Chaz Ebert, Steve James, Dr. Allison Arwady, and Ayana Contreras among the notable Chicagoans presenting their film favorites throughout August 22 and September 28

CHICAGO—The Gene Siskel Film Center is pleased to present Chicago Favorites, a series of eight films curated by a cross-section of notable Chicagoans. On eight dates between August 21 and September 28, select community members will introduce films they hand-picked and find personally and/or professionally meaningful, including NASHVILLE, PRINCESSE TAM-TAMCONTAGION, and more. Several of the films will be presented in newly restored digital, with two titles–JUPITER ASCENDING and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN— to be screened in 35mm film.

The series will kick off this Saturday, August 21, at 7:00pm CT with DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, introduced by Chaz Ebert, President of the Ebert Company, Ltd., and will conclude on Saturday, September 28 at 6:00pm CT with PRINCESS TAM-TAM, introduced by Ayana Contreras, host of Reclaimed Soul on WBEZ and Vocalo Radio. 

Additional guest curators include Gene Siskel Film Center Advisory Board member Ed Siskel, introducing RUSHMORE (9/13);filmmaker Steve James, introducing NASHVILLE (8/28); LaSaia Wade, Founder and Executive Director of Brave Space Alliance, introducing JUPITER ASCENDING (9/1); Dr. Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, introducing, ahem, CONTAGION (9/4); Ashley Wheater, the  Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet, introducing HUGO (9/11); and Jon Carr, Executive Producer, The Second City, introducing SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (9/9).

The Film Center’s Director of Programming Rebecca Fons says, “Our Chicago Favorites represent an eclectic cross section of Chicagoans. This selection of individuals represents leaders in their fields, voices we admire, and people who inspire us. Curating this group of curators gave us the opportunity to remember the joy that comes when we share cinema that is personal to us. We are surrounded by film lovers.”

The Film Center’s Executive Director Jean de St. Aubin adds, “We look forward to sharing this bounty of films with our film-loving community. Our Chicago Favorites, all of whom are friends of the Gene Siskel Film Center, choose films that provide a window into our guest curators and represent the diverse viewpoints of Chicago itself. We are so grateful that they shared their favorites with us, providing an opportunity to come together to celebrate our curators and their favorite films.”

Fons explains the genesis of the idea for the Chicago Favorites series:

“Recently, during a long-awaited and much needed dinner with friends, we got to talking about the films we had all watched at home while Chicago was locked down. Guilty pleasures, comfort food, deep dives into filmmakers – everyone had watched a lot of movies. The conversation then turned to our favorite films, and a friend I’d known for years floored me with his pick. Knowing his choice, and why it meant so much to him, gave me an entirely new perspective on this person I’d known for years – his story behind the cinematic story was as special as the film itself. For our Chicago Favorites series, we invite you to get to know select notable Chicagoans through the perspective of their favorite films. 

From a seminal title from their childhood, to a film that speaks to their identity or lived experience, from pure big screen entertainment to canonical, vital contributions to film history, these films articulate the diversity of our city, and of cinema. Our guest curators will either introduce each film or engage in a post-screening talkback, and we look forward to welcoming you to this series that celebrates the films they hold dear. Perhaps you will purchase a ticket because one of these films is your favorite as well, or – through the eyes of our Chicago Favorites – you’ll see the film, or them, in a new and wonderful way.”

Tickets are on sale now for $6 (Film Center members) or $12 (General Admission.)

Still from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, which will be presented in 35mm on 9/9 at 7pm).


Saturday, August 21, 7pm
Guest Introduction: Chaz Ebert, 
President of the Ebert Company, Ltd.

1991, Julie Dash
USA, Germany, 112 minutes
English, French with English subtitles 
Format: Digital

“Before there was Beyonce, or Lemonade, there was Ms. Dash, Ms Julie Dash and her luxurious film about Gullahs living in coastal South Carolina. She led the way for other female directors. And to this day I find her film one that feeds all the senses, a true classic.

