A Lost Silent Movie Rediscovered

The Siskel Film Center had a special event today, and Igor and I thought it would be a great way to celebrate Igor’s birthday. 

This special event was a screening of the lost and recently rediscovered silent film “The First Degree.” It turned out that today was National Silent Movie Day, so it all came together perfectly.

Here is a story of how this film was rediscovered. Please take time to read the whole blog of the Chicago Film Archives – it’s totally worth reading!

I didn’t know that the majority of the silent movies are lost forever and that often, the studios themselves would destroy the negatives. And it’s very interesting what they say about “rural melodrama” and the fact that this film is geared towards the male audience. 

Unseen for 97 years, it’s a real gem. And the live score!!! How can you beat that?!

It was the only screening of this movie, but I hope the Siskel Center will add more later!

“Contagion” With Dr. Allison Arwady

Since the Siskel Center reopening in August, they screen so many interesting films that I want to be there every other day! One of the series is called Chicago Favorites, and last Saturday, they screened “Contagion” with special guest Dr. Allison Arwady. It was a little bit surreal to see her live after seen her on-screen almost every day for the past 18 months :), and the conversation was exceptionally interesting. At the time when this movie was filmed, she worked as a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, just as Kate Winslet’s character in the movie.


People asked Dr. Allison how close to reality things are presented in the movie and whether at that time she thought that such things could happen for real (her reply: absolutely, it was not the question of if, but when). She mentioned that quarantining Chicago in the situation described in the movie wouldn’t make sense and that as for the movie’s food shortage, she said: we grow our own food! So although the supply chain disruption is real as we see it, it won’t end up in the food shortage and people breaking into the stores (that happened for different reasons!)
You know what I like about Dr. Arwady? She is in front of people almost every day. She is never falsely optimistic, but she also never panic, and her explanations of the Chicago Health Department policies are clear and making sense. That e-being said, she is very optimistic about our future, and she says vaccines work exactly like expected, and we couldn’t even hope for such an outcome, And we will get through it.

And I trust her!

The Siskel Center Reopening

The Siskel Center is opening tomorrow, but they had a sneak preview of one of the movies yesterday – free for the members.

Both Igor and I signed up, not for this particular movie but for the sake of being a part of reopening. 

Yesterday morning, the Siskel Center sent out an email saying that they need to limit the occupancy of the theaters to 50% of capacity and that some people who already signed might not be able to attend. 

They didn’t tell us when the doors will be opened, so when Igor and I stopped to check out the situation at 5-50, there was already a small line:). 

Long story short: we believe that everybody who came was seated after all, and we didn’t have to come over an hour in advance. 

As for the movie itself – I am not sure what to make out of it. We both agreed that we would rather have some other movie for the opening night. For me, it felt like a waste of time to spend two and a half hours stating that one shall not kill, that jealousy is bad and that the child’s talents should not be exploited. And all of that with some creepy elements. 

But I will let more cinematography-wise people decide.

The movie: Annette

All In: The Fight for Democracy – Documentary

By now, everybody knows that if I am not blogging for a couple of days, it means that I have a crisis at work. This is precisely what’s going on now, plus – the chapter deadline is only two days away, and I have a big chunk of it still not written, plus it needs a lot of formatting rework. Nevertheless, when the Amazon screening of the new documentary was announced, I signed up because I could not not to see it! And I was watching it, while fixing stuff in production and while editing our current chapter.

It is brilliant. It is timely. It is eye-opening. I have an urge to make people who dare to lament about BML being too violent, about “how much longer we should beg pardon and feel sorry,” to watch this documentary from start to finish. Because the answer is – forever. At least for the foreseeable future.

And I may be biased towards a certain population of zero-generation immigrants. Still, way too often, I feel that they do not know these parts of American history, which were not publicized in history textbooks. They were not here, and their parents were not here, and when they come, they are too busy to get settled in their new life. They do not want to look around, question, and step away from their stereotypes, from the presumption that they know everything. 

I will stop now:), but I want to share the official trailer and a review from Tribune, which I really liked!

Continue reading for the full text of the review (the link to the article is here)

Continue reading “All In: The Fight for Democracy – Documentary”

The Event – a Documentary

I just learned about this documentary, although it was produces five years ago. In short, it combines the footage filmed on the streets of Saint Petersburg (then still Leningrad) on August 19-24, during the attempted coup d’etat.

I didn’t even plan watching it today, because I have a book chapter deadline, but I decided to rent in on Vimeo, and just watched in on zoom with Igor.

