Professor by Daniel Kraus USA, 2010, 75 minutes, digital projection
A college education has become part of the American dream. But what are we learning and who is teaching us?
For nearly four decades, Rabbi Jay Holstein has been one of the University of Iowa’s most popular professors. With a foul mouth, a raunchy sense of humor, and a piercing brilliance, Holstein uses massive 500-student lectures to turn inside-out the most fundamental assumptions on topics as divergent as sex, suicide, and the Holocaust. His courses, including “Quest for Human Destiny,” have become the stuff of campus legend, and between firing a Glock and running 10 miles per day, the 69-year-old Holstein spends his office hours wrestling with students over animal experimentation, alcohol use, and homosexuality.
Following the internationally acclaimed cinéma vérité of Sheriff and Musician, Professor tackles intellectual labor and in doing so grapples with some of life’s greatest and most elemental enigmas.
“Endlessly intriguing… Makes for some of the unlikeliest drama on the scene today.” – S.T. Vanairsdale, Movieline
“RECOMMENDED. An excellent new documentary… For all his idiosyncrasies, Holstein and his gargantuan shtick provide an object lesson in how the medieval lecture format can still be made to work in our multimedia age.” -Cliff Doerksen, Chicago Reader
“The film affords the pleasures of a good college course… It’s hardly a coincidence that the best [WORK Series film], Professor, follows the person with the most specialized profession, as well as the most outsized personality.” -Ben Kenigsberg, Time Out Chicago
Daniel Kraus, a Fairfield, Iowa native, completed his first feature-length documentary during his senior year of college. The film, Jefftowne, told the story of a controversial man with Down Syndrome. Jefftowne premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival, and won the “Festival Choice Award” at the New York Underground Film Festival. Kraus’ subsequent film, the narrative feature Ball of Wax won the Director’s Award at the Cinequest San Jose Festival.
Sheriff, the first film in Kraus’s WORK series, premiered on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series “Independent Lens,” and has found international acclaim for its subtle, deft handling of everyday Americana. Musician, the second entry, has found equal acclaim in theaters, television, and on DVD.
Kraus works almost totally alone on the WORK series, performing as producer, director, camera operator, sound recordist, and editor. He has quietly forged a reputation as a one-man documentary film studio.
Between shooting films, Kraus works in Chicago as a writer and editor, contributing to such publications as Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Salon.com, and Maxim. Random house published his first novel, The Monster Variations, in 2009, and will publish his forthcoming novel, Rotters, in 2011.
S.T. VanAirsdale is a senior editor at Movieline. His writings on film and culture have appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Variety, The Village Voice and many other publications. He founded the esteemed New York movie blog The Reeler and lives in Manhattan.
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