Cinema 53: Putney Swope with Aymar Jean Christian, Cauleen Smith and Robert Bird
On the fiftieth anniversary of 1968, Cinema 53 presents revolutionary films and films about revolution, featuring movies from the 1960s-80s that delve into the pitfalls of revolution and explore the emancipatory potential of film. Co-curated by artist Cauleen Smith and UChicago film scholar Robert Bird, 2018 Andrew Mellon Collaborative Fellows for Arts Practice and Scholarship at the Gray Center, the fall series of screenings and conversation is part of their shared endeavor to unpack the revolutionary potential of filmic images.
This evening features Putney Swope (Robert Downey Sr., 1969, 85m), followed by a conversation with Bird, Smith and Northwestern University film scholar Aymar Jean Christian. The film is a scathing, hugely energetic and scattershot satire about the antics that ensue after Putney Swope, the token black man on the board of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, is inadvertently elected chairman. “Putney Swope is what happened when a New York Jewish absurdist comic sensibility like [Robert] Downey's ... collides with a revolutionary African-American worldview.” The Guardian
Aymar Jean "AJ" Christian is an assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern University and a Fellow at the Peabody Media Center. His first book, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television on New York University Press, argues the web brought innovation to television by opening development to independent producers. His work has been published in numerous academic journals, including The International Journal of Communication, Cinema Journal, Continuum, and Transformative Works and Cultures. He has juried television and video for the Peabody Awards, Gotham Awards, and Tribeca Film Festival, among others. He leads OTV | Open Television, a research project and platform for intersectional television. OTV programs have received recognition from HBO, the Television Academy (Emmy Awards), New York Television Festival, City of Chicago, Streamy Awards, and Independent Filmmaker Project (Gotham Awards). Its programming partners have included the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Block Museum of Art, and City of Chicago, along with numerous galleries, community organizations, and universities. Dr. Christian's blog, Televisual, is an archive of over 500 posts chronicling the rise of the web TV market, and he has written regular reports on TV and new media for Indiewire, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and Tubefilter. He received PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.