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Long, Hard Looks

Lake Affect: Photographs by Othello Anderson at City Gallery, through June 28 Barbara Crane: Still Lifes / Natures Mortes at the Chicago Cultural Center, through May 23 Disciplined, carefully delimited approaches to nature photography yield a revelatory diversity in two exhibitions. Shooting in color, Othello Anderson has been recording a single view of Lake Michigan […]

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Charles Woodman

For his video installation American Diorama Charles Woodman panned his camera across scenery in 17 places in Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and California. But the scenic content is secondary to the formal concerns, as is the incidental motion the camera records–a passing truck on a country road, Woodman’s fingers fiddling […]

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Shalom Ireland

This cursory treatment (2003, 59 min.) of Jews of the Emerald Isle proudly profiles Robert Briscoe, who was elected lord mayor of Dublin in 1956, and Isaac Herzog, Ireland’s chief rabbi, who later emigrated to Israel and whose son, Chaim, was elected president in 1983. I was more interested in the Irish government’s refusal to […]

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Secrets for Sale AND A Certain Liberation

Elodie Pong’s Secrets for Sale (2003, 64 min., in French with subtitles) documents her installation at a Zurich art museum, in which visitors to a sterile white room are offered the chance to disguise themselves and disclose a secret to a video camera. In A Certain Liberation (2003, 37 min., in English and subtitled Bengali), […]

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Drowned Out

English director Franny Armstrong surveys India’s misguided dam-building agenda (rooted in Nehru’s conviction that “dams are the temples of modern India”) and investigates a grassroots movement that used nonviolent tactics to save the Narmada River. “We will drown but we will not move,” promises Luhariya Sonkariya, an herbalist turned activist who has rejected resettlement offers […]

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Ravishing Refuse

Laura Letinsky: Hardly More Than Ever at the Renaissance Society, through April 19 Among the objects in Laura Letinsky’s luminous, ravishing landscapes are crumbs, flower petals, broken goblets, candy bar wrappers, crumpled napkins, stained tablecloths, orange peels, dried-out lemons, fleshy cantaloupes, raspberries, a red plastic bottle cap, and an aluminum pull tab from a pop […]

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Whose Is This Song?

Bulgarian director Adela Peeva undertakes a Balkan odyssey to discover the true origin of a folk melody that many ethnic groups claim as their own. She records people singing the tune from Istanbul to Sarajevo, the lyrics changing with the locale, but what begins as an amusing tale of cultural chauvinism darkens when she plays […]

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Moscow Central AND The Devil in Moscow

British director Clive Gordon takes a wonderfully acerbic look at Russia’s democratic growing pains in Moscow Central (1994, 72 min.), as wacky candidates run for office in Moscow’s central district. Among the wicked touches is Gordon’s use of “Sympathy for the Devil” on the sound track as a corrupt pol from the last regime strides […]

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Borderline

This documentary by Slawomir Grunberg examines the case against Eunice Baker, a borderline retarded woman in Owego, New York, who signed a questionable confession and was convicted of murder in 2000 after a malfunctioning furnace killed a three-year-old girl she was babysitting. Grunberg wants to exonerate Baker, but his agenda is almost upstaged by her […]

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Trees AND Allotment

Narrated by Marianne Faithfull, Trees (2002, 52 min.) is an animist paean to the title plants, its reverent compositions and score honoring the antiquity and idiosyncrasy of various baobobs, sequoias, acacias, and other specimens. French filmmakers Sophie Bruneau and Marc-Antoine Roudil nicely integrate the mystic and the naturalistic. In Allotment (2003, 24 min., in Dutch […]

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Days in the Lives

Lorna Simpson: 31 at Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, through March 28 A Bar at the Folies Bergere at School of the Art Institute Gallery 2, through February 28 The video installations A Bar at the Folies Bergere and 31 both immerse us in the lives of their subjects: a late-19th-century Parisian barmaid […]

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Calendar Sidebar

Last June telly viewers in the UK saw this message on their screens: “Some images in this film have been obscured by the BBC. These images were broadcast unobscured by Al-Jazeera.” What followed was an insightful, dispassionate report–part of the BBC’s “Correspondent” series–documenting three weeks in the life of the Qatar newsroom of the Arabic-language […]