Chicago Guide to Independent and Underground Cinema
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:: Friday, FEB. 8 - Thursday, FEB. 14 ::


Surveillance, Protest, Spectacle: Films by Michael Vass and Jem Cohen (Experimental Documentary)
The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) - Saturday, 8pm

The street-theater of a good protest should, through its very nature, provide rich allegory for the systems it rails against and rich contrast to the street-theater of collective celebration that takes place outside any major sporting event. Yet both forms of spectacle can render control over an audience so absolutely that their will to object is taken away and a de facto participation results, merely through the act of observing. This intersection is central to Michael Vass' VANCOUVER #1-13 (NOTES FOR A REPORT...) (2012, 60 min, HD Video Projection), which uses the critical distance of a fictional intelligence agent-as-narrator to weave a self-reflexive essay about the disparate goals of protesters and drunken revelers, while visually highlighting the many behavioral similarities between the two groups. Often relying on footage with a crisp and well-intentioned handheld aesthetic, Vass initially guides the viewer toward a left-wing interpretation of both the arrest of protesters during the 2010 G20 meeting in Toronto and the early public gatherings during Vancouver's Winter Olympics. However, as the "agent" assigned to view the "confiscated" tapes of a protester proceeds to analyze the motivations of the cameraperson in ever-greater detail, Vass' own perspective becomes increasingly less clear. While the structure is not a direct route to an essay film, the major point is to provide documentation of these two events through simultaneous objective and subjective lenses, highlighting the unseen hand of the artist in this process. The film questions the morality of street videography, both literally and figuratively, and conveys skepticism of direct documentation's ability to give agency to the protest filmmaker. Although uneven and, by its narrator's admission, ambiguous in its policy statement, it ultimately succeeds in using distanced intimacy to contextualize two events that represent opposite poles of living in a globalized world. Shorter in length but still great in impact are two brief videos by Jem Cohen, GRAVITY HILL NEWSREEL NO. 2 and GRAVITY HILL NEWSRELL NO. 4 (each 2011, 4 min, HD Video). These portraits of the Occupy Wall Street gatherings of 2011 are visually stunning and poetic in their construction and repetition. Equally ambiguous about the prospects of the protesters, they also place the filmmaker's conflicted emotions near the surface. Michael Vass in person. JH
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Oscar Micheaux's WITHIN OUR GATES (Silent American Revival) 
Music Box Theatre - Saturday, Noon

During the Red Summer of 1919, the Chicago Race Riot awoke the nation from its blissful slumber; with 38 people dead and approximately 1,000 black families displaced by fires, the riot in Chicago and others across the nation reflected the increased willingness amongst African Americans to fight back against institutionalized racial oppression. Made in 1919 and released in early 1920, WITHIN OUR GATES was appropriately timed against the conflict and also seen as a direct response to D.W. Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION (1915). Oscar Micheaux's second film tells the story of a black Southern school teacher, Sylvia, who goes North to seek funds for her school after the enrollment exceeds the money allotted per black child by the state. Along the way, she falls in love with another idealist and the story of her past is disclosed in a revelatory flashback: Sylvia was adopted by a black couple who are later lynched after her adoptive father is accused of killing his employer. Sylvia also escapes an attempted rape at the hands of her white birth father; between this and the lynching, the Board of Censors in Chicago and other various cities initially rejected the film in its original sequence for fear that it would incite more racial violence. Shot mostly in Chicago, the locally-made film's sole print is also the earliest surviving print of a feature film directed by an African American; it was discovered in Spain during the 1970s and restored by the Library of Congress is 1993. Micheaux's film is significant not only for its place within American film history, but also for the way it displays the complexity of race relations between people and regions. (1920, 79 min, 35mm) KK
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Mikhail Kalatozov's I AM CUBA (Eastern Bloc Revival) 
Gene Siskel Film Center - Friday and Tuesday, 6pm