Roger Ebert called it a ‘a tone poem of old memories, a family album in which all of the pictures are taken on the same day.’ He went on to say that ‘at certain moments we are not sure exactly what is being said or signified, but by the end we understand everything that happened — not in an intellectual way, but in an emotional way.’”

–Guest curator Chaz Ebert, President of the Ebert Company, Ltd.

At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina struggles to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots. The first wide release by a Black female filmmaker, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST was met with wild critical acclaim and rapturous audience response when it initially opened in 1991. Casting a long legacy, the film still resonates today. Restored (in conjunction with UCLA) for the first time with proper color grading overseen by cinematographer AJ Jafa, audiences can finally see the film exactly as Julie Dash intended. (Kino Lorber


Saturday, August 28 – 6:00pm
Guest introduction: 
Filmmaker Steve James (HOOP DREAMS, CITY SO REAL)

1975, Robert Altman
USA, 140 minutes
English, French with English subtitles 
Format: Digital

“I first saw NASHVILLE when I was a young person falling in love with film and it was certainly a foundational work that helped drive my interest in pursuing filmmaking. It remains such a vivid, real, original film that still has much to say about American politics and the American Dream.”

Gust curator Steve James, filmmaker


In Robert Altman’s satirical, sprawling musical comedy-drama, numerous individuals – in the political and musical industries of Nashville, Tennessee – intersect and interact over the course of a few hectic days as the city prepares for a political convention. Starring Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin, Ronnee Blakley, Karen Black, Keith Carradine, Shelley Duvall, Geraldine Chaplin and Scott Glenn, among others. (RF)

in 35mm

Wednesday, September 1- 6:00pm
Guest introduction: LaSaia Wade, 
Founder and Executive Director of Brave Space Alliance

2015, Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski
USA, Australia, 127 minutes
English, Russian with English subtitles
Format: 35mm

Jupiter Jones Mila Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along – her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos. From the streets of Chicago to far flung galaxies whirling through space, JUPITER ASCENDING is written and directed by Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski. (Warner Bros.) 


Saturday, September 4 – 6:30pm
Guest introduction:

Dr. Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health
2011, Steven Soderbergh
UAE, USA, Hong Kong, 106 minutes
English and Mandarin, Cantonese with English subtitles
Format: Digital 

“I love that an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer is included in this movie. As a former one myself, I’m excited to talk to the audience about fact vs fiction.”

–Guest curator Dr. Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health

Oscar®-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (TRAFFIC) returns to large-scale cinema with this global action thriller that revolves around the threat of a deadly outbreak of a fatal disease and the people determined to keep it at bay. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart. A stellar international ensemble cast including Academy Award® winners Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and nominees Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne portray the dedicated doctors at the CDC and World Health Organization who rush to contain the outbreak of a new virus. (Warner Bros.) 


in 35mm
Thursday, September 9 – 7:00pm

 Guest introduction & post-screening discussion:
Jon Carr, Executive Producer, The Second City

1952, Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
USA, 103 minutes
Format: 35mm

“It is truly an honor to be a part of Chicago Favorites. Film was my first experience with art and it caused me to redefine my preconceived notions of an artist. By partnering with an amazing group of people this program allows film to redefine how we look at their art, work, and talent. That’s what makes Chicago Favorites so special.”

–Guest curator Jon Carr, Executive Producer, The Second City

Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor star in one of the greatest musicals ever filmed. Musician Don Lockwood (Kelly) rises to stardom during Hollywood’s silent-movie era–paired with the beautiful, jealous and dumb Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). When Lockwood becomes attracted to young studio singer Kathy Selden (Reynolds), Lamont has her fired. But with the introduction of talking pictures, audiences laugh when they hear Lockwood speak for the first time–and the studio uses Selden to dub her voice. Set during the advent of “talkies,” this film’s classic song-and-dance numbers celebrate the beginning of movie musicals. (Warner Bros.) 


