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"Earthkeeping" Series Screening with South Side Projections

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“Earthkeeping” Series Screening with South Side Projections
Wednesday, 10/3, 6:00-8:00PM
Doors open at 6:00, screening begins at 6:30
Post-screening discussion with Sean Cusick of Second City

WTTW’s 1972-73 series Earthkeeping attempted to address environmental, ecological, and sociological issues of modern urban life through the kind of creative approach that characterized many public TV programs in the early 1970s. In addition to interviews with ecologists and urban planners, economists and activists, it uses skits featuring Second City members including John Belushi and Harold Ramis. Some of the skits don’t age well (John Belushi as a Hispanic drug user), and sometimes the show seemed willing to throw everything at the screen hoping something would stick (Isaac Newton dancing and singing with garbage cans). However, that willingness to try anything exemplifies an important moment in public television when producers were experimenting with new methods to reach audiences about important issues.

This screening demonstrates that try-anything approach in two episodes (55 min. total) dealing with pollution and its costs. “Greenbacks” examines the effects of industrial pollution in the absence of regulation, and it feels like it could have been made yesterday: the skit “Pass the Buck,” in which representatives of labor, government, management, and the public try to make someone else take responsibility for pollution, is especially timely under the current presidential administration. And “Sodbusters” draws comparisons between the 19th-century idea of Manifest Destiny and modern corporations’ exploitation of the environment.

Sean Cusick has worked at Second City for more than a decade, directing shows and touring companies, teaching sketch comedy writing as well as improvisation, and also writing and consulting for corporate clients for Second City Works. He is on faculty at Columbia College, where he teaches in both the Comedy Studies program and the Cinema and TV Arts department.

Episodes courtesy of Chicago Film Archives and WTTW.

This event is a part of our Environmental Concerns project taking place from September 26th-November 18th, which looks at local intersections between the natural world and social environments through exhibitions, installations, and public events.

John Belushi as an environmentalist in the Sodbusters episode

John Belushi as an environmentalist in the Sodbusters episode

South Side Projections presents films at locations across Chicago’s south side to foster conversation about complex social and political issues. At many screenings, we enlist scholars, activists, and filmmakers to lead discussions, while other screenings offer opportunities to present seldom-seen films of historical and artistic value to the communities of Chicago’s south side. In all cases we are a springboard to a deeper understanding of our communities and the broader world. South Side Projections is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We believe films can foster a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.