Tag Archives: films

Big Joy, the James Broughton documentary, coming to the Walker

Big Joy is coming to the Twin Cities — seriously, Big Joy, the documentary.  And the August 22 screening of Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton at the Walker is a joyous event.

Big Joy is the story of poet and filmmaker Broughton produced by Stephen Silha whose Minnesota roots run deep.   The feature-length film captures the spirit of the enigmatic Broughton (1913-1999), known for personal mantra  “follow your weird” – which he did with great aplomb.

To put it mildly, Broughton engaged in and relished life!  In his autobiography Broughton described a time when, as a toddler, his life was transformed by a visit from his muse Hermy who assured him that he would always be a poet, “even if I tried not to be.”  The Muse also advised Broughton that “despite what I might hear to the contrary the world was not a miserable prison, it was a playground for a nonstop tournament between stupidity and imagination. If I followed the game sharply enough, I could be a useful spokesman for Big Joy.”(Coming Unbuttoned, 1993)

Writing in the Bright Lights Film Journal critic Gary Morris offers a gentle caveat: “Broughton is simply too individual for categorization, even when the evidence for labeling him this or that is overwhelming.”  Morris suggests that Broughton be seen as a “ poet, avant-garde film artist, and Dionysian gay sage.”

Not one to hold back, Broughton expressed his passion in film, poetry and his own lifestyle.  He created 23 films and an equal number of books of poetry.  He was a founding member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a queer service organization, and a leader of the Radical Faeries, a counter-cultural movement that advocated spirituality as a way to redefine gay identity. In recognition of his open lifestyle Broughton was grand marshal of the San Francisco Pride Festival in 1988.

Broughton played a significant role in creating some of this country’s most famous movements, including the Beats.  “Adventure, not predicament” shaped Broughton’s  life choices.

Stephen Silha who is  producer, co-director  and promoter of the documentary, is a journalist and filmmaker who lives now in Port Vachon, Washington.  And yes, he is a member of the Minneapolis family. He is the son of Otto Silha, well known as Chair of the Board of Cowles Media and generous benefactor with his wife Helen of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law and the University of Minnesota.  Like his parents and Broughton, Stephen Silha is a “big thinker.”

Big Joy has been on tour at festivals including Tribeca, South x Southwest, the Seattle International, Hong Kong and Florida Film Festivals..

Let this be early notice of what promises to be a major community event.  Word has it that Rain Taxi is planning a Big Joy reading/writing event before the screening at the Walker Cafe.  There will be more.

For those who are unfamiliar with the films and poetry of James Broughton, there is much to learn about Broughton and about the film.  The good news – time and resources are on the side of the learner.  Some portals to the wonderful world of weird adventure:




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2EpQ028vjIThis is it, a sample of Broughton’s film productions

All: A James Broughton Reader, edited by Jack Foley, White Crane Books, 2007

You’ve Seen the Film – Now Read the Book!

Tired of mega-movie houses where the feature film is lost in the frenzy of projectiles, the grumbles of impatient toddlers, the crunch of spilled popcorn and pop containers under foot.  Ever wondered about the cognitive dissonance between the film and the well wrought work of fiction upon which it was ostensibly  based?

If so, you will want to peruse the exhibit of books-into-films now on exhibit at the Minneapolis Central Library.  Once again inveterate reader and library volunteer Ruthann Ovenshire has combed the shelves for adult fiction books that have been made into movies in recent times.

The list of titles is enormous.  All of the books are in the Central Library collection – and Ruthann regularly replenishes the exhibit when library patrons wisely latch on to a good read.

The holiday season summons the shopper, the home decorator, the baker, the social butterfly and other stressed readers to take a break.  Pick up  a good book – go see the movie later.  If you’ve already seen the movie, this would be a good time to find out just how good the original tome really was!

Following is the list of adult fiction books recently made into films. The date listed is the film date.  All of these titles are in the collection at Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, conveniently located along the Holidazzle Parade route!