It is absolute must-see for anybody, because there is close to no footage of these events, because the little which is available is not shown to general public, because of Belarus, and because of many other countries. And because it’s a good reminder that that is us. I do not really like the trailer because of the choice of the episodes and how they are linked, but still – better than nothing.

I was not there during these events, because those were the very last days of my pregnancy, Vlad and Anna were born on August 23. But even without internet and without any information on the television, I knew what was going on, and I was upset that I could not be there.

I rented it here, and I think it worth five bucks to pay for 24 hours streaming. Vlad and @abailliekova – it’s a must-see, and I mean it.

‘Radioactive”

Yesterday, I watched the movie “Radioactive” (a part of Siskel center membership). It’s a great movie, but watching it at that moment and in my current state of mind was a terrible idea.

It’s such a tragic story, of which I knew almost nothing. On a personal level, it elevates the fears I am trying to dismiss. I cried a lot while watching…

Mr. Jones: the Movie

On Friday, we had a movie night again, this time I invited my very good friend who loves movies, to join Igor and I. And she, in turn, invited her other friend, who is also a passionate movie lover. Our group of four watched Mr. Jones movie.

The movie seemed very interesting from the synopsis, and when I saw it coming in the Film Center from your Sofa series, I decided right away that that’s what we are watching next time. But I have to admit, I didn’t do any reading ahead.

Because of that, in the beginning, it seemed very confusing. The synopsis was saying “right before the WWII,” so I was thinking about 1937-39, but actually, the events in the movie took place in 1932-33. Initially, some small historical inaccuracies were distracting, but later I was really taken by the film. The cinematography is brilliant, and the story is captivating.

While we were watching, Igor googled the film’s origin, and we were surprised to learn that the film is based on real events.

Today, I continued googling and found a website dedicated to Gareth Jones. The site has references to most of his publications, and after I found it, I could not stop reading. Is it unbelievable, how much he was able to witness! I also found that the book of his Soviet dairies is available at the Chicago Public Library. Hopefully when the library will resume operation, Igor will be able to check it out.

It is so unfortunate, that Gareth Jons was not really heard, or rather not listened to!

Capital in the Twenty-First Century Moview

I do not remember how that movie ended up in my watch list. After I started to watch Siskel From Your Sofa movies, all the third parties started to send me their newsletters, so it should have come from one of those. I was intrigued by it’s description and was looking forward to watching it.

Maybe, I had too high expectations, but the movies left me with a question: so what? Everybody should pay taxes? Richer people should pay higher taxes? Yes, I know, I agree, so what now?

Not like I didn’t like the movie, I liked it, but still…

If anybody is interested in watching, here is a list of current and future virtual screenings: Capital Movie

“Plastic Wars”

One of the many things which are not normal these days is the fact that we can’t come to the stores with our reusable bags. “Until further notice,” as most of the stores as saying. 

I washed all my reusable shopping bags and all my reusable mesh grocery bags and folded them on one of the shelves in the laundry room. I hope I will be able to use them again at some point. But each time I am placing a pile of plastic bags into the garbage, my heart wrenches. 

Last week, I finally watched the documentary Plastic Wars, which was on my list for a while. It is horrifying to see all the damage that plastic does for the environment. It’s devastating to learn that even when you think you are recycling, you are often not. That makes you to disgust plastic packaging even more. And yet – that’s what we have to do these days…

I still highly recommend the movie – watch it here

CRESCENDO: A Movie by Dror Zahavi

I watched this movie, although I didn’t have time, and I had other things to do. I dropped everything and could not stop. And now I can’t do anything until I write about it.

As a Chicagoan, and as a music lover, I know about Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, how I could not know? He talks about this orchestra almost every time he talks about anything publicly. I also know that many people, both inside and outside Israel, do not like this project. Barenboim always says that that project won’t bring peace, won’t stop the war, but it helps to build understanding. Now I am wondering, to what extent this movie is “loosely based” on Barenboim’s story. Because it’s way worse. And hopeless.

Twenty years ago, I resolved that I will never speak or write publicly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is one of those conflicts, where everybody is right, and everybody is wrong, and there is no way to change anybody’s opinion. And sadly, this brilliant movie proves it.

I do not think that anybody who believes that there is a right side of that conflict, should watch this movie. There is a reason why on Vimeo, the comments for that movie are disabled. I wanted to cry through most of the movie. And I want to cry now.