The career of Georgian filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov is a virtual index of the changing prerogatives of the Soviet film industry. Following the formalist gambits of SALT FOR SVENETIA (1930) and NAIL IN THE BOOT (1931), Kalatozov was excommunicated from revolutionary filmmaking and eventually appointed Moscow's ambassador to Hollywood. With the post-Stalin thaw, Kalatozov was suddenly in vogue again. His 1957 film THE CRANES ARE FLYING was a festival phenomenon and even earned US distribution from Warner Bros. For Pauline Kael, Kalatozov represented a deceptively non-ideological strain of Communism kitsch, calculated to make Westerners swoon with drippy romantic sentiment. Kael didn't have much to fear. Kalatozov would soon begin work on I AM CUBA, a belligerent third-world epic practically engineered to alienate liberal sympathizers. Indeed, I AM CUBA never played in the States until a 1992 engagement at the Telluride Film Festival; shortly thereafter, it was picked up by Milestone and asserted itself as, in J. Hoberman's phrase, the "Siberian mammoth" of Cold War cinema. The formal brilliance of I AM CUBA is now well known and copied recklessly by capitalists everywhere (P.T. Anderson most unabashedly). The staggering, swaggering camera choreography and unapologetic reliance on white-hot infrared film stock acknowledged, we should also consider I AM CUBA as a daffy but ultimately sincere political document. Kalatozov and his cameraman Serguey Urusevsky were adolescents in 1917 and experienced the corrosion of the Revolution first hand. The poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko, who co-wrote the screenplay with Cuban Enrique Pineda Barnet, was born in 1933 and knew the Revolution only in its debased Stalinist form. To these artists, Castro's Cuba was a legitimate laboratory and a beacon of promise. One version of the film, with Spanish dialogue and a Russian overdub that translates each line, literalizes the superimposition of one political experience upon another. One regime salutes another and incubates a full-blown pulp creation myth. Filmmaker and SAIC professor Mary Patten lectures at the Tuesday screening. (1964, 141 min, 35mm) KAW
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Films by Shohei Imamura (Documentary Revivals)  
Gene Siskel Film Center - Showtimes noted below 

The Gene Siskel Film Center continues their "Imamura Investigates" series with three more films from his lesser-known documentary phase. Expanding his exploration of those forsaken by the Japanese government, Imamura depicts a different kind of Japanese soldier in KARAYUKI-SAN: THE MAKING OF A PROSTITUTE (1973, 75 min, HDCam Video; Friday at 8:45pm and Sunday at 3pm). As for an earlier film, he again travels to Malaysia, but this time to interview a woman who had been sent there as an indentured sexual servant before the war. Karayuki-san translates to "Ms. Gone-to-China," and while 74-year-old Kikuyo Zendo was sent to Malaysia rather than China, she is representative of the many Japanese women sent to various countries in and around Asia solely to pleasure Japanese men living abroad. "I am interested in the relationship of the lower part of the human body and the lower part of the social structure on which the reality of daily Japanese life obstinately supports itself," Imamura once said. This is especially evident in the film; the women 'gone to China' were often from lower socio-economic backgrounds and forced to work off money either paid to their parents in exchange for their service or money spent on their travel expenses. Both filmmaker and subject are equally direct as Imamura asks tough questions about her sexual history and Zendo responds with equal unemotional wariness. Another of Imamura's frank subjects returns in OUTLAW-MATSU COMES HOME (1973, 48 min, HDCam Video; Sunday at 4:30pm and Monday at 8pm). Having previously appeared in IN SEARCH OF THE UNRETURNED SOLDIERS IN THAILAND, Fujita goes back to Japan after many decades spent in a self-imposed exile. He returns to a family destroyed by war and post-war amorality; after discovering that his brother may have had a hand in having him declared dead, Fujita allegedly asked Imamura to buy him a cleaver so that he could murder him. "I was shocked, and asked him to wait a day so that I could plan how to film the scene," Imamura later wrote. "By the next morning, to my relief, Fujita had calmed down and changed his mind about killing his brother. But I couldn't have had a sharper insight into the ethical questions provoked by this kind of documentary filmmaking." Imamura furthers his exploration of society's outer fringes in THE PIRATES OF BUBUAN (1972, 46 min, HDCam Video; showing with OUTLAW-MATSU COMES HOME). By putting himself in the throes of danger, he shows the inherent risks of daring to stray from the civilized public and the dangerous implications of control through fear. All of Imamura's documentaries contain themes similar to those in his narrative films, and his straightforward examination of moral ambiguity bridges the gap between his radical fiction and the often-ignored facts. KK
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John Schlesinger's MIDNIGHT COWBOY (American Revival) 
Doc Films (University of Chicago) - Thursday, 7pm 

