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


Howard Hughes's HELL'S ANGELS (American Revival)
Gene Siskel Film Center - Saturday, 4:45pm and Wednesday, 6pm

It feels a bit unseemly to celebrate Howard Hughes. Scion of a drillbit fortune, Hughes devoted his life to an arrogant but enormously spirited defense of his own parochial bad taste, held in check only by his own indecisiveness. He slowly defenestrated a great movie studio--variously terrorizing and alienating RKO veterans, introducing innovative inefficiencies into a hitherto functional production system, endlessly tinkering with films in spite of their modest box office ambitions, and ultimately selling the likes of SWING TIME and CITIZEN KANE to a tire company. The completely crackerjack THE NARROW MARGIN sat on Hughes's shelf for two years, effectively undermining the career ambitions of director Richard Fleischer. (After Hughes stopped dithering and simply released the film, it became a hit.) When Hughes is inflated to pop culture icon--the frazzled, shoebox fashionista Hughes of the Las Vegas years or the caterwauling hypochondro-visionary of Scorsese's THE AVIATOR--it feels like an off-handed insult but still somewhat more than this creature really deserves. The firmest case for the Hughes legacy can be found in HELL'S ANGELS--a delirious act of cinema that could only be hatched by a businessman facing no real business pressures. Originally produced as a silent feature, much of the footage was scrapped when the siren song of the talkies caught Hughes's fancy. No matter--he would just shoot most of HELL'S ANGELS over again, with theater dynamo and movie neophyte James Whale assisting with the new dialogue scenes. It's no less a technological hybrid than Paul Fejos's LONESOME, mixing tinting and toning, two-color Technicolor, silent-era intertitles, and otherworldly sound design into a contradictory, retro-prophetic morass. When HELL'S ANGELS finally met its public in 1930, it was the most expensive screen endeavor ever seen. Yet it plays simultaneously regal and chintzy, state-of-the-art and coyly feeble--a transcontinental railway built by a caveman with a dull club. The other Great War films of the period--ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, THE DAWN PATROL, THE LAST FLIGHT--doubtless have much more on their minds than HELL'S ANGELS could ever feign, yet Hughes's epic possesses an immediacy, a vulgar species of intimacy, that stands alone. (The rambunctious ejaculations of the flying sequences remain disarming, preserving for posterity a salty phraseology not heard in any other '30s movie.) Ultimately, Hughes's self-serious pursuit of realism makes for the daffiest science fiction of the day. (1930, 127 min, 35mm) KAW
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Lynne Sachs' YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT (New Documentary)
The Run of Life Experimental Documentary Series at Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) - Monday, 7pm

With a subject matter inspired in part by Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York, Lynne Sachs' YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT is not so much an homage to Riis' work as it is a modern reimagining of the issues he brought to light. Published in 1890, Riis' book controversially documented the "shift-bed" lifestyle, among other aspects of the downtrodden immigrant experience, which involved people taking turns sleeping in shared beds. This practice still exists today, and Sachs uses it as a jumping-off point from which to explore various symbolic elements and the collective experiences of her characters. It's far from a straightforward documentary, but much of what makes it so experimental actually happened off-screen; in 2011, after first learning about "hot bed houses" from a family member, Sachs decided to collaborate with her cast rather than merely film them recounting their stories. As she says in her director's statement, "While working on YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT, I came to see that every time I asked a person to talk in front of my camera, they were performing for me rather than revealing something completely honest about their lives. The very process of recording guaranteed that some aspect of the project would be artificial." Thus Sachs met with her subjects (a group of non-professional Chinese "performer/participants") almost weekly over a year and a half, using the impromptu workshops to script the monologues that provide context to the film's poetic structure. Sachs uses a combination of 16mm, Super 8, and HD video to disorienting effect; the scenes shot on film are stark in contrast with the crispness of various close-ups shot on video. Additionally, beds are not just a plot device, but also a symbol of the film's themes (privacy, intimacy, and urban life, among others). In this way, Sachs' film is also like a gallery installation or a piece of performance art. (Sachs and the cast have presented YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT as a live film performance on several occasions, and the artfulness of its construction combined with its social utility are reminiscent of Riis' work, which is frequently exhibited in galleries around the world.) This hybrid documentary challenges not only the way such films are made, but also the way we watch and talk about it. Preceded by the sound piece LIGHT READINGS (Stephen Vitiello, 2001, 8 min) and the short film WINDOW CLEANING IN SHANGHAI (Laura Kissel, 2011, 3 min). Cinematographer Sean Hanley in person. (2013, 64 min, HD Digital Projection) KS
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Victor Sjöström's THE WIND (Silent American Revival/Special Event)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Saturday, 6pm