Saturday, September 11 – 5:00pm
Guest introduction & post-screening discussion:
Ashley Wheater, MBE, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet

2011, Martin Scorsese
UK, USA, France, 126 minutes
Format: Digital

HUGO tells the story of an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station. With the help of an eccentric girl, he searches for the answer to a mystery linking the father he recently lost, the ill-tempered toy shop owner living below him and a heart shaped lock, seemingly without a key. Based on Brian Selznick’s award-winning and imaginative New York Times bestseller, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”, this magical tale is Academy Award®-winner Martin Scorsese’s first film shot in 3D. (Paramount Pictures)


Monday, September 13 – 7:00pm
Guest introduction: Ed Siskel, 
Gene Siskel Film Center Advisory Board member

1998, Wes Anderson 
USA, 93 minutes
Format: Digital

The dazzling sophomore film from Wes Anderson is equal parts coming-of-age story, French New Wave homage, and screwball comedy. Tenth grader Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is Rushmore Academy’s most extracurricular student—and its least scholarly. He faces expulsion and enters into unlikely friendships with both a lovely first-grade teacher (Olivia Williams) and a melancholy self-made millionaire (Bill Murray, in an award-winning performance). Set to a soundtrack of classic British Invasion tunes, RUSHMORE defies categorization, capturing the pain and exuberance of adolescence with wit, emotional depth, and cinematic panache. (Criterion)


Saturday, September 18 – 6:00pm
Guest introduction: Ayana Contreras, 
host of Reclaimed Soul on WBEZ and Vocalo Radio.

1935, Edmond T. Gréville
France, 77 minutes
French with English subtitles
Format: Digital 

“In PRINCESSE TAM-TAM, Josephine Baker shimmers as a North African nomadic woman who enters high society under a guise of royalty concocted by a French author. I love most how the movie veers from the predictable Pygmalion trope when she makes a choice between assimilation with and rejection of what is presented as “civilization”. The plastic existence afforded by so-called modernity is exposed as counterfeit, and her native African culture is unveiled as both noble and marvelous.” 

–Guest curator Ayana Conteras, host of Reclaimed Soul on WBEZ and Vocalo Radio.
Buoyed by the success of the French musical ZOU ZOU a year earlier, the same team created this comedy in which a mischievous shepherd girl rises through society to become a pretend princess and the toast of Paris nightlife. While in Tunisia seeking inspiration for a new novel, a French aristocrat (Albert Préjean) becomes infatuated with the innocent gamin Alwina (Josephine Baker) and constructs a plot to bring her back to Paris and pass her off as an Indian princess. In a thinly veiled parallel to Baker’s own experience, Alwina becomes a celebrity, a favorite subject for the city’s great artists, and a guest at the most important social events. Her rise to notoriety climaxes in a posh nightclub, where she strips off her shimmering evening gown and dances as only La Baker could. (Criterion)
Content consideration: PRINCESSE TAM-TAM includes language and depictions of racial stereotypes. As suggested by the Criterion Channel, we encourage you to view scholar Terri Simone Francis’ contextualization of Josephine Baker’s film career in the “Terri Simone Francis on Josephine Baker” video available on the Channel, and/or Francis’ conversation about her book, “Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism”, with Nina Collins on YouTube:

Since 1972, the Gene Siskel Film Center, a public program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has presented critically acclaimed cinema to an annual audience of 85,000. The Film Center’s programming includes annual film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, restorations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Altogether, the Film Center hosts over 1,500 screenings and 200 filmmaker appearances every year. The Film Center was renamed the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2000 after the late, nationally celebrated film critic, Gene Siskel. Visit to learn more and find out what’s playing today.

School of the Art Institute

For more than 150 years, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers, and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program ranked number two by U.S. News and World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. SAIC’s undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate students have the freedom to take risks and create the bold ideas that transform Chicago and the world—as seen through notable alumni and faculty such as Michelle Grabner, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave, and LeRoy Neiman. Learn more at

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