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Close Encounters

Advance Tickets
Special Event—tickets $12/$10
Introduced by Writer Simon Schama and Director Eric Stange
September 25 (Wednesday) 8 pm

Murder at Harvard

Directed by Eric Stange
US 2002, video, b/w and color, 56 min.
With Tim Sawyer, Stephen Benson 

On Thanksgiving weekend 1849, one of Boston’s wealthiest citizens, Dr. George Parkman, disappeared suddenly. When his dismembered body was found a week later in the laboratory of John White Webster, a venerable professor at Harvard Medical College, it sparked one of the most notorious murder trials in the history of the city. Based on a book by renowned historian Simon Schama, Murder at Harvard re-examines this grisly episode to uncover why, though a guilty verdict was handed down, the case has remained an intriguing mystery for more than 150 years. Stange’s film weaves reenactments of the murder, police inquiry, and trial together with Schama’s meticulous modern-day investigation of the evidence in the case.

Simon Schama is a professor at Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archaeology. From 1980 to 1993 he was Professor of History and Mellon Professor of the Social Sciences and Senior Associate at the Center for European Studies from 1980 to 1993 at Harvard. Schama is author of The Embarrassment of Riches: Dutch Culture in the Golden Age, Rembrandt’s Eyes , and Landscape and Memory, among others, and of the recent BBC television series The History of Britain. 

Eric Stange is a documentary filmmaker and producer based in Arlington, Massachusetts, whose films for PBS include Children of the Left (1992) and Love in the Cold War (1992). He is currently a Charles Warren Center Fellow, at work on an examination of the process through which the historical record is formed.
This preview screening is co-sponsored by the Four Directions Summer Research Program at the Harvard Medical School.

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Advance Tickets
Special Event—tickets $12/$10
Introduced by Director Haile Gerima
October 18 (Friday) 7 p


Directed by Haile Gerima
US/Germany/Ghana/Burkina Faso 1993, 35mm, color, 125 min.
With Kofi Ghanaba, Oyafunmike Ogunlano
English, Ga, and Jamaican with English subtitles

The themes of African history and the struggle for freedom that have been central to Haile Gerima’s films are given epic treatment inSankofa. An African-American fashion model on a shoot along Ghana’s Atlantic coast falls under the spell of Sankofa, spiritual guardian of Cape Coast Castle, one of the most horrific embarkation points for the slave trade. Mona must return to the past in order to move forward (this, indeed, is the meaning of the Akan word sankofa). Traveling to the past as a house slave on a sugar plantation, she encounters the harsh existence and conflicted allegiances of the dehumanizing slavery system before she takes her fate into her own hands.

Haile Gerima is a living legend among contemporary African and African-American filmmakers. Born in Ethiopia, he emigrated to the United States and began his film work in the early 1970s while studying at UCLA. For the past thirty years, as both a filmmaker and professor of film at Howard University, he has pioneered a new form of diasporic African cinema. Support for this program is generously provided by the Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard and by World Music.

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Special Halloween Screening
Introduced by Film Conservator Julie Buck
October 31 (Thursday) 7 pm

Rosemary’s Baby

Directed by Roman Polanski
US 1968, 35mm, color, 137 min.
With Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes 

Roman Polanski’s landmark horror film has frightened audiences with its penetrating psychological terror for more than thirty years. Mia Farrow plays a Manhattan housewife who suspects she has been impregnated by the devil himself. Ambiguity and paranoia permeate the film, leaving audiences to wonder until the end whether Rosemary is truly the victim of a witches’ conspiracy. Polanski employs precision camera work and deliberate pacing to chronicle Rosemary’s emotional and physical deterioration, opening up a series of radical discourses that previewed the feminist debates of the 1970s. The film elicits virtuoso performances, especially from John Cassavetes as the ambitious husband and Ruth Gordon as the couple’s nosy neighbor.

Julie Buck is the newly appointed conservator of the Harvard Film Archive’s film collection. Trained in film preservation at the Selznick School at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, Buck has served as HFA’s Archive Manager for the past two years.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700