May 2014 Film Updates
This month: '63 Boycott, Almost There, American Arab, Generation Food, Hard Earned, In the Game, Life Itself, Mormon Movie, Prisoner of Her Past, Raising Bertie, The Homestretch, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Unbroken Glass.
On April 24, 2013, a little over one year ago, more than 300 Chicago students boycotted school, bussed downtown, and marched on CPS headquarters. They were protesting the proposed closings of 49 Chicago Public Schools in predominantly minority neighborhoods, as well as the overuse of standardized testing to determine school and student performance.
This boycott caught our attention particularly because some of the student organizers had ripped our 3-minute “demo” off of Youtube and used it as part of a motivational video to call others to take part in the April 2013 boycott. Our demo – which you can see on our site’s homepage – consists of previously unreleased footage of the CPS Boycott on October 22, 1963, including interviews with students, surreptitious shots of empty schools, and protestors flooding downtown amidst heavy police presence.
The April 2013 boycott represented a great opportunity for us to get a modern student’s perspective on the 1963 Boycott, since this video had already served as an educational primer. The ’63 Boycott team took to the streets with the students, capturing images reminiscent of our footage from 1963 and interviews in which the protestors frequently cited the ’63 Boycott as “an inspiration.”
After marching on CPS headquarters, students joined a “Fight for $15″ minimum wage protest and marched to Michigan Avenue. Following this, they were bussed to Benjamin Banneker Elementary in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. After several speeches, students joined hands to form a human chain around the building, which was on the list of CPS closures. In June 2013, Banneker, along with nearly 50 other schools, was closed, in a sweeping move that many felt disproportionately affected black and brown neighborhoods.
Watch ABC7′s coverage. The protest was organized by a group calling themselves Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS). They reported that over 300 students took part to Democracy Now.
The protest went off without a hitch, and the students were not only well-organized, but also motivated, informed, and a lot of fun. You can see some clips from our footage from that day. Some of this protest footage, along with other school protests we documented in 2013, will be included in our half-hour documentary on the 1963 boycott.
'63 Boycott continues to fundraise to complete production and editing on the film portion of our project, and continue to be enthused as the web components have real world impact in connecting the past and present struggles over education.
As always, you can help us by
The sound mix for Almost There is just about completed. Here's Co-Director Dan Rybicky laying down his final VO at Chicago's premier sound design studio: Another Country.
American Arab had a rousing and memorable Chicago homecoming in April as the closing film at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Director Usama Alshaibi attended the screening. Later, the film was announced as the recipient of an "honorable mention" from the CUFF jury.
We were grateful to The Owl for hosting a great pre-screening reception for the crew, some of the film’s subjects (the Jassar family, and Marwan Kamel and his parents), KTQ associates, and supporters of the film before we head over for the sold out screening of the film at the Logan Theatre. The audience reaction to the film was electric, with a long discussion following the film. There were many questions about the process of making the film, and Usama touched on issues such as racism and immigration, stating: “When I came to Chicago I realized we were all from somewhere else. The immigrant story is the American story,” and being an experimental filmmaker (Q: how did your family feel about being a part of the film? A:”My mom is used to me walking around with the camera. … Chicago was where I was really able to become a filmmaker.”
Usama has shown many of his experimental works at CUFF during his career, and their Executive Director Bryan Wendorf thanked Kartemquin for showing this new film there, claiming it was a “testament to Kartemquin honoring Usama’s roots as a filmmaker.”
For more on the film's investigation of the "normalization" of racism against ethnic minorities, and Usama's experience of collaborating with Kartemquin while still pursuing his artistic vision for the film, read a conversation between Usama and Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader.
The International Documentary Association recently published a recap of the Big Sky Documentary Festival, where American Arab held its US premiere. Michael Galinsky noted that the film was one of two premiering docs "that really stood out" at Big Sky, adding: "American Arab picks up this thread of personal narrative and explores what it means to be an Arab-American, post-9/11. Further, in the great tradition of American personal documentary film, Alshabi also struggles with what it means to be a filmmaker who happens to be Arab-American. Less concerned with aesthetics than ideas, he uses the camera as a tool to dig for answers about identity, art and filmmaking that are often overlooked."
American Arab also screened at the Minneapolis / St.Paul International Film Festival and the Kansas City Film Festival in April, as well a special screening at the University of Colorado, where Usama is completing his MFA. More festivals and local dates will be announced soon.
Catch the FIRST EVER public sneak peek at Generation Food at the Kartemquin Spring Showcase on May 2nd in Chicago! We've been filming this spring and are excited to present a short clip of footage and get your feedback on it. Get more details.
Kartemquin is proud to announce a collaboration with Al Jazeera America on Hard Earned, a six-part documentary series scheduled to air in early 2015. Production has already begun on the series, which will explore the lives of five American families striving to keep food on the table and their dignity intact despite the reality of high living expenses and low wages.
Hard Earned is being executive produced by Kartemquin’s Steve James, Gordon Quinn, and Justine Nagan, who were responsible for Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, and recent Sundance hit Life Itself, among many other acclaimed documentaries.
