GENE SISKEL FILM CENTER PRESENTS
CHICAGO PREMIERE OF
CHOSEN: CUSTODY OF THE EYES,
IN A WEEK-LONG ENGAGEMENT MAY 25, 26, 27, & 31, 2018
Custody of the Eyes
is a coming-of-age cinéma vérité film about a young woman a former blogger and painter becoming a cloistered contemplative nun. This documentary, directed by Abbie Reese, is set in the Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford, Illinois. Chosen
will have its Chicago premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center from May 25, 26, 27 & May 31.
Reese was granted rare and continued access, since 2005, to conduct oral history interviews, make photographs, and record video footage within the cloistered monastery, where Poor Clare Colettine nuns make vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and enclosure; they also seek anonymity and observe silence.
“I really wanted to understand,” Reese says, “what drives a young woman today to this radical life that traces back to the Medieval Era. What pressures does she face internally and externally on this path? What are the contours of the interior journey? I suspected it took some fortitude before even arriving at the doorstep of the monastery. This is, ultimately, the female hero’s journey, with the film focusing on that liminal space of Heather crossing the threshold into the monastery, in the process of becoming Sister Amata.”
Both names are aliases the young woman selected to reflect her religious community’s pursuit of anonymity. Poor Clare nuns with-draw from the world to pray for the rest of humanity, believing that their prayers and penances can change the course of history.
Chosen gives a glimpse into monastic life from one young woman’s perspective. Reese arranged to meet Heather in 2005 when the teenag-er was considering a call to religious life. Reese interviewed Heather for the next six years, until Heather joined the monastery in 2011 at the age of 25. Chosen focuses on her assimilation to a religious order that hear-kens back to 1212, when the rule was started by Saint Clare,contemporary of Saint Francis.
project, Reese directed Heather, the film’s primary subject and cinematographer, to record footage. Heather’s video footage of the monastery and monastic life, and her diaries/video letters to Reese, capture ordinary life and spiritual practices rarely seen by the outside world.
The lineage for this work is, in part, the collaborative work of ethnographer Jean Rouch, the father of vérité who lent his subject-collaborators cameras.
His 1960 work with sociologist Edgar Morin,
Chronique d’un été, grants his subjects access and some authority to the film making process; the formal style of the film hearkens to Jean-Luc Godard.
Reese says the subtitle
custody of the eyes points to Heather’s unique challenges in joining a self-selected subculture that asks members to both observe monastic silence and mind their gaze. “The strictness of the life and the parameter
mean a steep learning curve for Heather,”
Reese says. “The film raises questions about the gaze of the camera and the nuns’ gaze of one another in this highly ritualized space where there are high stakes in performing one’s beliefs before God.”
In addition to Jean Rouch, this film was inspired by filmmakers Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida), Philip Gröning (Into Great Silence), Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring), as well as Chantal Akerman and Agnes
In 2017, Reese was a fellow at the University of Chicago Center in Paris; she collaborated with colleagues at the Interdisciplinary Institute of Contemporary Anthropology’s Edgar Morin Centre. Reese is author of Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns (Oxford University Press, 2014). She has an MFA in visual arts from the University of Chicago.
Post-production of this film was generously supported by the Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Humanities Council, the Rockford Area Arts Council, and the Comm-unity Foundation of Northern Illinois.
All screenings of
Chosen: Custody of the Eyes are at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, located at 164 N. State St. Reese will appear for audience discussion at all screenings.
Showtimes Friday, May 25, 8:15 pm: Director Abbie Reese and consulting editor Matt Lauterbach will appear for audience discussion.
Saturday, May 26, 5 pm: Director Abbie Reese will appear for audience discussion; moderator TBD.Sunday, May 27, 7:30 pm:
Director Abbie Reese will appear for audience discussion, moderated by Dan Dineen, director of community engagement at the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. Thursday, May 31, at 8 pm: Director Abbie Reese will appear for audience discussion, moderated by Laura Demanski, editor of the University of Chicago Magazine.
Tickets to each screening unless stated otherwise are $11/general admission, $7/students, $6/Film Center member,
and $5/Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) staff and School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) faculty, staff, and students. All tickets may be purchased at the Film Center Box Office. Both general admission and Film Center member tickets are available through the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website www.siskelfilmcenter.org/content/tickets or through the individual films’ weblinks on www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
There is a surcharge of $1.50 per ticket. The Film Center and its box office are open 5:00 to 8:30 pm, Monday through Thursday; 1:00 to 8:30 pm, Friday; 2:00 to 8:30 pm, Saturday; and 2:00 to 5:30 pm, Sunday.
A Gene Siskel Film Center membership is a year-round ticket to great movies for only $6 per screening! Memberships are $50 (Individual) and $80 or 312-846-2600
Discounted parking is available for $19 for 16 hours at the InterPark SELF-PARK at 20 E. Randolph St. A rebate ticket can be obtained from the Film Center Box Office.
The Film Center is located near CTA trains and buses. Nearest CTA L stations are Lake (Red line); State/Lake (Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple lines); and Washington (Blue line). CTA bus lines serving State St.: 2, 6, 10, 29, 36, 62, 144, and 146.
About the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Since 1972, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented cutting edge cinema to an annual audience of 85,000. The Film Centers programming includes annual film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, restorations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Altogether, the Film Center hosts over 1,500 screenings and 200 filmmaker appearances every year. The Film Center was renamed the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2000 after the late, nationally celebrated film critic, Gene Siskel. Visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org to learn more and find out what’s playing today.