Long counted among the highest achievements of silent cinema, THE WIND's reputation has waned somewhat in the last two decades. Not released on home video since the days of laserdisc, a new generation of silent aficionados is much more likely to have seen heavily-promoted restorations of relatively trivial contemporaries like CHICAGO. Make no mistake: THE WIND is a film that's easy to love but difficult to like. Its melodrama is predictable and frequently uninvolving. The (plentiful) hick comic relief represents an incongruous lapse of judgment. THE WIND is a monument in spite of itself--not a work of pure form, but an intemperate physical artifact, an unyielding ruin. It demands a deranged commitment equal to Lillian Gish's own. Her performance is a masterwork of subtlety, literally on the verge of being blown off screen at any moment. Sjöström's skill in teasing out the natural emotional valence of a landscape reaches a peak here, though you might even find yourself rooting for the dust. (It's certainly difficult to name another Hollywood film from the era that registers such a gangly, irredeemable sketch of American incivility.) Building upon and amplifying the desert despair of GREED and WHITE GOLD, THE WIND plays like a terminal work of silent cinema, a final oasis before a thousand miles of sand. Live piano accompaniment by Stockholm-based musician Matti Bye, and foley/sound effects performed by members of Toronto-based Footsteps (1928, 95 min, Archival 35mm Print) KAW
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Morris Engel's LITTLE FUGITIVE (American Revival)
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Monday, 7pm

Co-directed by Morris Engel, Richard Ashley, and Ruth Orkin, LITTLE FUGITIVE is a little-known American classic with decidedly European flavoring: its style is reminiscent of Italian Neorealism, and it had a marked influence on the burgeoning French New Wave. The film tells the story of seven-year-old boy who flees to Coney Island after he is led to believe that he accidentally shot his older brother dead. Hijinks ensue as the prank unravels and the older brother rushes to find his missing sibling before their mother returns home. Though not much happens in the film, both its neorealist roots and its source as a major influence on the soon-to-be New Wave directors abound in every scene. Shot with a hand-held 35mm camera, the black and white documentary-style cinematography is reinforced by the real-life locations and a cast of nonprofessional actors. "Our new wave would never have come into being if it hadn't been for the young American Morris Engel, who showed us the way to independent film production with his fine movie," said François Truffaut to the New Yorker's Lillian Ross. The film's photographers-turned-writers-and-directors made it on a shoestring budget, and Engel even designed a camera that was discreet enough to include real people as unknowing extras. This necessity of independence precedes the technological innovation of cinéma-vérité, a period of filmmaking which gave birth to regular usage of lightweight cameras and convenient shooting methods. The New Yorker also alleged that Jean-Luc Godard asked Engel to borrow the aforementioned camera, a sweet anecdote that reflects the very guilelessness of the film's young hero. (1953, 80 min, 35mm) KS
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Josef von Sternberg's THE SCARLET EMPRESS (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Saturday and Sunday, 11:30am

Loosely adapted from the diary of Catherine II, Austrian-American director Josef von Sternberg's THE SCARLET EMPRESS stars his legendary muse Marlene Dietrich as Princess Sophia Frederica of Prussia, who later becomes Catherine the Great. At the beginning of the film, the innocent young princess travels to Russia to meet Empress Elizabeth (Louise Dresser) and her insane nephew Grand Duke Peter (Sam Jaffe), however during the long journey, she falls in love with her dashing envoy, Count Alexei (John Lodge). As commanded by King Frederick II, Sophia marries the Grand Duke and gives birth to a highly prized heir before she embarks on her long ascent toward the royal throne. Von Sternberg and set designers Hans Dreier and Richard Kollorsz create fearsome sets of the Imperial Palace and a Russian Orthodox Church by mixing elements of historical realism with their preferred style of German Expressionism. Adorning the rooms, Kollorsz's paintings and artist Peter Ballbusch's sculptures of grotesque, frightening creatures situate Catherine in a world overrun with the monarchy's fantasies. Von Sternberg focuses his camera on how the characters interact with a mise en scene that alternates between horror and romance; in fact, he uses it to build the character of Catherine more so than any other traditional device. THE SCARLET EMPRESS hinges on its penultimate collaboration between its filmmaker and its star. Von Sternberg and Dietrich vacillate between showing, masking, and withholding their image of Catherine the Great, and ultimately of Dietrich herself. In his essay on the film, critic Robin Wood said, "The connecting theme of all the von Sternberg/Dietrich films might be expressed as a question: How does a woman, and at what cost, assert herself within an overwhelmingly male-dominated world?" Count Alexei suggests an answer, "Yes, your Imperial Majesty, I love you, but I'm completely bewildered by your attitude towards me. However I've become accustomed to regard you as one of those extraordinary women who create their own laws of logic." Similar to the extraordinary woman she portrayed, Marlene Dietrich turned a man's world on its head. (1934, 104 min, 35mm) CW
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Joel and Ethan Coen's THE BIG LEBOWSKI (American Revival)
Music Box Theatre - Friday and Saturday, Midnight

