New Docs

A film series surveying the contemporary field of professional documentary with filmmakers present for Q&A.

Co-presented by Northwestern’s MFA in Documentary Media program.

Quest

Thursday, October 5, 2017 7:00 PM FREE
(Jonathan Olshefski, 2017, USA, DCP, 104 min.)

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Full Frame Documentary Festival, Jonathan Olshefski’s first feature follows the North Philadelphia Rainey family over the course of a decade. This intimate cinema verité film is a moving and inspiring look at a remarkable African-American family who are confronted with their own issues and tragedies and yet find the resolve to think beyond themselves to their larger community. Father Christopher "Quest" Rainey has struggled with drug addiction; mother Christine'a, aka "Ma Quest," was badly burned in a stove explosion; oldest son William is battling cancer; and youngest daughter PJ is struck in the eye by a stray bullet. Despite their adversities, the Raineys look to the betterment of their neighborhood. Christine’a works at a domestic violence shelter and Christopher opens up his small home music studio to the local kids, providing them an opportunity for expression and a sign that they are valued. “The movie’s quiet eloquence invites you to reflect on what it means to belong to a family and a place.” — A.O. Scott, New York Times

In person: editor Lindsay Utz

I Am Not Your Negro

Monday, October 16, 2017 6:30 PM FREE
(Raoul Peck, 2016, USA/Switzerland/Belgium/France, digital, 93 min.)

One of the most acclaimed documentaries from last year, Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated I Am Not Your Negro takes as a starting place author James Baldwin’s (Go Tell It on the Mountain) unfinished manuscript for Remember This House. Over the course of the film, Peck uses Baldwin’s observations on his contemporary civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr, on racism in American society and history, and on the depiction of African Americans in cinema. Part history lesson, part biography, part essay, I Am Not Your Negro uses the power and eloquence of Baldwin’s words (both in archival footage of the author himself and as spoken by narrator Samuel L. Jackson) to connect the racial segregation of Baldwin’s youth and young adulthood, though the civil rights era, to our own still racially-troubled contemporary moment. “Outstanding” — The Guardian

Raoul Peck is the School of Communication’s 2018 Hoffman Visiting Artist for Documentary Media, funded by a generous gift from Jane Steiner Hoffman and Michael Hoffman. Additional support from Dwight A. McBride, James Baldwin Scholar and former Northwestern TGS Dean/Associate Provost.

In person: director Raoul Peck

El Mar La Mar

Thursday, November 9, 2017 7:00 PM FREE
(Joshua Bonnetta and J.P. Sniadecki, 2017, USA/Mexico, DCP, 94 min.)

"The sun beats down mercilessly on all those who cross the Sonoran Desert between Mexico and the United States. Aside from the few people who live here, it’s the poorest of undocumented immigrants that make the crossing, who have no choice but to take this extremely dangerous route, followed by border guards both official and self-appointed. The horizon seems endlessly far away and deadly dangers lurk everywhere. It’s best to move under the cover of darkness; during the day, being exposed to the heat and sun is enough to make animals and humans perish. Their traces and remains accumulate, fade, decompose and become inscribed into the topography of the landscape, making the absent ever-present as life and death, beauty and dread, hostile light and nights aglitter with stars and promise all continue to exist alongside one another.

El mar la mar masterfully weaves together sublime 16-mm shots of nature and weather phenomena, animals, people and the tracks they leave behind with a polyphonic soundtrack, creating a cinematographic exploration of the desert habitat, a multi-faceted panorama of a highly politicised stretch of land, a film poem that conjures up the ocean." – Berlinale Festival, 2017

In person: director J.P. Sniadecki