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NORMAL — When a legendary documentary filmmaker focuses his lens on small town life in 2018, you might expect he’s looking for a political debate on issues pitting rural versus urban voters.

But you’ll find that the new film, "Monrovia, Indiana," politely steers clear of politics as if the audience is gathered around the turkey for Thanksgiving.

The film is now in national release and kicks off the holiday season at the Normal Theater this weekend.

It reflects famed documentary director Frederick Wiseman's preferred style of intimately placing viewers in the houses, businesses and streets of Monrovia, Ind., to experience life in the farm town of less than 2,000 people.

Central Illinois filmgoers will see familiar landscapes and community scenes that echo values and perspectives very similar to life here, said Adam Fox, civic arts manager for the town of Normal. 

For those who have moved away or who are perhaps welcoming back family and friends for Thanksgiving, the film provides some nostalgia along with an honest look at how this particular community forms its values such as community service, duty and spiritual life.

Citizens talk directly to each other as if the cameras aren’t rolling and viewers experience through these conversations how small-town values survive in Monrovia, along with conflicting stereotypes and struggles.

Wiseman offers context, even if he doesn’t use direct commentary, that gives a complex and nuanced understanding of small-town communities that aren’t always appreciated or understood by their big city contemporaries.

"Monrovia, Indiana" plays at the Normal Theater on Nov. 9, 10, 11, 16, and 18. Times are 7 p.m. Nov. 9; 4 p.m. Nov. 10; 1 and 7 p.m. Nov. 11; 7 p.m. Nov. 16, and 4 and 7 p.m. Nov. 18.

Traditional holiday films get their turn later this season as the Normal Theater presents a lineup of holiday classics, new and old. For a complete listing of shows, visit

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