Dude, people love this movie--and with good reason. THE BIG LEBOWSKI is what so few modern comedies are: legitimately good. Between all the "dudes" and "fucks," it's easy to miss some of the underlying themes of the film; but beyond its oft-quoted dialogue and obsessive fan base, THE BIG LEBOWSKI is an LA noir for the modern age. It's also a gigantic metaphor for the Gulf War, a true testament to the time in which it is set, and eerily prophetic to watch today. A Bush is in office, we're in a recession, and we're fighting a fatuous war in the Middle East, so boy is this film still relevant. Don't forget, though, that it's also hilarious. Fix yourself a White Russian, folks. Let's see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass. (1998, 117 min, Unconfirmed Format) CS
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Haskell Wexler's MEDIUM COOL (American Revival)
Art Institute of Chicago (Fullerton Hall) - Friday, 6:30pm (Free Admission)

How many times have you gone somewhere expecting a massive riot? And if you did go, did you also expect to come away with cinematic gold? That's pretty much what Chicago native Haskell Wexler did in 1968 when he decided to shoot footage of protesters outside the Democratic National Convention. Already an Oscar-winning cinematographer for his work on WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, he set a fictional film about the ethics of a TV news cameraman amongst the actual chaos in the city. In MEDIUM COOL he used what was essentially a documentary crew (operating the camera himself), and had the actors intermingle with real protesters and police as all hell broke loose in Chicago. Other documentary footage was repurposed and additional narrative scenes were shot to fill in the gaps of the superficial plot, and Wexler used these elements to walk the line between fact and fiction while addressing the political climate of the times. Perhaps more than any other filmmaker, Wexler is responsible for the shooting style used in films by directors like John Cassavetes, John Sayles, and Kelly Reichardt, who all seem to have taken his advice: "If your film can reflect areas of life where people feel passion, then it will have genuine drama." (1969, 111 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) JH
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The Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation continues with three screenings at The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.). On Friday at 7pm, filmmaker Caleb Wood will screen a program of his own animated works along with work which has inspired him; on Saturday at 5pm, Program 2 includes work by Robert Breer, Doris Chase, Larry Cuba, Chris Sullivan, Daniel Barrow and more; and at 8pm, Program 3 includes work by John Whitney Jr., Georges Schwizgebel, Johan Rijpma, and more. Full listings at

Also at The Nightingale this week: on Thursday at 8pm is Conditions Uncertain and Unlikely to Pass: Recent Work by Ben Balcom, with Milwaukee-based filmmaker Balcom in person, screening a program of his work from 2012-14 (16mm and Digital Projection).

This week at the Film Studies Center (University of Chicago): On Friday at 7pm it's Films of Mark LaPore. This program of work by the late experimental filmmaker includes MEKONG (2002) and LaPore's collaborative video with Phil Solomon CROSSROAD (2005). (approx. 84 min total, 16mm and DVD Projection); on Saturday at 7pm, Todd Chandler's 2013 experimental documentary FLOOD TIDE (90 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) screens, with Chandler in person. Preceded by unspecified shorts with live accompaniment by Chandler, Marshall LaCount, Mark Trecka and Jim Becker; and on Thursday at 5pm, noted scholar and author Dudley Andrew gives a lecture entitled "André Bazin's Dark Passage." All free admission. All events at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.).

At Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) this week: An Evening with Filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu is on Friday at 7pm. Screening are INTERMITTENT DELIGHT (2007, 5 min), ME BRONI BA (MY WHITE BABY) (2009, 22 min), DREXCLYA (2010, 12 min), SPLIT ENDS, I FEEL WONDERFUL (2012, 4 min), and KWAKU ANANSE (2013, 26 min). Followed by a conversation between Owusu and Prof. Terri Francis, Indiana University. Unconfirmed Formats. Free admission, but limited seating; RSVP at

The Eye & Ear Clinic series at SAIC (112 S. Michigan, Room 1307) presents digital and online artist Molly Soda on Tuesday at 6pm. She will be presenting/performing something involving karaoke. Free admission.

