made her the central figure of his anti-Soviet/Czechoslovak documentary PRAVDA). During one of the first screenings of her work in France, audience members walked out, complaining that "they shouldn't make that kind of film. It undermines people's faith in socialism. If that is the way it really is, then none of it is worth it at all." DAISIES leads with exactly this kind of "objectionable" nihilism, opening with the two protagonists deciding that "the world is spoiled; we'll be spoiled, too." These two teenage girls, both named Marie, spend the rest of the film on a hedonistic rampage of consumption and destruction, in no particular order, culminating in a banquet scene that merges both tendencies to an apocalyptic conclusion. Marie and Marie do everything that decent women shouldn't (cheat, steal, make messes, advertise casual sex without following through, overeat, etc)—and care about precisely nothing. They speak in nonsensical, non sequitur dialogue that seems like it could have been randomly generated ("Why say 'I love you?' Why not just 'an egg?'"), but was actually carefully curated by Chytilová to serve as "the guardian of meaning" for her "philosophical documentary." During production, the only thing that she insisted remained untouched was the original script; everything else was up for grabs. Her production team took full advantage of this freedom in depicting the Maries' nihilistic spree, resulting in a surreal and stunning display of meaningless excess at every turn. Most notably, Jaroslav Kucera, the film's cinematographer (and Chytilová's husband), shot the film as one of his famous "colour experiments," and Ester Krumbachová, the film's costumer, styled the Maries in trendy mod bikinis and minidresses as often as elaborate sculptural outfits made from newspaper and loose wires. (1966, 74 min, Unconfirmed Format) AO 
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The Chicago Public Library's Sulzer Branch (4455 N. Lincoln Ave.) presents a book reading of Queue Tips: Discovering Your Great Next Movie on Wednesday at 7pm, with author/editor (and Cine-File contributor) Rob Christopher and contributor David Kodeski in person. Christopher will perform a short reading and Kodeski will present his chapter "That Magic Moment, Homoerotic Display in Heteronormative Cinema," illustrated with video clips from the following films: LOVE HAS MANY FACES (1965, Alexander Singer), PICNIC (1955, Joshua Logan), BACK STREET (1961, David Miller), THE DRIVER'S SEAT (1974, Giuseppe Patroni Griffi), CLASH BY NIGHT (1952, Fritz Lang), and THE BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951, Budd Boetticher). Christopher and Kodeski will sign copies of the book (which will be for sale). Free Admission.

 Local filmmakers/animators/artists Alexander Stewart and Lilli Carré's Eyeworks Festival will present a screening at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo on Saturday at 3pm at the Center on Halsted (3656 N. Halsted). Titled Parallel Lines: Comics and Animation, the show includes Richard McGuire's MICRO LOUP (2003), Peter Millard's BODOOBIEBOODONGO (2012), George Griffin's HEAD (1975), Kathy Rose's THE DOODLERS (1975), Leif Goldberg's WEE WEE ATTRACTORS (2013), Kevin Eskew's DUMB DAY (2012), Amy Lockhart's WALK FOR WALK (2005), Kim Deitch and John Kuramoto's THE SHIP THAT NEVER CAME IN (2003), Winsor McCay's THE PET (1921), and Stefan Gruber's THE EDIBLE ROCKS (2012). Approx. 70 min total, Digital File Projection. Stewart and Carré will hold an onstage Q&A with Kim Deitch, Leif Goldberg, and Kevin Eskew following the program. Free admission.

Shadow puppetry performance group Manual Cinema presents their multi-media work ADA/AVA as part of the Pivot Arts Festival on Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3pm at Essanay Studios at St. Augustine College (45 W. Argyle St.). Also on the bill is Theater Oobleck's presentation of "Possession: Baudelaire in a Box, Episode #5." More info at

Chicago Filmmakers screens Stephen Maing's 2012 documentary HIGH TECH, LOW LIFE (87 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 7:30pm at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) and on Monday at 7:30pm at Studio Be (3110 N. Sheffield Ave.).

The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens local filmmaker Hillary Bachelder's 2013 documentary EMBODIES (38 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 8pm, with Bachelder and select subjects from the film in person.