Syrup / Maxx Barry. (2012)

Salvation Boulevard / Larry Beinhart (2011)

World War Z / Max Brooks (2013)

London Boulevard / Ken Bruen (2010)

A princess of Mars / Edgar Rice Burroughs (2012)

The Lincoln Lawyer / Michael Connelly (2011)

The Loop / Joe Coomer  (2010)

We can remember it for you wholesale / Philip K. Dick  (2012)

The Three Musketeers / Alexandre Dumas  (2011)

One for the Money / Janet Evanovich  (2011)

Paranoia / Joseph Finder  (2013)

Something borrowed / Emily Giffin  (2011)

Brighton Rock: An Entertainment / Graham Greene  (2010)

Abraham Lincoln : vampire hunter / Seth Grahame-Smith. (2012)

Water for Elephants / Sara Gruen  (2011)

The Descendents / Kani Hart Hemmings (2011)

Cogan’s trade / George V. Higgins.  (2012)

The woman in black : a ghost story / Susan Hill  (2012)

Prince of Thieves / Chuck Hogan (2010)

Never Let Me Go / Kazuo Ishiguro  (2010)

On the road / Jack Kerouac.  (2012)

Gideon’s Gift / Karen Kingsbury  (2010)

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Steig Larsson (2011)

Shutter Island / Dennis Lehane  (2010)

Freaky Deaky / Elmore Leonard. (2012)

Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne legacy / Eric Van Lustbader (2012)

Kick-Ass (comics) / Mark Millar  (2010)

Cloud atlas / David Mitchell.  (2012)

One Day / David Nicholls  (2011)

Cross / James Patterson.  (2012)

True Grit / Charles Portis   (2010)

Atlas Shrugged / Ayn Rand  (2011)

Drive / James Sallis  (2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin / Lionel Shriver  (2011)

Dear John / Nicholas Sparks   (2010)

The lucky one / Nicholas Sparks.  (2012)

Safe haven / Nicholas Sparks.  (2013)

The help / Kathryn Stockett.  (2011)

The Rum Diary (2011) / Hunter S. Thompson

The Killer Inside Me / Jim Thompson  (2010)

The mysterious island / Jules Verne  (2012)




Gordon Parks: St Paul Claims – and Celebrates — a Local Hero

When I first read Gordon Parks’ A Choice of Weapons I was working at the District of Columbia Teachers College, 13th and Harvard Northwest in Washington, DC,  the epi-center of the DC riots of the late 60’s.  His experience as a teen in St. Paul’s Rondo area was so near and yet so far.  I had graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy, a five minute walk to Rondo (I know because we had to trek to the old Hallie Q. Brown for phy ed…)   Though I knew where Rondo was, I didn’t know Rondo.  I had no sense of what it meant to grow up there.

At the time I learned of and read Gordon Parks I had been working  2-3 years in an all Black environment.  It was also post the DC riots that had laid bare the unbearable raw evil of racism so palpable in the community in which I spent my days as a librarian who loved working an all-Black faculty committed to equality and excellence.  The reality of the college I loved under siege seemed unlike the Rondo neighborhood that was so near and yet so far from my high school days.

I began to wonder for the first time about the people who lived in the neighborhood around SJA, the kids we walked past every day en route to and from the bus.  I wondered about their parents – where did they work? where did they go to church? where did they shop or eat out or buy shoes or get a haircut?

Gordon Parks helped me face, and to some extent understand, Rondo – and to see the differences between the lives of African Americans in Rondo and the lives of those who lived near 13th and Harvard.

Referring to his earlier life in Kansas, Parks wrote:

Neither were these new friends as militant as we back there had been.  The lack of racial conflict here made the difference.  Minnesota Negroes were given more, so they had less to fight for….There were exceptions, but Minnesota Negroes seemed apathetic about the lynching, burning and murdering of black people in the South.  The tragedy taking place down there might just as well have been on another planet.  And they didn’t press vigorously for right in their own communities.

And, I realized, the white community in his St. Paul neighborhood were more accepting of the Rondo residents because the African Americans in St. Paul were so very few.   Scratch the surface, I thought.,,,

Throughout 2012 we celebrate the life and work of Gordon Parks who was born November 20, 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of fifteen children.  When his mother died Gordon, now fourteen, was shipped off to live with an aunt in St. Paul.  Soon left to his own devices he was at times homeless, at times finding jobs that ranged from piano player in a bordello to a job with the CCC and eventually a steady job as porter, then waiter, on the railroad – experiences that show up in his later life as a renowned filmmaker, writer, musician, and photographer.

Kansans and Minnesotans are both celebrating the centenary of their hometown artist this month.  In June, hundreds followers visited the exhibition of Parks’ photographs at the Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis.   The exhibit was mounted at the same time as a similar exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  The guide to the exhibit describes Parks’ pioneer work in photography:

 Parks was one of the most prolific and diverse American artists of the 20th Century.  His photographs span from the social commentary of the photographic icon of American Gothic, to Paris fashion for Vogue.  Parks’ photos chronicled the Civil rights movement in Life Magazine for two decades, and his portraits of celebrities like Ingrid Bergman brought him additional levels of fame and distinction.

As a filmmaker he was the first African American man to direct a major Hollywood production with the poignant memoir of his youth, The Learning Tree, and he broke new ground with a hip and provocative African American hero in Shaft, a movie that continues to be a pop culture classic.

This month brings a host of Parks celebrations, held in conjunction with the date of his birth, November 30,   Some of the highlights of this month’s tributes are these:

0 November 23-29 – Gordon Parks Centennial Celebration at the St. Anthony Main Theatre,  a Parks film festival featuring:

The Learning Tree – Saturday, November 24, 7:00 p.m.

Leadbelly – Sunday, November 25, 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday November 28, 7:00 p.m.

Shaft – Thursday, November 29, 7:00 p.m.  Special guest Richard Roundtree

0  November 27, John Wright, Professor of English and African American and African Studies, University of Minnesota, will discuss and sign copies of the book Gordon Parks Centennial: His Legacy at Wichita State University.  UMN Coffman Union Bookstore, 4:00 p.m.

0 Friday, November 30, at the Minnesota History Center.  Vocalist Jackson Hurst, The Sounds of Blackness, and Richard Roundtree.  7:00 p.m.

Though the films, photographs, lectures and music are great, St Paul’s true lasting tribute to Gordon Parks is the alternative high school that bears and honors his name.  Like the Green Line on which it is located,  Gordon Parks High School, 1212 University West in St. Paul’s Midway district, is a great work in progress.

“Miss Representation” Explores Media Bias

“Miss Representation” is the next in the 2011 Women’s Human Rights Film Series sponsored by the Advocates for Human Rights in collaboration with The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and Metropolitan State University.  The film is set for Wednesday, November 9, 7:00 p.m. at Metro State Founder’s Hall Auditorium, 700 East Seventh Street, St. Paul.


The film “uncovers a glaring reality in our society…how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions in America.”  It challenges the media’s limiting and often disparaging portrayals of women.  Included in the story are stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with influential women from Condoleezza Rice to Gloria Steinem.  The promotion material promises that “the film accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.”


All of the films in the series are free and open to the public.  Sign language interpretation and other accommodations are available with advance notice.


Contact The Friends at friends@thefriends.org or 651 222 3242.  More information at www.thefriends.org.


Polish Festival on the Riverfront August 13-14 – Open to All!

The very word  “Festival” conjures thoughts of up-beat music, lively dance, great food, fun in the sun.  The 2011 Twin Cities Polish Festival offers all of this  (well, the sun is always iffy) and much more!  What is magnificent about the Polish Festival is the unbounded celebration of Polish culture — Chopin, Conrad, classic films, ethnic food, modern jazz, polka and more mix with accordion playing, folk dance, vodka tasting, a 5K Run and more in a wondrous mix of fun and exploration of the Polish heritage.

All are welcome to join the festivities on Saturday, August 13, 10-10 and Sunday, August 14, 11 – 6.  Gather on the banks of the Mississippi, across from Riverplace and St. Anthony Main.  This grand celebration of All Things Polish is definitely a community event, not just for Polish folks anymore – not that there is anyone who will admit to total dearth of Polish heritage!

