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Chicago, Illinois 60616
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8 FLAGS Restoration Premiere

Last night I was reminded of why we do what we do. Over forty people packed into a small Garfield Ridge Public Library meeting room to view and discuss the 1970 Chicago-made doc, 8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS. The film, made by Chuck Olin & Joel Katz, provided a space for Garfield Ridge residents to express their opinions on the Vietnam War. To the filmmakers surprise, the interviewees’ responses were nuanced, thoughtful and almost unanimously anti-war.

The audience at last night’s screening consisted of past and present Garfield Ridge residents, or more specifically, interviewees from the film, Vietnam vets and family members connected to participants in the film. Using our tabletop Eiki, we projected the fresh 16mm restoration print (made possible thanks to the National Film Preservation Foundation!) onto a screen sandwiched between colorful reading club displays. The entire film was shot within a 5 block radius of the library, adding special meaning to our little screening space (this was also the library’s first film screening ever!).

As the back-of-the-room projectionist last night, I had the pleasure of watching everyone’s reactions to the film. Audience members would start whispering and raising fingers whenever they recognized a familiar face on the screen. In a typical movie theater setting this type of behavior would annoy me, but here it just made sense and added a whole new dimension to my personal viewing experience (it also gave us much-needed clues as to “who knew who” for the post-screening discussion).

Like the film itself, the discussion following the screening provided a space for those in and connected with the film to simply talk and be listened to. Dialogue was lively and justifiably emotional. CFA colleague and friend, Andy Uhrich, moderated the discussion, while CFA friend, Alicia Healy, filmed it. In cased you missed it, a transfer of 8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS is now available for streaming on our Collections Portal and Youtube Channel. We also plan to edit footage from the post-screening discussion…and here’s a sneak peek. This excerpt features Paul Aubin, a former Garfield Ridge resident and interviewee in the film.

Many thank-yous to our accommodating hosts, the Garfield Ridge Public Library. And more thanks to the Southwest Chicago Post and our co-presenter Clear-Ridge Historical Society for their assistance in spreading the word about the screening. 

 

Mike Gray 1935-2013

I feel this is one big mistake. Mike has been working on multiple projects (books and films) with his partner and wife Carol Gray. He sprints when he moves, never lollygagging from one place to the next. By the way, he is not finished with THE ORGANIZER featuring the work of community organizer and Black Panther Bobby Lee (also known as the Mayor of the 5th Ward in Houston). Mike and his former partner Bill Cottle (The Film Group) donated to CFA one of our first documentary collections…the Urban Crisis series. This series of seven modules were actually educational films culled from the massive footage they shot during the civil rights marches in Chicago and the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Eventually CFA had them preserved with the blessing of the NFPF. One of them – CICERO MARCH – has been twice nominated for the National Film Registry. Trailer for THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON In 1968/69 Mike had been making AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2 (and after that THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON), two feature-length documentaries that pretty much represented the race and anti-war unrest of that time. Directing AR2, Mike invited Howard Alk (another Chicagoan with considerable editing talents) to review the miles of footage and co-direct his film that was in progress. Alk did and gave the film its direction. They went on to make MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON, and after that, Mike skedaddled off to Hollywood with his screenplay CHINA SYNDROME. In 2004, Mike came up to see our chilly vault and hear my spiel on what we at CFA intended to do with these Midwest film collections and the Chicago filmmakers who, as a rule, are neglected, in the shadows and often forgotten. CFA was only about a year old at the time. After finishing the tour of the vault, we sprinted across the bridge to my car for a lunch at Mannys. We sat down and Mike told me what to do. He insisted that CFA do a retrospective on the brilliant Howard Alk who for a brief shining moment in history crafted some films that cut to the core. Mike was not shy about singing Alk’s praises. He more than shared the credit for AR2 and MURDER. He did the same with the films he collaborated on with Chuck Olin. You will see Mike’s name again on the newly preserved CFA film 8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS which will be showcased this fall. We have found Mike’s name on numerous films that reside in our archive, in particular the Film Group and Olin Collections. He produced, shot, directed, recorded sound, begged for money; he did everything and anything on films to make them happen splendidly. He has authored many books, was a great journalist, a voice that could add clarity to complicated things, an activist, whatever… What sets Mike apart from the rest of us, he did not have an outsized or even medium-sized ego. Mike was always always the boy from Darlington, Indiana. I miss him already. You can view some of Mike’s work here and here.

8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS Restoration

Yesterday we received a newly struck restoration print of Chuck Olin’s 8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS (1970) – a rarely seen documentary about a blue-collar community’s growing unease with the Vietnam War. 8 FLAGS FOR 99 CENTS was produced in response to President Nixon’s famous November, 1969 speech when he contrasted the unlawful and vocal anti-war protesters to the respectful “silent majority” who were in favor of remaining in Vietnam to fight communism. This film explores the thoughts and opinions of the “silent majority” represented by the folks living in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago.

8 FLAGS, along with another Chuck Olin film, A MATTER OF OPPORTUNITY (1968), were preserved thanks to a grant from the Nation Film Preservation Foundation (more on these two films, here). Endless thanks goes out to the NFPF and to Colorlab, who skillfully color corrected this 16mm film back to its original glory. A future screening of this new print is in the works… but in the mean time, here are some frame comparisons to give you a sense as to why we’re so excited about this new print! :

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