MIDNIGHT COWBOY is hardly a perfect film, but like many movies at war with themselves, it's a deeply fascinating one. It's commonplace today to note that MIDNIGHT COWBOY remains the only X-rated film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, with the distinction somewhat diminished because the film would have to stand on tiptoes to garner anything harsher than a PG-13 stamp today. It's a film whose content and milieu are fundamentally at odds with its approach. MIDNIGHT COWBOY's mainstream success suggests (correctly) a kind of halcyon moment of pop culture that we can scarcely conjure now: a 'gritty' story put over with New Hollywood technique that enthralled restive audiences and won over the industry establishment. Co-opting Warhol is better than ignoring him entirely, right? (Among other things, MIDNIGHT COWBOY is a peerless barometer of the quite brief vogue for avant-garde films as countercultural commodities.) Still, this is the least gay film imaginable about male street hustlers, irrevocably colored by its own homophobic revulsion and Jon Voight's absurdly averred straightness (brought home repeatedly and tediously in a flashback sequence that depicts a disastrous teenage tryst). It's both appalling and just that MIDNIGHT COWBOY is more readily recalled as a foundational buddy movie—an against-all-odds bromance that tugs at the heart with the Completely Straight central relationship between Hoffman and Voight. (Doc Films is right to revive this on Valentine's Day.) Every homoerotic possibility is actively suppressed. It's not a box office impulse, with risky content downplayed to assure playdates in the heartland; it's the thematic lifeblood of the film. I'm not sure whether Schlesinger's own identity as a gay man makes this mostly excusable or renders it all the more unforgivable instead. If this sounds like a pan, keep in mind that I'd gladly trade a raft of bland, inoffensive Oscar go-getters (then and now) for the profitable confusions of one MIDNIGHT COWBOY. It's the damnedest disappearing act in show business. (1969, 113 min, 35mm) KAW  
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Frank Borzage's HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (American Revival)
Block Cinema (Northwestern University) - Saturday, 3pm

The quintessential Frank Borzage film, HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT is what most screenwriters seem to have in mind when invoking the romanticism of The Movies. The story takes place among the wealthy and in the bohemian paradise of what Ernst Lubitsch called "Paris, Hollywood." Hard social realities seem not to exist; all that counts is whether good-hearted people find love—a matter of life-and-death significance for Borzage. The film is most often remembered for its climax (inspired by the sinking of the Titanic)—a sequence that still generates tension and disbelief in equal measure. But there are moments of light comedy, melodrama, and slapstick just as grandly conceived: Indeed, few films better recreate how all emotions are felt more intensely upon falling in love. On the run from her jealous tycoon husband (Colin Clive, James Whale's Dr. Frankenstein), Jean Arthur shares an enchanted evening in Paris with maitre d' Charles Boyer. A spate of complications keeps the spirited couple from reuniting for more than a year; and when they finally do, it's on board that fateful ocean liner. The film contains numerous changes in tone more reminiscent of the early talkies than what Hollywood was regularly making at the time (though the nuanced cinematography, by David Abel and an uncredited Gregg Toland, looks forward to certain technical breakthroughs of the 1940s); given the fluidity of transition and the overall poetics, perhaps the 19th-century symphony would be a better point of reference than any film. The three leads, incidentally, were never better, so comfortable in their performances as to make all the narrative curveballs feel perfectly tenable. (1937, 97 min, 35mm Archival Preservation Print) BS
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William Friedkin's THE FRENCH CONNECTION (American Revival) 
Logan Theatre - Friday, Saturday, and Monday, 11:45pm