Some highlights offer a glimpse of  what’s happening:

v    Grazyna Auguscik, internationally acclaimed Jazz singer/composer renowned for her progressive jazz vocall, accompanied by a group of jazz notables including Paulinho Garcia, Brazilian singer/guitarist and Polish electric violinist

v    Polka Family Band, the five times Grammy nominated band from Pennsylvania.

v    The Megitza Quartet offering a unique jazz/world fusion/gypsy repertoire

v    Jaroslaw Golembiowski, the distinguished composer and pianist who is the featured performer for the Chopin Celebration Concerts

v    Vodka tasting – new this year

v    The 2011 Minnesota State Amateur Polka Dance Championship

v    The 3rd annual NaZdrowie! (to your health) 5K race

The Polish FilmFestival, a highlight of the two-day Festival, offers a weeklong program with film showings every evening, August 12-18.   The FilmFestival, co-sponsored by The Film Society, is at the St. Anthony Main Theater.

– Details, updates, a map, bus, NiceRide, parking and more on the Twin Cities Polish Festival website.

Minneapolis Pops Brightens Nicollet Island Mornings with Music and Motion

Though the usual summertime home of the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra is the Lake Harriet Bandshell  the versatile musicians are changing the venue and the schedule in the weeks to come — much to the delight of folks for whom South Minneapolis is a Destination.  They’re also changing their repertoire, again to the benefit of new listeners in riverfront setting.

On Tuesday morning, July 19,10:30 a.m.  the Orchestra moves to the Nicollet Island Pavilion for “Saturday Night (actually it really is Tuesday) at the Movies.’  The program includes music from films and music suggested by films.  The sparkling program  includes a host of musical delights – consider John Williams’ “Harry Potter Suite” from The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) or John Philip Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March” from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969), or the most recent, William Walton’s “Crown Imperial” from The King’s Speech (1910).

On Thursday morning, July 28, the Pops Orchestra returns to the Nicollet Island Pavilion for a focus on music that makes listeners want to move – dances by Dvorak, Brahms, Lecuona and Josef Strauss plus concertmaster Michal Sobieski’s flying fiddle and “Ascot Dances” with “Minnesota’s premiere accordionist Mark Stillman (an unlikely name for a musician who is clearly in motion!)

The Minneapolis Pops Orchestra features forty-five professional musicians who, during the non-summer (I can’t use the “w” word) play with the Minnesota Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and other Twin Cities groups.  Music Director Jere Lantz, now in this twenty-fifth season with the MPO, is host for the summer concerts and “well known for his ability to communicate the ‘story behind the music.’

Concerts are free and open.

Free Film Series Explores Women’s Human Rights Issues

Filmmaker Jean Kilbourne is a household world in the homes of many young women, their mothers and grandmothers, whose antennae have been tuned to sexist advertising by Kilbourne’s powerful films. A dear friend would describe this awareness of the image of women in the media as “perceptive paranoia”

As part of their Women’s Human Rights Film Series, Advocates for Human Rights will join with The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library to present Kilbourne’s recent film, Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women, a film for which Kilbourne enthusiasts have waited ten long years.

The program is Tuesday, February 22, 7:00 p.m. at the Merriam Park Branch Library, Marshall and Fairview in St. Paul.   Following the film there will be a discussion of the film and the issues led by Kathy Seipp and Anna Donnelly, Women’s Program Associates at The Advocates.

Promotional materials for Killing Us Softly 4 describe the film in this way:

Jean Kilbourne takes a fresh look at how advertising traffics in distorted and destructive ideals of femininity. The film marshals a range of new print and television advertisements to lay bare a stunning pattern of damaging gender stereotypes — images and messages that too often reinforce unrealistic, and unhealthy, perceptions of beauty, perfection, and sexuality. By bringing Kilbourne’s groundbreaking analysis up to date, Killing Us Softly 4 stands to challenge a new generation of students to take advertising seriously, and to think critically about popular culture and its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, and gender violence.

“Africa Rising”, third in the Women’s Rights Film Series, explores the conditions that shape the lives  of African girls who are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) at an early age.  The film travels through remote villages of Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Somalia and Tanzania. Along with poignant stories of girls affected by FGM the film shows how courageous and creative African women and men are putting an end to this human rights violation.

The film will be followed by a discussion led by Beatriz Menanteau, Staff Attorney in the Women’s Human Rights Program at The Advocates for Human Rights.

The third and last film in the Women’s Human Rights Film Series will be shown March 31, 2011, 7:00 p.m. at Metropolitan State University Library, Ecolab Room, 645 East Seventh Street, on St. Paul’s East Side.