Announcing Stranded by the State: a new video series chronicling the human impact of Illinois' ongoing budget crisis

Today, In These Times magazine and Kartemquin Films announced a new multi-part video series, Stranded by the State, that chronicles the long-term toll of the ongoing budget crisis in Illinois on state residents.

Directed, edited and produced by Kartemquin associate Liz Kaar, watch the trailer here:

The first full episode will be released on Monday, November 21.

"Crisis creates opportunity," Governor Bruce Rauner told the Chicago Tribune editorial board in April 2015. "Crisis creates leverage to change—and we've got to use that leverage of the crisis to force structural change."

Illinois has not passed a real budget in over a year, the first state to do so since the Great Depression. The ongoing fight over the budget between Gov. Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly has been covered widely, but what do the effects of this lingering crisis look like in people’s day-to-day lives?

The series follows the families, workers and students living through the de-facto budget cuts, showing the many ways the budget crisis is deteriorating the fabric of Illinois communities. Each episode will focus on a different aspect of the crisis—from higher education to social services to housing—as well as who is benefiting from the crisis and what kinds of solutions could ultimately solve it. The series incorporates data connecting the situation in Illinois to long-term trends of austerity affecting the country at large, and demonstrates how it ultimately costs taxpayers more in the long run.

“We’ve cut services back to a degree that now people who are vulnerable are using the most expensive services,” says Sol Flores, Executive Director of La Casa Norte, a social service agency for homeless youth and families in Chicago. “It means more mental health emergency room visits, more emergency hospitalization; it means incarceration for juveniles and adults…The young people, children and families that we don’t invest in today, we’ll be confronting tomorrow. And we will pay one way or another.”

The series is a co-production between In These Times and Kartemquin Films, two veteran Chicago media organizations with a long history of covering social justice issues.

Upcoming episodes will feature issues including at-risk youth, adult literacy, senior food programs, immigrant services, higher education and supportive housing. They will also explore the impact of toxic swaps as well as potential revenue-based solutions to the budget crisis. At a time when residents across the state are facing the brunt of the budget crisis created in Springfield, this series puts a human face on how these cuts are causing anxiety, hardship and pain across Illinois.

Liz Kaar, an independent film director and editor based in Chicago, has worked closely with Kartemquin Films for the last decade on over a dozen films. Most recently, she co-directed and edited Hard Earned, the company's award-winning six-part series for Al Jazeera America about low-wage workers.

"I'm drawn to stories that make the political concrete and show the material effects of policies on real lives,” says Kaar. “This series looks beyond just the numbers to show the complexities and ripple effects of Illinois' disinvestment in its residents. We're living in an age of austerity, when important programs are being defunded on all levels of government, when ‘tax’ is a dirty word, when the social safety net is in tatters and people's basic needs go unmet. With a businessman just elected president of the United States, the experience of Illinois under a ‘CEO’ governor may soon play out on the national level. We may well see the harmful effects documented in this series—on families, workers and communities—writ large. This is a time when we must ask ourselves who we are as a society, and who we want to be."

In These Times, an independent, nonprofit magazine, is dedicated to advancing democracy and economic justice, informing movements for a more humane world, and providing an accessible forum for debate about the policies that shape our future. To read more, visit InTheseTimes.com.