Ready for his close-up

Jerome C. Pandell

Gabe Klinger probably wouldn’t stick out among a crowd of Northwestern students. He’s 19, has close-cropped black hair, thick-rimmed glasses and wears Converse All-Star sneakers.

It’s his destination that distinguishes him from the 8,000 people his age on campus – while they go to class, he goes to his office in the Block Museum of Art to program the schedule of films shown at Block Cinema.

“Programming is a lot like making a movie or writing about movies,” he said. “You’re putting together a series of movies in a special context and sharing your knowledge of the world in another way.”


Klinger’s love of movies stems from a childhood spent moving from country to country, often leaving friends behind.

Klinger was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and lived there until he moved to Chicago at the age of seven. Six years later he and his parents relocated again to live in Barcelona, Spain.

“Even by the time I did make more friends, I still resisted that,” Klinger said. “I felt that movies were now like a close friend, something I couldn’t just abandon. … it drove me.”

Klinger credits dividing his time between Barcelona and Paris during those years as the beginning of his “formal education” as a cinephile, a lover of film as an art form.

“Everything became secondary … friends, family, school, to the point where I dropped out of school,” Klinger said. “I was only going to movies and by that time I integrated myself into some critical communities.”

While living in Barcelona, Klinger started submitting movie reports to various publications and started hosting his own radio show on weekends.

“My background consists of a little bit of high school, a little bit of travelling and a lot of movies, film festivals and different cinematic experiences,” Klinger said. “I look for things that make me a better critic, a better historian and a better cinephile.”

Before returning to the United States after three years in Barcelona, Klinger began publishing an online magazine of his film reviews, called 24fps, named for the number of film frames per second in a standard reel.

“In the (United States) people have this preconception about criticism that critics are against art and function separately from filmmakers,” Klinger said. “In Europe, it’s the opposite. Filmmakers respect critics and critics respect filmmakers.”

NOt Just Making Up a List

When Radio-TV-Film Prof. Scott Curtis placed an ad in the Chicago Reader looking to hire a new Block Cinema programmer Spring Quarter, he knew he wanted someone who had a strong sense of film history and who knew people to call to find movies.

Klinger’s application came as a pleasant surprise.

“What struck my attention right away is that even though Gabe is fairly young, he had archivists from very reputable archival programs write letters of recommendation,” said Curtis, also a faculty adviser for Block Cinema. “He knows movies like no one I know.”

Curtis said he decided to hire Klinger because he had some great new ideas for the job. Also, Curtis said, Klinger has extensive experience with an informal study of film that will be important for finding and scheduling films.

“Programming is not just making up a list of movies. You have to find 35 millimeter prints and that’s like detective work,” Curtis said. “(With Klinger) it’s like he’s been training for this job since he was four.”

Klinger says he hopes to use the position as a means to show films that students want to see but also expand his audience to people within the North Shore.

“I’m not programming for myself or for graduate students (who are) just boring intellectuals,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean doing an ‘Evil Dead’ marathon (to) get asses in the seats.”

The cinephiles of tomorrow are out there, Klinger says, but to foster a love for films, they need to see those films

Klinger also said he wants to put Block Cinema on the map as a place to show films that receive acclaim at festivals but do not get a wide distribution, such as a Chinese film, “Platform,” that had its Chicago premiere at Block Cinema last month.

“An independent theater has to seize opportunities,” Klinger said. “You can’t let movies (like ‘Platform’) fall through the cracks.”

Curtis said while Klinger’s extensive knowledge of film will help him do the job, he remains most impressed with Klinger’s more personal qualities.

“Anybody who has immersed themselves in this topic for so long would have this sort of extensive knowledge,” Curtis said. “What’s unique to Gabe is his humility. … He’s a nice guy who loves movies and wants to share his enthusiasm with us.”