James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket with director Karen Thorsen and E. Patrick Johnson


As part of a nationwide celebration of what would have been James Baldwin’s 90th birthday, award-winning director Karen Thorsen presents her documentary classic James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, followed by a “Conversation with Jimmy” featuring scholar, author and performer E. Patrick Johnson (Northwestern, Performance Studies and African American Studies) about Baldwin’s life, legacy and continued importance to American society. Audience participation encouraged.

Released in 1989, the 16mm film received stellar reviews and awards. It was described as “splendid” (Variety), “a video page-turner” (San Francisco Chronicle), and “a haunting, beautifully made biography” (Los Angeles Times). Inter-cutting rarely-seen archival footage from over 100 sources and nine different countries, the film melds intimate interviews and eloquent public speeches with astounding private glimpses of Baldwin. The film also includes a rich selection of original footage and interviews with close friends, colleagues and critics including writers Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, William Styron, Ishmael Reed and Yashar Kemal; painter Lucien Happersberger; and entertainer Bobby Short.

Recently restored and remastered in 2K HD, the film is an emotional portrait, a social critique, and a passionate plea for human equality. It is also a vérité feast. Without using narration, the film allows Baldwin to tell his own story: exploring what it means to be born black, impoverished, gay and gifted—in a world that has yet to understand that “all men are brothers.”

(Thorsen, 1989, 87 min)

Screening is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Please RSVP here.

Co-presented with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, Oracle Productions, and South Side Projections. 2K restoration funded by The Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maysles Documentary Center, Stan & Joanne Marder, Greg Melville & Family, and Goldcrest Post.