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Directed by Shirley Clarke

United States 1963 125 mins. In English

Shirley Clarke’s (Portrait of Jason, The Connection, Ornette: Made in America) hybrid film follows the Harlem youth gang, the Royal Pythons, and their adventures and tribulations both. Starring mostly non-professional actors, the film is a trenchant look at inner-city life in the early 1960s, encapsulated by this group of young men who roam the streets of Harlem. Produced by documentary legend Frederick Wiseman and featuring a stunning soundtrack by Dizzy Gillespie, The Cool World was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1994. The dynamism of this picture about the crucial adventures of a youth who aspires to and briefly achieves the chieftancy of a fighting Harlem gang flows from the brilliant, brutal picturing of the community as it is—or, as Miss Clarke elects to see it—and of the tough, youths who range its streets and slums.”—The New York Times. The Cool World was preserved by the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center from original camera negatives in the Zipporah Films Collection. Novelist Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers, The Mars Room) will discuss cinema’s influence on her work in a post-film discussion moderated by Portland Monthly’s Fiona McCann.

Onsite $2 ticket discount available for those with Portland Book Festival wristbands/proof of purchase!



The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.