[Chicago Crossings: Bridges and Boundaries followup]

A documentary produced by Kartemquin Films made to accompany the Spertus Museum of Judaica's 1994 exhibition in which six African-American artists and six Jewish-American artists collaborated on a group show. Features interviews with many of the artists, footage from the exhibition including interviews with patrons, as well as interviews with Morry Fred (Director of the Spertus Museum) and Raymon Price (Director of the DuSable Museum of African-American History).

0:00Copy video clip URL A title card, reading: “2. Excerpts from interviews and gallery footage.”

0:06Copy video clip URL The camera fades in to a series of shots of the gallery, now full of patrons.

0:35Copy video clip URL An elderly woman shares her thoughts on a painting in which two silhouettes are seated for a meal. “When I first saw this, I was looking to identify are these Blacks or Jews? Who are they? And then, a moment later, I realized it didn’t make any difference. I think it has a feeling of poverty that both groups have had experience with.”

0:55Copy video clip URL Another woman shares her thoughts on Meyer-Bernstein’s piece in which shards of broken glass—some painted white and others black—are scattered on the floor. A searchlight moves across the broken glass, casting reflections on the surrounding walls. To her, the piece represents “broken dreams, broken memories, pieces that can never be put back together the same way again.” However, when asked if this mean’s there’s no hope of reconciliation, the woman responds, “Wherever there’s life there’s hope… I don’t think it’s about hope, it’s more of a reality; a fascinating reality.”

1:34Copy video clip URL More shots of the gallery are inserted in sequence while Blumenthal, in a voice over, claims that the show seemed to be a success, although something seemed to be missing.

1:51Copy video clip URL Blumenthal interviews a woman from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who specializes in Multicultural Affairs, so she’s “not a stranger” to the issues presented in the exhibition.

2:24Copy video clip URL A docent is shown giving a tour of the gallery to Washington Irving School’s 8th Grade Class. The group is focusing on Marshall’s photographs which he described earlier in the film. When the docent asks the students why the gang may have chosen the Star of David as their symbol, one student speaks up and is able to explain the gang meaning behind the symbol. The conversation then takes a turn as they begin to talk about the importance of good parenting, and the class exits.

3:43Copy video clip URL In a voice over, Blumenthal says that the more time they spent at the gallery, the more apparent it became that whatever was missing would not be found at the exhibit. He goes on to explain that the Spertus had attempted to get the DuSable Museum of African-American History to co-sponsor the show, but to no avail. Furthermore, Kartemquin themselves failed in trying to co-produce their film with an African-American filmmaker. In search of an explanation for these failures to collaborate, the filmmakers decided to talk to both museum directors to try and determine why the DuSable had not participated in the show.

4:24Copy video clip URL Morry Fred, Director of the Spertus Museum, says that over the course of the exhibition he observed that “this issue, or at least the way we were framing the issue, was far more important to Jews than it was to African-Americans.” However, he suggests that perhaps this is not a wholly negative phenomenon, but rather an interesting fact worth exploring.

4:52Copy video clip URL Raymon Price, Director of the DuSable Museum, affirms Fred’s hypothesis, divulging that, on his end, “It may be that we, quite frankly, had more important things to address. … I think that maybe that same sense of importance just wasn’t there.”

5:21Copy video clip URL Looking at the situation from a different angle, Fred suggests that perhaps instead of asking why the issue is not as important to the African-American community, the question should rather be: why does the issue “still motivate, passionately, so many in the Jewish community?”

5:33Copy video clip URL Price explains that there was a short period of excitement when the idea of the exhibition was first presented to the DuSable, but upon further investigation the project began to seem “contrived.” “It was kind of an intellectualization of something after the fact,” Price explains.

6:02Copy video clip URL Fred talks about the relationship between African-Americans and Jews, calling it “a critical aspect in the identity of the Jew… it deals with freedom, it deals with relationships, and responsibility that we have towards those that are dispossessed in a society.”

6:22Copy video clip URL Price talks more about the relationship between African-Americans and Jews, referencing the perception that “in many instances, Jews have championed Black causes to gain their own.”

7:00Copy video clip URL Fred suggests that the point in history at which Jews became the same as all other white men in the eyes of African-Americans was “very troubling to Jews.”

7:28Copy video clip URL Price mentions what his strategy would have been had the DuSable co-sponsored the show. “I would’ve talked about a… sense of abandonment.”

7:56Copy video clip URL Fred postulates how the exhibit may have been different had the DuSable been involved.

8:45Copy video clip URL Price explains his reservations with the exhibit, saying he was concerned that they would come up with something that was “apologetic and being nice… It had to come from a gut thing, so that Joe Blow could walk in and respond to it. I think that if someone could come up with a piece, that it could really get the attention of some real, serious folks,” he proposes, chuckling as the film fades to black and then to a closing title card, indicating that this is “A work-in-progress by Kartemquin Films.”

 

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