Longtime Companion

Thankfully, the first commercial feature about AIDS doesn’t follow the obscene Reagan-Bush approach–saving all its tears for children, with the unmistakable implication that other AIDS victims don’t count. It follows a group of adult friends and acquaintances, including a few who work for television, who spend their vacations on Fire Island and who are all struck directly or indirectly by AIDS. Though it contains some useful information, this is not really a preachy film–it is simply a very human and compassionate one about a tragedy that affects us all. Written by Craig Lucas (author of the recent play Prelude to a Kiss) and directed by Norman Rene. With a good cast that includes Stephen Caffrey, Patrick Cassidy, Brian Cousins, Bruce Davison, John Dossett, Mark Lamos, Dermot Mulroney, Mary-Louise Parker, Michael Schoeffling, and Campbell Scott. (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, May 25 through 31)

Published on 25 May 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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The Life and File of an Anarchist Filmmaker

Please go to

http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/1990/05/the-life-and-file-of-an-anarchist-filmmaker/

Published on 18 May 1990 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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15th Annual Festival of Illinois Film and Video

Prizewinning film and video shorts in four categories–experimental, animation, documentary, narrative. Because I was one of the five judges in this year’s competition, I’ve seen them all, and they’re certainly a far ranging bunch. The first-prize winners are Francois Miron’s visually intoxicating What Ignites Me, Extinguishes Me (experimental), Ian Fowler’s intriguing In Passing (animation, although the film features live action as well), Thomas Almada’s moving and powerful Chicago House: A Community Together (the first AIDS documentary I’ve seen that dares to be positive and upbeat), and Josef Steiff’s highly original and evocative narrative film Borders. The honorable mentions include two narrative films (James Chia-Min Liu’s A Scent of Incense and Steiff’s Catching Fire), two documentaries (Peter Kuttner and Kartemquin Films’ talking-head video Power to the People about the Black Panthers, and Wing Ko’s totally different Surfaces, a lyrical piece about skateboarding), and Susan Anderson’s witty and cerebral experimental film Lusitania, which recalls the work of Werner Schroeter. (Music Box, Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19)

Published on 18 May 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Presumed Guilty

Michael Niederman’s hour-long Chicago-made documentary about the 1968 murder trial and conviction of Dr. John Branion Jr. The film does an excellent job of persuading us that Branion was convicted of killing his wife on the basis of insubstantial, inconclusive, and even contradictory evidence, largely because of an inadequate defense and the various racial tensions that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King (Branion is black). The fact that Branion skipped bail and fled to Africa for many years has dissuaded various judges from retrying his case, in spite of the fact that virtually no one now believes that Branion was guilty as charged. Although this is much more simply made than, say, The Thin Blue Line, the facts and implications are equally disturbing, and Niederman does a fine job of juggling interviews (including one with Oscar Brown Jr., the first cousin of Branion’s murdered wife) with other elements in building his case. A Chicago premiere. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Saturday, May 12, 8:00 and 9:15, 281-8788)

Published on 11 May 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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