The Black Cinema House, Experimental Sound Studio, and Chicago Film Archives present two screenings/performances of Kinosonik #1 on Saturday at 8pm at ESS (5925 North Ravenswood Ave.) and Sunday at 4pm at BCH (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.). The event features musicians Joseph Clayton Mills and Marvin Tate performing live scores to a selection of ten films from the CFA collection (1953-1977, All Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format). Free admission at both venues, but due to limited seating at BCH, RSVP at Check the BCH website or for a list of the works showing.

The Logan Square International Film Series at Comfort Station in Logan Square (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents Point Taken: Comfort Station on Wednesday at 7:30pm. The event begins with Praxis' 2014 sound piece Fountains of Grant Park (26 min), followed by a program of video work by Derek Weber, Lori Felker, Robert Metrik, and Michael Wawzenek, a poetry reading by Amy Lipman, a performance by Katelyn Eichwald, and a musical performance by Erin Vogel.

The Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.) hosts a feedback screening of a work-in-progress version of the documentary TAKIN' PLACE, shot on Chicago's South Side, on Thursday at 7pm.

Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng's 2013 documentary I LEARN AMERICA: ONE HIGH SCHOOL, ONE SCHOOL YEAR, FIVE NEW AMERICANS (92 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) screens on Wednesday at 6pm at AMC River East 21. Followed by a conversation with co-director Dissard. Free admission, but registration required here.

Also at Block Cinema (Northwestern University) this week: Selected Short Films of Germaine Dulac is on Friday at 7pm. The program features rare imported films by Dulac, including the surviving fragment of her 1919 feature LA FÊTE ESPAGNOLE (8 min, 35mm), the 1927 surrealist featurette THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN (40 min, 16mm), two of her 1929 "pure cinema" abstract films, THÈMES ET VARIATIONS (9 min, 16mm) and ÉTUDE CINÉGRAPHIQUE SUR UNE ARABESQUE (7 min, 16mm), and two of her 1930 musical shorts, CELLES QUI S'EN FONT (6 min, 35mm) and AUTREFOIS...AUJOURD'HUI (7 min, 35mm). The silent films will be accompanied by pianist Matti Bye, and the program will be introduced by Tami Williams, author of the new book Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations; and on Thursday at 7pm, Helmut Käutner's UNDER THE BRIDGES (1945, 95 min, 16mm) screens, with an introduction by Anna Parkinson, Assistant Professor in the Department of German, NU.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Josef von Sternberg's 1931 film DISHONORED (91 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 3pm and Monday at 6pm; Joe Dante's 1993 film MATINEE (99 min, 35mm) is on Friday and Tuesday at 6pm, with a lecture by Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Tuesday show; Ron Mann's 2014 documentary ALTMAN (95 min, DCP Digital Projection) screens on Saturday at 7:45pm, Sunday at 3pm, and Thursday at 6pm, along with three never-released short films by Altman: THE KATHRYN REED STORY (1965, 15 min.), POT AU FEU (1965, 9 min.), and THE PARTY (1966, 3 min.). All in DCP Digital Projection; Marie-Monique Robin's 2011 French film OUR DAILY POISON (110 min, DigiBeta Video) is on Sunday at 5:30pm; Pascale Ferran's 2014 French film BIRD PEOPLE (127, DCP Digital Projection) begins a two-week run; and Jesse Moss' 2014 documentary THE OVERNIGHTERS (90 min, DCP Digital Projection) and Howard Brookner's 1983 documentary BURROUGHS: THE MOVIE (86 min, DCP Digital Projection; New Restoration) both play for a week.

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Rob Reiner's 1989 film WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (86 min, 35mm) is on Friday at 7, 9, and 11pm and Sunday at 1pm; John Michael McDonagh's 2014 film CALVARY (105 min, DCP Digital Projection) is on Saturday at 7 and 9:15pm and Sunday at 3:15pm; Josef Berne's 1939 Yiddish film MIRELE EFROS (87 min, 16mm; Free Admission) is on Sunday at 7pm; Elliott Nugent's 1939 Bob Hope comedy THE CAT AND THE CANARY (72 min, Unconfirmed Format) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Akira Kurosawa's 1962 film SANJURO (96 min, 35mm) is on Wednesday at 7 and 9:15pm; Errol Morris' 1981 documentary VERNON, FLORIDA (55 min, DVD Projection) and his 1978 documentary GATES OF HEAVEN (85 min, DVD Projection; Free Admission) are on Thursday at 6pm; and Ulrich Edel's 1981 film CHRISTIANE F. (138 min, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Volker Schlöndorff's 2014 film DIPLOMACY (84 min), Jonas Ohman and Vincas Sruoginis' 2014 documentary THE INVISIBLE FRONT (76 min), and A.J. Edwards' 2014 film THE BETTER ANGELS (95 min) all open; Alex Ross Perry's 2014 film LISTEN UP PHILIP (108 min) is on Friday-Sunday only at 9:45pm; Florian Habicht's 2014 music documentary PULP: A FILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH & SUPERMARKETS (90 min) is on Wednesday at 7:30pm; J.C. Khoury's 2014 film ALL RELATIVE (85 min) is on Thursday at 10pm; and Edward D. Murphy's 1982 film RAW FORCE (86 min) is on Friday and Saturday at Midnight.  Unconfirmed Formats.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Simon Hawkins and Zeke Hawkins's 2013 film BAD TURN WORSE (92 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week's run.