Relentless. Gene Hackman's sensational turn as Popeye Doyle only works because of his foils: jaded, unflappable Roy Scheider and bourgeois, urbane Fernando Rey. And New York City, as much a character as any human being on screen. Friedkin thrusts us into the middle of a hellish, grubby, chaotic city, a place where the glass of beer sitting on the bar gets drugs, cigarette butts, and junkie's works dumped into it so Doyle can mix up his patented milkshake. Handheld, documentary-like camerawork, working hand in glove with jagged, quick cutting; the car chase may never be duplicated for sheer adrenaline, but the little offhand details are what make the film a fully formed world. The bicycle in Hackman's apartment, ugly wallpaper in Weinstock's living room, orange drink in the subway, nighttime steam rising from the pavement. Don Ellis' soundtrack is also key to the atmosphere, rife with spooky horns and percussion. The shootout in a dripping, ruined warehouse serves as an abrupt, almost existential ending. It seems to pose the question: "Is that all there is ... to life?" (1971, 104 min, Unconfirmed Format) RC
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Tommy Wiseau's THE ROOM (Cult)
Music Box Theatre - Friday, Midnight

A woman announces, "Well, the results came back - I definitely have breast cancer," and that's the last we ever hear of it. A group of men don tuxedos for no apparent reason and then toss around a football. A drug dealer threatens to kill someone and then disappears for the rest of the movie. Upon awaking, a man picks up a rose from his night table, smells it, and throws it on top of his sleeping girlfriend. A recurring rooftop "exterior" is obviously a studio set, with a backdrop of the San Francisco skyline digitally composited behind the action. Accidental surrealism can be even more potent than the conscious kind, and THE ROOM is some kind of zenith of its type, the equal to anything Ed Wood committed to celluloid. Although what's on screen looks like it cost about $14.99, the actual budget was upwards of $6 million, in part because actor/producer/writer/director Wiseau shot simultaneously in 35mm and HD (supposedly he didn't understand the differences between the two formats). Now the film has become a worthy successor to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, with enthusiastic fans performing a series of rituals at each screening. Ross Morin, assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, calls it "one of the most important films of the past decade. Through the complete excess in every area of production, THE ROOM reveals to us just how empty, preposterous and silly the films and television programs we've watched over the past couple of decades have been." (2003, 99 min, 35mm) RC
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The exhibition Drawer's Drawing at Julius Cæsar and Peregrin Program (3311 W. Carroll Ave.) runs through March 3. The show includes a looped animation (POUT MELODY), and accompanying still frames from the piece, by Lillie Carré. Additional work by Leslie Baum, Avantika Bawa, Elijah Burgher, Chris Edwards, Anthony Elms, Richard Rezac, and Paul Schuette.

Threewalls (119 N. Peoria, #2C) opens the newest iteration of their threewallsSOLO exhibitions on Friday, with new work by Mary Patten (PANEL, a performance-based, multi-channel video/sound installation) and Matthew Paul Jinks (THE UNRELIABLE NARRATOR, a six episode video installation). On view through February 23. Panel discussion related to Patten's work: February 9, 7pm. More info at

Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery (1104 S. Wabash Ave.) continues the exhibition Embracing the FARB: Modes of Reenactment through February 9. Among the works on view are video installations by Lori Felker (The Variable Area Television Network) and Kirsten Leenaars (Homeland of Gestures; part one on display till mid-January, part two on display from mid-January), and Jefferson Pinder (The Great Escape).

