At Indiana University Cinema, 2014 was a year of extraordinary moments.
Billed as “a place for film,” it also was a place for premieres, special events and visits by more than 30 guest filmmakers.
“Since opening, we have strived to show the world what a bold, ambitious cinema program really could be,” said IU Cinema director Jon Vickers.
“Through our partnerships, hard work, collective vision and audience engagement, I think 2014 set a new benchmark for our peers. I truly believe our guest filmmakers, many of whom are quite renowned, leave Indiana University with a feeling that they have experienced something special.”
What follows are a few favorite moments from the year, as selected by Vickers and the IU Newsroom staff.
Academy Award winners Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline both came away from their visits to Indiana University with honorary doctoral degrees.
Streep became a Doctor of Humane Letters on April 16 during an appearance at the IU Auditorium in which she displayed her characteristic humility, humor and wisdom. She told young people, “What makes you different or weird, that’s your strength.”
Vickers said he will forever remember Streep’s thanks for his introduction: a kiss on the cheek in front of a crowd of 3,000 people.
For Kline, the honorary doctorate was his second degree from IU. Before earning his bachelor’s degree in 1970, he performed in the theater now home to IU Cinema. The actor received his honorary degree Sept. 15, after a greeting from his past Broadway co-stars Robby Benson and Karla DeVito, Benson’s wife.
Behind the scenes, Kline taught a masterclass to theater students and showed his musical roots. Vickers said that Kline, who originally came to IU to study music, unexpectedly took a seat at a piano and began playing a Cole Porter song before going on stage.
In February, IU Cinema marked 100 years since the birth of Beat Generation icon William S. Burroughs with a film series that included a showing of “Burroughs: The Movie” before it opened in New York City.
It hosted the U.S. premieres of Indian films “Gangs of Wasseypur — Parts I and II” and the first Midwest theatrical 3-D screening of “Goodbye to Language.”
The cinema screened Josephine Decker’s films before their New York openings and before critic Richard Brody of The New Yorker declared of the director, “a star is born.”
Decker and her friend Russell Sheaffer, an IU doctoral student, created an experimental film at the event billed as “The Unburied Experience: Visceral Filmmaking.” They invited people onto the stage to help them unearth pieces of film that had been buried in Sheaffer’s garden to degrade the emulsion. Then, working like mad scientists, they spliced bits together to see what magic might emerge.
An actor with character
IU alumnus Jonathan Banks proved to be a man of the people on his visit during homecoming week.
The “Breaking Bad” star attended the football game, participated in the parade, met with theater students, taped a public service announcement and delivered poignant remarks at the inauguration of The Media School, where his daughter is a student. He revealed that his grandfather, a stonecutter who valued education, had laid the foundation of Franklin Hall.
Before he spoke to a packed house at the cinema, Banks went outside to personally address fans who were unable to get a seat. Once inside, he offered this simple advice: “Don’t lie. Be kind.” And, he added, “You must be kind to yourself.”
Mr. India, Mr. Indiana
Bollywood superstar and “Slumdog Millionaire” actor Anil Kapoor pulled into Bloomington one autumn night and said “it was like heaven.”
Kapoor joined the audience Oct. 7 to watch his 1987 cult film “Mr. India” at IU Cinema. At the Q&A session he said, “There are great universities in this country, but this one stands apart.” Later, when swarmed by more than 100 fans, he promised to stay and meet each one.
The Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series brought in a wide array of national and international figures this year, from Abbas Kiarostami to Krzysztof Zanussi. Each guest provided a unique perspective, but a few experiences stood out to Vickers:
He said he was “utterly amazed and in awe of every word spoken” by Zanussi, a master filmmaker from Poland.
At the Lilly Library, Vickers was able to spend time with Edward James Olmos as the actor and director took in the beauty of the Gutenberg Bible.
He recalled that before the screening of “The Great Flood,” filmmaker Bill Morrison explored other deep waters with a dip in the quarry made famous by “Breaking Away.”
And he recalled Kiarostami’s embrace and warm parting words before leaving for an unknown future in Iran.
Other guests and highlights
Just weeks after the untimely death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the cinema paid tribute to him with a 24-hour, 12-film marathon of his work Feb 18 and 19.
IU Cinema hosted the Diabolique International Film Festival of independent horror, sci-fi and fantasy films with visits from guest filmmakers Ti West and Indiana native Zack Parker.
When civil rights leader Julian Bond was introduced before the screening of selected episodes from the “Eyes on the Prize” documentary series, he received a standing ovation from a sold-out audience.
Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills shared stories onstage with IU professor Robby Benson, who portrayed Mills in the film “Running Brave.” Mills said Benson’s portrayal changed the lives of many people he met over the years.
Music in the air
In a year filled with musicals and movies featuring musicians, January’s first film was “The Punk Singer,” about riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna.
Nick Cave starred in “20,000 Days on Earth,” and Belle and Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch directed “God Help the Girl.”
Audiences could rock along with the 1964 Beatles picture “A Hard Day’s Night” and the 1984 Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense.” And there was “Purple Rain,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.”
The elegant and ageless George Chakiris came to town and was visibly moved seeing how, after 50 years, “West Side Story” still affected an audience.
The band Garden Gates accompanied the French film “The Smiling Madame Beaudet.”
The 1926 film “The General” was presented with a live 18-piece orchestra and the Midwestern premiere of a new score by Jacobs School graduate Andrew Simpson.
IU’s own Grammy Award-winning vocalist Sylvia McNair hit one of the year’s high notes by performing selections from the Hoagy Carmichael songbook before the screening of “To Have and Have Not,” a film in which he appeared with Bogie and Bacall.
Some of today’s most important documentarians covered wide-ranging topics here.
Natalia Almada’s “Porous Borders” series explored immigration, free trade and the drug trade in “Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side)” and “El Velador (The Night Watchman).”
Gloria Rolando uncovered hidden stories of Cuba and its roots in African diaspora in “1912, Breaking the Silence” and “Rembarque/Reshipment.”
IU law professor Christiana Ochoa packed the house for “Otra Cosa No Hay,” her documentary exploring the impact of a large gold mining company’s arrival in rural Colombia.
Steve James presented an honest, engaging and surprisingly funny portrait of critic Roger Ebert in “Life Itself.” He also captured stories from the streets of Chicago in “Hoop Dreams” and “The Interrupters.”
Bill Morrison screened clips from his one-of-a-kind found footage films and presented his new documentary “The Great Flood.” When an audience member asked if he considered time a co-author of his work, his answer was profound: “I think we all should.”
On a mission
IU Cinema presented nearly 250 full-length features in 2014. Classics, documentaries and international releases were mixed with newer arthouse films and more mainstream movies.
Many films were presented in partnerships with university departments. Filmmakers and other guests shared their time and insights in the classroom. In short, the cinema offered more than entertainment; it furthered IU’s educational mission.
“Now knowing what is possible, it is thrilling to think about what lies ahead,” Vickers said.
Glenn Close will return to the IU Cinema on April 27. The following day, a symposium on Orson Welles will begin. To learn about other events, consult the website or the spring program book, which will be printed by Jan. 12. Until then, visit the IU Cinema channel on YouTube.
Tags: Abba Kiarostami, Anil Kapoor, Bill Morrison, George Chakiris, Indiana University Cinema, Jon Vickers, Jonathan Banks, Josephine Decker, Kevin Kline, Krysztof Zanussi, Meryl Streep, Natalia Almada, Steve James, Ti West