The sole series tribute to a director on our fall calendar will honor a true American cinema pioneer, Joan Micklin Silver, who passed away on December 31, 2020. In the mid-to-late 1970s, almost fifty years since the evolution from silence to talkies, less than a dozen women had been hired to direct movies for Hollywood studios. In a 1979 interview, Silver said a top movie executive told her “Feature films are very expensive to mount and distribute, and women directors are one more problem we don’t need." Learning her craft making a few short children’s films for Encyclopedia Brittanica, Silver ignored the sexist system and made the independent, low budget immigrant drama Hester Street (1975), earning Silver critical acclaim, and the film was recognized by the industry when Hester’s star Carol Kane received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Silver’s ambitious follow-up, Between the Lines (1977), was another independent project that used a large ensemble cast of stars-to-be (including Jeff Goldblum and Marilu Henner) to tell the story of a Boston alternative weekly newspaper that’s about to fold. By the 1980s, Silver was making movies and finding larger audiences within the Hollywood system, where she still had to struggle to continue making the kind of personal projects she was accustomed to making, like the 1988 romantic comedy released by Warner Bros., Crossing Delancey. Silver had a close ally and producer in her husband, Raphael Silver, who grew motivated to help his wife when he became frustrated seeing her denied so many opportunities. Our series will also include the excellent 1978 prison drama On the Yard, directed by Raphael Silver and produced by Joan Micklin Silver.

  • Fri., Sep. 24 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Silver's ode to the counterculture alternative weeklies that sprung up across the US in the 1960s depicts how the newspapers struggled to maintain their financial solvency while staying on mission in the 1970s. The journalists, photographers, and office staff of the (fictional) Boston weekly, The Back Bay Mainline, are unflinchingly depicted in seriocomic episodes that show how they spend their time exploring romantic dalliances and plotting their escape to greener pastures. Along with Heard, Crouse, and Goldblum, the cavalcade of future stars is impressive, and includes Bruno Kirby, Joe Morton, Jill Eikenberry, and a scene-stealing turn from Marilu Henner as a stripper with a heart of gold. (BR)

  • Fri., Oct. 1 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

In this adaptation of a book by ex-con Malcolm Braly, a convicted murderer (Heard) takes cigarettes on credit from another top-dog inmate (Waites), but finds himself in trouble when he can’t pay back in time. Meanwhile, other prisoners collude with guards, fight for their release, or secretly plan their escape in this multi-character big house drama. Using a naturalistic approach that combines absurd humor with tragedy, director Raphael Silver (husband of legendary indie filmmaker Joan Micklin Silver, who produced) contributed a highly respectable and memorable entry in the canon of great prison films. 

  • Fri., Oct. 8 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Jake (Keats) has become an assimilated Jewish immigrant in New York City of the 1890s. After five years separation, Jake is reunited with his wife, Gitl (Kane), who arrives from the old country and soon learns of her husband’s infidelities and shady business dealings. A milestone in American independent cinema, Hester Street earned Kane an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and established screenwriter-director Silver as one of the most formidable talents of her era. “[An] ingratiating little makes a pleasant and efficient entertainment” (Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader).

  • Fri., Oct. 15 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

The happily single and decidedly self-reliant Isabelle “Izzy” Grossman (Irving) reluctantly allows her grandmother to hire a matchmaker. When the matchmaker sets Izzy up with pickle shop proprietor Sam (Riegert), Izzy is unimpressed, at first. A classic, yet quirky romcom from the late 80s, Crossing Delancey was a rare studio-financed entry in the filmography of the famously independent writer-director Silver. Because of its studio distribution, it became one of Silver’s most widely-seen and best-loved movies.