The Food Film Festival begins on Wednesday and runs through Saturday, November 22 at Kendall College (900 N. North Branch St.).  Films with food. More info, schedule, and tickets at

This week at Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria St., UIC): the Art 21 Access '14 Film Series presents Episode 4: Fiction, featuring artists Katharina Grosse, Joan Jonas, Omer Fast, on Wednesday at 6pm. Free admission; and the Sistah Sinema Chicago series presents Joseph Gai Ramaka's 2001 film KARMEN GEI (86 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm.

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts a screening of Darius Clark Monroe's 2014 documentary EVOLUTION OF A CRIMINAL (81 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 2pm, followed by a panel discussion. Free admission, but RSVPs required at

Screenings at Chicago Public Library locations this week: Rich Moore's 2012 animated film WRECK-IT RALPH (101 min) is on Friday at 3pm at the Roosevelt Branch (1101 W. Taylor St.); the 2014 documentary CARLOS MONTEZUMA: CHANGING IS NOT VANISHING (approx. 30 min) is on Saturday at 1pm at the Scottsdale Branch (4101 W. 79th St.), with producers Alison Wood and Tim Hartin and Jamie Singson, director of the Native American House, University of Illinois, in person; Suree Towfighnia's 2006 documentary STANDING SILENT NATION (53 min) is on Saturday at 2pm at the Woodson Regional Branch (9525 S. Halsted St.); Christopher McLeod's 2001 documentary IN THE LIGHT OF REVERENCE (73 min) is on Monday at 6:30pm at the Roosevelt Branch (1101 W. Taylor St.); and Tim Kelly and Charlie Soap's 2013 drama THE CHEROKEE WORD FOR WATER (92 min) is on Tuesday at 6pm at the Albany Park Branch (3401 W. Foster Ave.). All Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format. Free admission for all.

The Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.) screens Manuel Antín's Argentinean 1962 film ODD NUMBER (85 min, DVD Projection) on Monday at 6pm. Free admission.

The Italian Cultural Institute (500 N. Michigan Ave.) screens Luigi Magni's 1977 film IN THE NAME OF THE POPE KING (103 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Tuesday at 6pm.

Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Bertrand Tavernier's 2013 film FRENCH MINISTER (QUAI D'ORSAY) (113 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 6:30pm.

Sentieri Italiani (5430 N. Broadway Ave.) screens Paolo Virzì's 2013 film HUMAN CAPITAL (111 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 4pm.

The Portage Theater presents two double features this week: on Wednesday at 6pm, it's Adam McKay's 2004 film ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGANDY (94 min) along with Jay Roach's 2012 film THE CAMPAIGN (85 min); and on Thursday at 6pm, it's Bruce Robinson's 2011 film THE RUM DIARY (120 min) along with Terry Gilliam's 1998 film FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (118 min). Both free admission. Both Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format.



Anri Sala's 2003 digital video installation Mixed Behavior (8 min loop) opens on Friday and runs through March 1 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago presents Lucy McKenzie and Richard Kern's 2014 single channel video The Girl Who Followed Marple (10 min loop) through January 18.

I Am Logan Square (2644 ½ N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents a show of horror movie posters from the collection of the Logan Theater through November 14.



The Northbrook Public Library film series is on hiatus during renovations at the library. Expected completion is Spring 2015.

The Northwest Chicago Film Society is again on hiatus for their weekly series, with the closing of the Patio Theater. They plan to do occasional screenings as opportunities arise.

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CINE-LIST: November 14 - November 20, 2014

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Jason Halprin, Kathleen Sachs, Carrie Shemanski, Kyle A. Westphal, Candace Wirt, Darnell Witt

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