Five stories, located in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, and two in the Chicago area, will be intertwined into six one-hour episodes. The series will shed more light on an ever-growing sector of the American workforce. Directing the individual strands are Katy Chevigny (E-Team, Election Day), Maria Finitzo (Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita), Ruth Leitman (Tony and Janina’s American Wedding, Lipstick and Dynamite), Brad Lichtenstein (As Goes Janesville, Almost Home), and Joanna Rudnick (On Beauty, In the Family). Maggie Bowman (Election Day, The Calling) serves as series producer. Lead editors are David E. Simpson (Life Itself, Head Games) and Liz Kaar (Typeface, Andrew Bird: Fever Year).
The world premiere of footage from Hard Earned - and 3 other new in-progress films - will be at the sold out Kartemquin Spring Showcase on May 2nd in Chicago. Series Producer Maggie Bowman, story director Ruth Leitman, and Al-Jazeera's Ash-har Quraishi will discuss the film on stage.
We are hard at work editing In the Game and fundraising. In the Game will be one of four in-progress Kartemquin projects included in our Spring Showcase in Chicago on May 2.
You can donate to help with completion funds for the film.
Life Itself is heading to Cannes Film Festival! Director Steve James will attend in what he called a "a thrilling first" for himself and Kartemquin. The film screens in the Cannes Classics program this May - with new footage of Roger Ebert at Cannes now a permanent part of the film. Learn more.
Life Itself also recently screened as the opening film of the 16th edition of Ebertfest, in Roger's hometown of Champaign-Urbana. The response was extraordinary. The film was also announced as an official selection of the Documentary Edge Festival in New Zealand, held in May/June, and the Sydney Film Festival, held in June.
The film will be released in US theaters and VOD on July 4th. More US festivals and international dates will be announced very soon. International rights for the film have been acquired by Magnolia Pictures.
Director Xan Aranda has been researching styles of animation that might be suited to illustrate key moments in the lives of her Mormon pioneer ancestors, and she hopes to dig into the animation process this summer. These brief animated moments will be woven into the larger documentary film.
The Mormon Movie team is working on a large handful of grant applications and combing through over twenty hours of existing footage in order to edit scenes for a long-form work-in-progress. As well, they are in the process of interviewing potential editors, with an eye toward working together during late spring and through the remainder of the project.
Additional verite shooting, including the creation of a fictional sequel to the 1964 film Xan's mother starred in, is scheduled to resume during mid-Summer and continue through the end of this year. If all of the much-needed funding is raised and momentum is maintained, Mormon Movie is slated for completion during early 2015.
And we have a short film ready to ignite a movement and find a home: On Beauty is DONE! After five years of chasing Rick Guidotti from Las Vegas for our maiden shoot to Kenya and locales such as Oman and Qatar, we have a thirty-minute film starring Sarah Kanney from Upstate New York and Jayne Waithera from Kenya and, of course, Rick Guidotti and his photographs. They will win your hearts and change the way you see. Stay tuned for the #iambeauty campaign to heat up again as we bring the film to a screen near you.
The film was available to view for delegates of the "Doc Shop" at Hot Docs International Documentary Festival this April. We hope more festivals can be announced soon!
For the third consecutive year, Prisoner of Her Past aired on Chicago's WTTW PBS channel to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The film has been enjoying a new lease of life with continued public screenings and community outreach: (see February update).
Margaret Byrne and the Raising Bertie team will be at the Kartemquin Spring Showcase on May 2nd in Chicago! We are excited to present a short new demo in public for the first time and get feedback on it from the audience.
We were recently featured at Shadow & Act as part of a preview of the Spring Showcase.
The Homestretch, directed by Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly, celebrated its world premiere in front of a sold out crowd at Hot Docs in Toronto this week. Joining the directors were editor Leslie Simmer, executive producers Justine Nagan, Gordon Quinn, and Andrew Schwertfegger, and two of the young stars of the film, Kasey and Anthony.
A standing ovation, great reviews and social media buzz followed. We have archived the extraordinary response to the film in this Storify.
We will be announcing the US premiere and more dates very soon. To help us bring this film to your town, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The film recently added another award to its collection, receiving the "Best Use of Sports Footage" Award from FOCAL International.
The DVD features many bonus scenes, a special educational feature titled "The Mock Trials of Muhammad Ali" which brings Ali's struggles into modern classrooms, and the complete audio and complete transcript of "Clay v USA Supreme Court, 1971," the legal drama that is a major part of the film. Perhaps best of all, we recorded two audio commentaries for the film. #1 features Director Bill Siegel, Composer Joshua Abrams, and Editor Aaron Wickenden. #2 features executive Producer Gordon Quinn and Journalist Salim Muwakkil, who is a major voice in the film.
The film is also available to rent by mail from Netflix.
The film continues to screen across the USA. Upcoming international screenings include dates in New Zealand and Poland, plus a UK premiere (announcing soon!).
Unbroken Glass showed our new demo and clips from the film as part of the Asian American Showcase at Siskel Film Center, with a great discussion about making the film and the issues it addresses. We’re proud to announce that we will be a part of this summer’s Eye on India Festival, a yearly festival of Indian and Indian American cultures. Our event features a panel of experts on Asian-American mental health, including author and psychiatrist Bulbul Bahuguna, and is on Monday, June 16th 6:30 PM, at The Reva & David Logan Center For The Arts, Chicago.
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