The Black Cinema House (6901 S. Dorchester Ave.) screens Haile Gerima's classic 1982 film ASHES AND EMBERS (120 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 7pm as the introductory event remembering the seminal Blacklight Film Festival. Introduced by Blacklight Film Festival founder Floyd Webb. Seating is limited; RSVP to to reserve a seat. Free admission.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Terrence Malick's 2012 film TO THE WONDER (112 min, 35mm) plays for a week; and in the Czech film series, Richard Rericha's 2012 film DON'T STOP (98 min, 35mm) screens on Sunday at 3pm and Monday at 8:15pm and Zdenek Jirasky's 2011 film FLOWER BUDS (90 min, 35mm) screens on Sunday at 5pm and Wednesday at 8:15p.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Jason Wise's 2012 documentary SOMM (94 min) opens, with a number of special event screening scheduled (see the MB website for details); Rama Burshtein's 2012 Israeli drama FILL THE VOID (90 min) also opens; Jayson Thiessen's 2013 children's animated feature MY LITTLE PONY: EQUESTRIA GIRLS (72 min) screens on Sunday at 11:30am; George Stevens' 1936 Astaire and Rogers musical SWING TIME (103 min) screens on Saturday at 11:30am and on Tuesday at 2pm (the Tuesday screening is part of Malty Matinees, see website for details); and Xan Cassavetes' 2012 horror film KISS OF THE DAMNED (97 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight. All Unconfirmed Formats.

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) welcomes Wexner Center for the Arts (Ohio State University) film curator David Filipi for his annual presentation of Rare Baseball Films (approx. 100 min total, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7:30pm. This year's program features footage drawn from newsreels from the Hearst Metrotone News Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive and includes Joe DiMaggio, Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays, and Hack Wilson, footage from the Negro and Japanese leagues, and World Series clips of both the Cubs and White Sox.

Facets Cinémathèque presents the Chicago African Diaspora Film Festival this week, with 13 features made between 1989 and 2013 from around the world. Several filmmakers in person. Visit Facets' website for the complete schedule and more information:

The Chicago Public Library presents a rough-cut screening of Chris Boebel's local documentary EXIT ZERO: A FILM (Unconfirmed Running Time, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) at the Vodak-East Side Branch (3710 E. 106th St.) on Saturday at 1:30pm, with the filmmakers in person; and Tadeo Garcia's 2004 local drama ON THE DOWNLOW (90 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) in the LGBTQ Series at the Logan Square Branch (3030 W. Fullerton Ave.) on Tuesday at 6pm, with director and co-writer Tadeo Garcia and co-writer Roger B. Domian in person. Free admission for both.

The Chicago History Museum screens Stephen Hatch's 2013 documentary CHICAGO DRAWBRIDGES (56 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 1:30pm, with co-producer, narrator, and local bridge historian Patrick McBriarty in person.

The Chicago Cultural Center continues the Cinema/Chicago international film series with Benito Bautista's 2012 Filipino film HARANA (104 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm; and Ami Drozd's 2011 Israeli film MY AUSTRALIA (97 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm (repeats June 22). Free Admission for both.

The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) screens Waris Hussein's 1971 film MELODY (103 min, DVD Projection) on Wednesday at dusk. Free admission.

The (still open!) Patio Theater screens J.J. Abrams' 2013 film STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (132 min, Unconfirmed Format) this week.

A Tugg presentation of Bryan Poyser's 2013 film THE BOUNCEBACK (Unconfirmed Running Time, Digital Projection - Unconfirmed Format) will take place at the Landmark's Century Centre Cinema on Monday at 7:30pm. Poyser in person for a Q&A hosted by local filmmaker Joe Swanberg. Tickets available at

Also at the Logan Theatre this week: Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film THE GODFATHER: PART II (200 min, Unconfirmed Format) screens on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 10pm.



The new owner of the Portage Theatre has abruptly closed the venue, for the foreseeable future. This unexpected decision may displace occasional and annual events, such as the Terror in the Aisles festival and the Silent Summer Film Festival (keep your eyes on Cine-File and the Chicago Reader for information on these). The closure's immediate impact has been on the Northwest Chicago Film Society, which has been holding regular weekly screenings there. Again, keep your eye on Cine-File, the Chicago Reader, and NWCFS's website for updates on alternate venues for their screenings.

The Patio Theater has announced that it will be closing for the summer (with a re-opening sometime in September) due to the excessive costs to repair their air conditioning system. But still not as soon as thought: they will be running STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS this week and will again be hosting the Northwest Chicago Film Society screening this week (see above in Crucial Viewing).



I Think We're Ready to Go to the Next Sequence: The Legacy of HalfLifers continues at Gallery 400 (UIC, 400 S. Peoria St.) through June 15. Included are works by the HalfLifers (Torsten Zenas Burns and Anthony Discenza) as well as work by 23E Laboratories, Jason Robert Bell, James Fotopoulos, Kari Gatzke, Lauren Marsden, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Bjørn Melhus, Shana Moulton, Caspar Stracke and MASTERS OF TIME AND SPACE, and Jennet Thomas.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan Ave.) continues the show Spectator Sports through July 3.

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CINE-LIST: June 14 – June 20, 2013

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Michael Castelle, Rob Christopher, Jason Coffman, Kat C. Keish, Christy LeMaster, Anne Orchier, Shealey Wallace, Brian Welesko, Darnell Witt

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