Ongoing at the Museum of Contemporary Art though May 12 is MCA Screen: Akram Zaatari, featuring the artist's 2010 Single-channel HD video Tomorrow everything will be alright (12 min loop).



The Conversations at the Edge series (at the Gene Siskel Film Center) kicks off its Spring 2013 season with Concrete Parlay: An Evening with Fern Silva on Thursday at 6pm. Currently local film and video artist Silva (he's teaching at UIC) will be in person to present five recent works, made between 2010-12. Based on the four seen (we've not seen his newest one), this is a show not to be missed.

As part of the 24-hour 2nd Floor Rear Festival of alternative and itinerant spaces, local media artist (and Cine-File contributor) Jesse Malmed presents Mic Check, an exhibition that will include five new videos and installations and an interactive video-based performance. It's at 2844 W. Dickens Ave., First Floor, on Saturday from 11:55pm to 1:30am (performance at 1am). More info at and

Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center (1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.) presents a Release Party for the new graphic novel by local filmmaker, musician, and artist Will Goss on Sunday at 8pm. The evening will include a book signing, a video installation, and a multimedia performance. 

Northwest Chicago Film Society (at the Portage Theater) screens the 1931 Spanish language version of DRÁCULA (35mm) on Wednesday at 7:30pm. Also showing is the next episode in John English and William Witney's 1941 serial CAPTAIN MARVEL (17 min, 35mm).

The Chicago Cinema Society (at the Patio Theater) presents David Grohl's 2013 music documentary SOUND CITY (107 min, DCP Digital Projection) on Friday and Saturday at 10pm and Monday at 7:30pm. More info at

Tritriangle (1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., Third Floor) screens Simon Klose's new Creative Commons-released documentary THE PIRATE BAY AWAY FROM KEYBOARD (2013, 82 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7pm.

The Northbrook Public Library (1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook) screens Charles Vidor's 1944 film COVER GIRL (107 min, 35mm) on Wednesday at 1 and 7:30pm. More info at

The Film Studies Center (University of Chicago) presents Collaborations: The Last Clean Shirt, Nishijin, Le Chant du Styrene on Friday at 7pm at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.). Screening are THE LAST CLEAN SHIRT (Alfred Leslie, 1964, 42 min, DVD), NISHIJIN (Toshio Matsumoto, 1961, 25 min, BluRay), and LE CHANT DU STYRENE (Alain Resnais, 1957, 19 min, BluRay). Introduced by series curators Richard Davis and Stephanie Anderson.

Also at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week: Joe Wright's 2012 film ANNA KARENINA (129 min, 35mm) and Jeff Orlowski's 2012 documentary CHASING ICE (80 min, DCP Digital Projection) both play for a week (excepting Wednesday); Shasta Grenier and Sabrina Lee's 2012 documentary NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT (59 min, HDCam Video) screens on Saturday at 12:30 and 7:30pm. Producer/director Lee, executive producer Steve Platcow, and Marine veteran Erik Goodge (who appears in the film) in person at both screenings; Frank Beyer's 1974 film JAKOB THE LIAR (101 min, 35mm; Saturday at 3:15pm and Monday at 6pm) and his 1982 film THE TURNING POINT (102 min, 35mm; Saturday at 5:15pm and Thursday at 8:15pm) play in the East German DEFA series; and Charles Brabin's 1915 silent bio-pic of Edgar Allen Poe, THE RAVEN (46 min, DVD Projection) is on Sunday at Noon. The program, co-presented by Chicago Opera Theater, features a Philip Glass score performed live by pianist Michelle Schumann and, following the film, live excerpts from Chicago Opera Theater's production of Glass's "The Fall of the House of Usher."

