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December 19, 2013

CICERO MARCH…an educational film

As mentioned in our previous post, CICERO MARCH was one of a seven part “module” or educational film series (“The Urban Crisis and the New Militants”) produced by the Chicago-based Film Group Inc. The majority of the series dealt with the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, while two of the films (Cicero March and Black Moderates, Black Militants) are concerned with similar issues of civil rights and civil disobedience but were not filmed during the Democratic Convention.

The Urban Crisis series gains further meaning when placed in this educational context, or rather, when you consider the targeted audience of the films – junior high, high school and college aged students. Being a kid of the ’80s and ’90s, it’s hard for me to imagine sitting in my social studies classes and being presented with direct cinema or cinema verité style educational films. In a downstate public school (don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my public school roots!), our classroom audio-visual selections were often limited to straightforward talking head documentaries produced alongside textbooks, or if we were lucky, a program distributed by PBS (I even remember watching Newsies in my high school U.S History class?!).

For me, CICERO MARCH and the Urban Crisis series gain power when I consider their place within the classroom. These films presented tough, raw and REAL content to students, and let them figure it out, or at least consider it on their own terms. Giving teenagers this interpretive power would have provided such a valuable space for them to explore various issues surrounding racism, citizens’ rights, social protest, police brutality, the media industry and politics at large, to name a few.

It’s hard to say how many schools and libraries purchased or rented the series or individual films when they were released in the late ’60s. According to the Film Group’s surviving member, Bill Cottle, the series unfortunately didn’t have many sales. Also frustrating the search is the fact that the films’ distributor, Henk Newenhouse Inc, is now defunct, with their main operating years being between the years 1967 and 1969. The Chicago Public Library circulating film collection (now housed at CFA) contained and rented the whole series, while a quick WorldCat search shows that York University Libraries in Toronto is the only other institution who currently has a print of CICERO MARCH. Who knows how many prints from the series have been de-accessioned over the years, or even properly cataloged and entered into a union catalog like Worldcat. I pass this investigation along to whomever is inclined…possibly an empowered student!

Below are promotional materials from Henk Newenhouse Inc. These would have been provided to schools and libraries to entice them to purchase or rent the film and/or series. Click on the images to view them in more detail. HUGE shout out to Andy Uhrich for the scans!

You can stream the entire Urban Crisis series on our site here, or over on our Youtube channel.