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Chicago will play host to one of the most powerful, riveting and socially relevant film festivals in the world beginning June 3.

The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival will present 12 distinguished fiction, documentary and animated films and videos from around the world that showcase the heroic stories of activists and survivors who have faced real threats to their freedom, their dignity and to their own lives.

Seven films will be seen in Illinois for the very first time.

The festival kicks off with a benefit screening of The Oath on June 3 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Oath, which recently drew praises from The New York Times and The New Yorker, tells the story of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and Salim Hamdan, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay Prison and the first man to face the controversial military tribunals. Filmed in Yemen and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, The Oath is a family drama about two men whose fateful encounter in 1996 set them on a journey that would lead to Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo Bay Prison, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Oath’s director, Laura Poitras, will be at the event that night to speak with the audience after the film, alongside Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism and Counterterrorism director. Ticket information is available here.

The festival continues through June 10 at Facets Cinematheque (1517 W. Fullerton). Facets will be showing 11 amazing films– from Afghan Star, which follows the first season of the Afghan version of American Idol, to My Neighbor, My Killer, which documents the reconciliation process between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, to Youth Producing Change, which blends clips from winners of Human Rights Watch’s inspiring annual youth film contest.

The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival has something for everyone.

Cathy Stein is a volunteer for Human Rights Watch and co-chairs the June 3 benefit screening

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8 a chicago neighborhood for everyone

Chicago's Southport Neighborhood by John Noltner

On assignment, Chicago-based Midwest Living contributing writer Elaine Glusac explores the Mag Mile plus a crop of up-and-coming neighborhoods that ooze personality and style, along with retail energy. For more Illinois getaways, check out the special section, Drive, Eat, Shop in Midwest Living’s May/June 2010 issue.

The shopping scene doesn’t get any better than in Chicago, especially when I explore beyond the Mag Mile. Here’s my take on the Mile and current short list of districts worthy of a trip (Better yet, trips).
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9 art all around chicago

Musiem of Contemporary Art

Chicago is full of art; everywhere you look the city is bursting with creativity. From the Art Institute of Chicago to the great architecture of the city, it is hard to walk down the street without taking notice. I can remember being a young girl coming in from the suburbs and being amazed by the art all around the city. And that amazement never fades away, after living in the city for about two years now I still walk outside and the beauty of the city takes my breath away.

For those wanting to see more Chicago art but stuck on a budget, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art. This museum is free on Tuesdays but $12 dollars every other day. Currently, the museum is featuring a ‘rewind’ of modern art, displaying pieces that have been on display in the past yet again. A collaboration of art both old and new is certainly something to see.

Also, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, located on Columbia College’s campus, is free to the public. For those like me interested in photography, it’s a great place to check out some interesting work from all over. Current exhibitions include Sarah Pickering’s Incident Control and Beate Geissler/Oliver Sann’s Real Estate. What I love most about this museum is that the original and thought provoking photography.

Keep an eye out as you walk around, this city is rich in art and culture, and something new can be found around every corner.

– Jaclyn Howard

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10 wright here in central IL

While most of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work lies in the northern part of the state, a significant home he designed sits a few blocks south of the state capitol in Springfield.

Built just over one hundred years ago, the 12,000+ square foot house was the largest he designed until that time.  In 1902, heiress Susan Dana commissioned Wright to create a ‘showcase’ for entertaining that would ultimately have 35 rooms, 16 major spaces and more than 100 pieces of Wright-designed furniture in Prairie Style design.

I’ve been to the house ten or so times over the years and have done a few segments on it for television, and still find it an amazing piece of art and architecture.

When I was younger, I thought the bowling alley in the basement was cool; today I’m still fascinated by the detail that went to the project on so many different levels.  Some of it, such as the glasswork, is in 2D, while the trim and exterior frieze were designed in 3D, incorporating depth as well as horizontal and vertical elements.

In addition to the main house, there’s a visitors center and gift shop in the carriage house.  If you’re ever in Springfield around Christmas, it’s definitely a must-see, as the volunteers decorate the house as it might have looked in the early 20th century.

While the house had been closed to the public by the previous governor, it was reopened by Governor Pat Quinn in April of 2009, and is again available for tours.

-Scott Troehler
Twitter: @Scott217

To learn more about Scott, check out his bio.


More info:

Dana-Thomas House Foundation:

Dana-Thomas House on the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency site:

Wickipedia Page:

Yelp review:

Getting there:

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=113849109827449889535.000485dd86f88529ed258&ll=39.797887,-89.651399&spn=0.01154,0.018239&z=15&iwloc=000485dd8eae6c700ddfc&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

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11 A lovely lincoln square
Smiles & pastries at Café Selmarie

Pastries by Café Selmarie, smiles by Erica and Allison

On a breezy spring day we visited Chicago to dig up some Virginia Creeper (a native Illinois plant that’s great for wooden pergolas) . Time was short, but I could not resist a quick trip to Lincoln Square.

We drove straight to Lincoln Avenue, just southeast of Lawrence/Western on Chicago’s north side. This single block feels like a sophisticated small town. The traffic runs only one-way (southeast) so there’s less noise and rush. It’s fun to walk down the sidewalk, window-shop and take a breather here.

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