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April 7–13, 2017

Chicago Theatrical

Karl Marx City

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Film still: Karl Marx City Film still: Karl Marx City
Critics' Pick "Unsettling... a smart, highly personal addition to the growing syllabus of distressingly relevant cautionary political tales"
  —New York Times
"A chilling documentary... an essential warning about what happens to societies when ordinary citizens are being watched"
"Dozens of documentaries have been made about the repressive Communist regimes of the former Eastern bloc, but few have been as visually striking or as deeply personal as Karl Marx City"
  —Hollywood Reporter
"It would be just as troubling and affecting if it were a work of fiction"
  —AV Club

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), film director Petra Epperlein and her husband/filmmaking partner Michael Tucker (Gunnar Palace) return to her hometown, Chemnitz (aka "Karl Marx Stadt"), to find the truth about her late father's suicide and his rumored Stasi past as an informer. Was her father really one of the many East Germans associated with the secret police? And was her childhood really like she remembers it, or was it all an elaborate fiction? These are the traumatic questions that Petra stubbornly and thoroughly tries to answer through conversations with historians, family members, and the labyrinthine archives of the Stasi.

Reconstructing everyday GDR life through declassified Stasi surveillance footage, her past plays like a dystopian science fiction movie in Karl Marx City, a chilling backdrop to a world defined by the apparatus of control and the meaning of truth in a society where every action and thought was suspect. Shot in black and white to evoke the Cold War paranoia of 1950's spy thrillers and narrated by the filmmakers' daughter Matilda, this boldly stylish film is a potent reminder that politics is personal, and the personal is always political.

Directed by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, U.S.A./Germany, 2016, 89 mins.


  • Fri., April 7 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat., April 8 at 3, 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Sun., April 9 at 1, 3, 5 & 7 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., April 10–13 at 7 & 9 pm
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$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation