Two notable Chicago institutions are presenting infotainment film series on dedicated themes: Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership’s “Sunday Cinema” celebrating Jewish arts and culture to foster understanding of both Jewish and universal experiences, and the historic Wilmette Theatre/Field Museum’s “Science on Screen” series.
Each screening of both series is followed by a discussion with a special guest whose expertise is related to the film or its subject.
The Spertus programs:
—“Finding Babel,” Jan. 29, is about Russian writer Isaac Babel, whose works are considered masterpieces of Russian literature, and who was executed by the Stalin regime.
—“Big Sonia,” Feb. 5, a tiny woman at 4’8” with a big personality, is one of the last living survivors of the Holocaust, in her home town of Kansas City. Sonia is an inspirational public speaker and business owner. But when she is about to be evicted from her tailor shop, she’s confronted with an agonizing decision about her own future.
—“Morganthau” Feb. 12, New York Emmy Award-winner for Best Historical Program, traces the public service careers of three generations of Morganthaus through a century of fighting for social justice and human rights. Henry Morganthau, Sr., US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire; Henry Morganthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury under FDR and Robert M. Morgenthau, District Attorney of New York County for more than 30 years.
—“Torah Treasures and Curious Trash,” Feb. 19 follows Jo Milgrom, a learned 87-year-old artist, who scavenges Jerusalem dumpsters for junk, then combines it with worn out ritual objects rescued from synagogues and funeral homes. Juxtaposing sacred and mundane, she creates Jewish commentary with antique typewriters, computer parts, and broken glass.
“Torah Treasures” will be preceded by the short, “Hannah Cohen’s Holy Communion,” exploring a glimpse of Ireland through 7-year old eyes of Hannah, who can’t wait for communion, except that she’s Jewish, and the universal desire to fit in. At Spertus Institute’s Feinberg Theatre, 610 S Michigan, 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 and may be purchased here.
STARTING FEB. 4, the historic Wilmette Theatre and partner Field Museum’s “Science on Screen” pairs classic, cult and documentary films with presentations and dialog led by esteemed Museum scientists on the environment, evolution and protecting wildlife, particularly endangered species.
The Willamette Theatre was one 19 nonprofits — and the only one in Illinois — to receive a grant from the Alfred F. Sloan Foundation, for science and the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation for this initiative in 2016. The three screenings are:
—“Jurassic Park,” Saturday, Feb. 4, 2 p.m,, with special guest Dr. Peter Makovicky, an evolution biologist and chair of the Field Museum’s Dept. of Geology, whose research focuses on dinosaurian evolutionary history.
—“Anaconda,” Tuesday, March 28, 7 p.m, with Dr. Lesley de Souza, Field Museum conservation biologist and explorer. She has contributed to research on such species as black caiman, boa constrictors, basilisk lizards, eyelash vipers, alligators, snapping turtles, waterdogs, and hellbenders.
—“The Birder’s Guide to Everything,” Saturday, April 22, 2 p.m., with Mary Hennen, director of the Chicago Peregrine Program and Birds Assistant Collections Manager at the Field Museum. She has worked with the once-endangered Peregrine Falcons for the past 30 years and will bring a rescued, live Falcon to the theatre.
Hennen will bring a live Falcon, rescued due to a disability, to the theatre.
At 1122 Central, Wilmette.
The Wilmette Theatre is at 1122 Central, Wilmette. Tickets are $10, $8.50 students and seniors and may be purchased here.