Also at Doc Films (University of Chicago) this week: Joel and Ethan Coen's 1996 film FARGO (98 min, 35mm) screens on Friday at 7, 9, and 11pm and on Sunday at 1pm; RZA's 2012 film THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (95 min, 35mm) is on Saturday at 7 and 9pm and on Sunday at 3pm; King Vidor's 1928 silent film THE PATSY (78 min, 35mm) is on Sunday at 7pm; Amy Heckerling's 1982 comedy FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (90 min, 35mm) screens on Monday at 7pm; Louis Malle's 1971 French film MURMUR OF THE HEART (118 min, 35mm) is on Tuesday at 7pm; Wong Kar-wai's 1995 film FALLEN ANGELS (96 min, 35mm) screens on Wednesday at 7 and 9pm; and Orson Welles' 1958 masterpiece TOUCH OF EVIL (112 min "restored" version, 35mm) is on Thursday at 9:30pm.

Also at the Music Box Theatre this week: Michael Apted and Paul Almond's 2012 documentary 56 UP (144 min, Unconfirmed Format) continues; Don Coscarelli's 2012 film JOHN DIES AT THE END (99 min, Unconfirmed Format) opens; Coscarelli will be in person for two screenings of JOHN plus two of his earlier films: on Friday, he'll introduce the 7:20pm screening of JOHN and a 9:45pm screening of his 2002 film BUBBA HO-TEP (92 min, Unconfirmed Format) and on Saturday, he'll introduce the 7:20pm screening of JOHN and a 9:45pm screening of his 1988 film PHANTASM II (97 min, Unconfirmed Format); Mike Nichols' 1967 film THE GRADUATE (106 min, 35mm) screens in the occasional "Sound Opinions" series, with music critics Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis in person, on Wednesday at 7:30pm; Michael Curtiz's 1942 classic CASABLANCA (102 min, Unconfirmed Format) screens on Sunday at 11:30am and Thursday at 7:30pm (the Thursday show includes a Valentine's Day "Sweethearts Sing Along"); and Jim Sharman's 1975 cult film THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (100 min, 35mm) screens on Saturday at Midnight.

Chicago Filmmakers screens Maryam Keshavarz's 2011 Iranian/US/French production CIRCUMSTANCE (107 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 8pm (social hour at 7pm) in the "Dyke Delicious" series at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.); and Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce's 2012 documentary THE ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA (92 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Wednesday at 7:30pm at Columbia College Chicago's Hokin Hall (623 S. Wabash Ave.). David Kraft, Director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service, will lead a discussion after the film.

Block Cinema (Northwestern University) screens Avie Luthra's 2011 South African drama LUCKY (100 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Friday at 7pm.

Facets Cinémathèque plays Thymaya Payne's 2012 documentary STOLEN SEAS (88 min, Unconfirmed Format) for a week run.

The Logan Theatre screens Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (106 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 11:15pm; Robert Farber's 1993 straight-to-VHS FABIO: A TIME FOR ROMANCE (approx. 40 min, VHS Projection) screens on Wednesday at 10:30pm in the "Wednesday Rewind" series, along with clips of additional VHS-sourced male stripper clips; and a Valentine's Days showing of Michel Gondry's 2004 film THE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (108 min, Unconfirmed Format) on Thursday at 10:30pm.

Alliance Française (54 W. Chicago Ave.) screens Claude Berri's 1986 film JEAN DE FLORETTE (120 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Saturday at 1:30pm.

Transistor (3819 N. Lincoln Ave.) screens Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film THE GODFATHER PART II (200 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Monday at 7pm.

The DuSable Museum screens Owen 'Alik Shahadah's 2010 documentary MOTHERLAND (118 min, Video Projection - Unconfirmed Format) on Sunday at 2pm.



Due to a distributor error, Doc Films (University of Chicago) was unable to screen the 35mm print of THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER this past Monday; they plan to reschedule the film soon. Keep an eye out here for details, if they are available by our relevant deadline, or on Doc's website or Facebook page.

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CINE-LIST: Febuary 8 – February 14, 2013

Patrick Friel

CONTRIBUTORS / Rob Christopher, Jason Halprin, Kat C. Keish, Ben Sachs, Kyle A. Westphal, Darnell Witt

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