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329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

February 29, 2012

CFA True/False Film Fest Instillation

For those of you headed to the True-False Film Fest in Columbia, Missouri this week, be sure to check out the CFA video instillation at the Blue Note!  It features vintage ads and consumer-oriented films from our vault. Here’s a taste of what it’ll look like…except the actual instillation consists of stacked coral-covered television sets, all playing different sequences of CFA footage. We’ll be sure to post a picture of the instillation when we’ve got one!


February 23, 2012

Sybil Shearer (1912-2005)

Today marks what would have been Sybil Shearer’s 100th birthday. Sybil Shearer (1912-2005) was a leading pioneer of modern dance and arguably one of the finest dancers of the 20th century. Shortly after a critically acclaimed solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 1941, Sybil moved to Chicago and developed a studio in Northbrook, where she worked independently, close to nature, and in her own unorthodox way. Soon after her move, she met photographer, Helen Balfour Morrison (1901-1984), who became her lighting director, photographer, filmographer, and artistic collaborator for the next forty years.

CFA houses and manages the Morrison-Shearer film collection on behalf of the Morrison-Shearer Foundation (founded in 1991). The collection contains just under 900 films and audio reels, the majority of which document the creative process and fruitful collaboration between Helen Morrison and Sybil Shearer. The collection itself includes complete works, rehearsal footage, production materials as well as a hand full of home movies and interviews.

Just this past month we completed the hand inspection and archival re-housing of the collection’s 16mm. film elements (totaling just over 400 reels). We are now onto digitally transferring these 16mm. film elements and beginning to discover (as well as understand) this largely unpublished and unknown collection of films.

To celebrate Sybil and what would have been her 100th birthday (February 23, 2012), we have put together a sequence of some of our favorite film segments – all from the reel titled EARLY NORTHBROOK.


Also! Hear Sybil in her own words! you can view an excerpt from a 1980 interview between Sybil Shearer and dance critic Walter Terry here.

February 17, 2012

LORD THING materials found!

Well it happened more quickly than we thought it could.  Last year South Side Projections and the South Side Community Arts Center presented a program that included CFA’s THE CORNER (1963, Robert Ford) and a VHS copy of LORD THING, a documentary on the Conservative Vice Lords shot from 1954 to 1969 made by Dewitt Beall.  Over the years, the film materials to the LORD THING had disappeared.  Mike Phillips of South Side Projections gave us some preliminary leads to trace the film elements and prints, but all became dead ends.  That is when CFA contacted Buckey Grimm who said, “If it’s out there, I will find it.”  And BAM, he did!

CFA has received the extensive film materials used to create this extraordinary documentary that over the span of 15 years examines the evolution of the Chicago street gang called the Vice Lords. It “begins in the ghetto streets of the mid-Fifties— a virtual combat zone for dozens of small neighborhood gangs from different parts of the city [that in time unite] forces in a common cause.” The film unfolds within a period that begins when the Supreme Court struck down the practice of segregation to when the civil rights movement was at its height (1954-1969). In 1970, it won the Silver Medal in the Venice Film Festival, but never got into distribution.

A huge debt of gratitude goes to film researcher extraordinaire Buckey Grimm who located the film materials with Elina Katsioula-Beall in California.  She has cared for her husband’s films since his passing and is donating the Beall Collection to Chicago Film Archives. CFA will be submitting a proposal to the National Film Preservation Foundation to preserve this film that documents a typically inaccessible part of Chicago’s past.

If you would like to be a preservation partner of our newest acquisition, the DeWitt Beall collection, give us a call at 312-243-1808 or email

- Nancy