Publish Date

Outdoor screenings August 30 – September 4, Virtual Festival runs September 5-25

Link to Chicago Onscreen Trailer:

The Chicago Park District’s Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase will return August 30 to September 25 for an eighth year of local film screenings in nine local parks across the city, and a virtual film festival, continuing the Chicago Park District’s commitment to providing free in-person and virtual film programming as the city continues to recover and reopen. Six outdoor screenings of 2021’s sixteen official selections and a three-week online film festival at will be joined by three screenings from familiar Chicago film organizations – the Chicago Film Society, Collected Voices Film Festival, and Full Spectrum Features.

Chicago Onscreen’s 2021 sixteen Official Selections highlight the filmmaker’s eye for possibility as we enter into a new world full of potential. As we spend our summer readjusting to being together and sharing space, these films show us worlds full of promise and give us the fresh, invigorating perspectives we need to take on the excitement, fear and possibility of what lies ahead. 

Selected from more than 60 submissions from around the city, 2020’s Official Selections come from two dozen filmmakers living and working in Chicago. Featuring short films, feature films, narratives and documentaries, the Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase brings together professional Chicago filmmakers, amateur filmmakers and student filmmakers to share billing in park-based and online screenings. Through these local film screenings in local parks, Chicagoans get the exciting opportunity to see their city, their neighborhood and their lives on screen - and to experience the many sides, sites and stories of Chicago in ways only Chicagoans could tell them. 

Chicago Onscreen 2021 will also include the Local Film Festival’s first-ever evening of short films dedicated entirely to family-friendly and kid-appropriate films. The five films presented on Friday, September 3 at Churchill Field Park (1825 N. Damen) will include offerings for preschoolers through teenagers, presented in order from youngest audience to oldest. 

Outdoor screenings are part of Phase V of Chicago’s “Protecting Chicago” framework and will take place in accordance with current Night Out in the Parks Health and Safety Guidelines. 

Chicago Onscreen is supported by Big Foot Media, and is a part of the Chicago Park District’s 20th season of Movies in the Parks and the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks initiative. The year-round event series features more than 1,200 citywide cultural and arts activities, including 200 movie screenings this summer. Movies in the Parks is supported by Xfinity.

2021 Film Highlights
•    THE EPHEMERAL ORPHANAGE, Animated using found vintage paper dolls from a 1920s newspaper, The Ephemeral Orphanage follows a group of loosely supervised but strictly disciplined young orphans as they explore their mysterious orphanage and the hidden lives of their secretive caregivers. As the girls explore and imagine, the film examines the adults' attempts to dictate and control what children learn and the children's talent for discovering forbidden knowledge.
•    KENYA’S SYMPHONY, In the lush and gorgeously animated KENYA’S SYMPHONY, a young five-year-old girl named Kenya is reluctantly dragged to the symphony alongside her mother. Irritated at first, Kenya does her best to distract herself with a little mischief, but as she loses a battle of wills with her patient mother, Kenya settles in to listen to the music. As the orchestra continues, Kenya is carried away by the music, imagining herself as a musician in the orchestra and falling in love with the beautiful power of music. 
•    MAMA GLORIA, Chicago’s Black transgender icon Gloria Allen, now in her 70s, blazed a trail for trans people like few others before her. Emerging from Chicago’s South Side drag ball culture in the 1960s before Stonewall, Gloria overcame traumatic violence to become a proud leader in her community, known simply as Mama Gloria. This empathetic and engaging documentary is a portrait of a life full of activism and advocacy, joy and glory, and most of all love. As a staple on the South Side and the North Side, Mama Gloria has dedicated herself to uniting and supporting the trans community, pioneering a charm school for young homeless trans people and sharing the same unconditional love she received from her mother with her chosen children across the city.
•    REBEL BELLS, REBEL BELLS is a documentary short film about an all-girls radical collective in the Calumet region, learning about social justice and community activism in a community still dealing with the fallout of deindustrialization and disinvestment. Started in 2016 by three mothers who are leaders in the environmental justice movements in their own communities, the Rebel Bells collective empowers and guides the girls to take ownership over the curriculum, lead the group's meetings and activities and devise their own ways to speak for their community and seek the justice, investment and care they deserve. 

Screening schedule and details are as follows:

Monday, August 30
Mandrake Park (3858 S. Cottage Grove Ave.)
Divine (Monique Marshaun), As We Are Planted (Amy Lee Ackermann), Part of Me (Nick Forsythe), The Ephemeral Orphanage (Lisa Barcy), Dorm (Elisa Stanis), and Ferdinand Avenue (Robert Nelson and Noah Keckler)

Smith Park (2526 W. Grand Ave.)
Collected Voices Film Festival Film Selections

Tuesday, August 31
Gill Park (825 W. Sheridan Rd.)
Mama Gloria (Luchina Fisher) with A Galaxy Sits in the Cracks (Amber Love) and Kenya’s Symphony (Carlos Douglas, Jr.)

Wednesday, September 1
Eckersall Park (2400 E. 82nd St.)
Sacred Brick Technology (Ian Bertorelli), Rebel Bells (Anne Colton and Michelle Yates), Sankofa Chicago (Vanessa Page Wright), and Walking for Water (Erin Babbin and Michael Sullivan)

Thursday, September 2
Palmer Square Park (2200 N. Kedzie Ave.)
Divine (Monique Marshaun), As We Are Planted (Amy Lee Ackermann), Part of Me (Nick Forsythe), The Ephemeral Orphanage (Lisa Barcy), Dorm (Elisa Stanis), and Ferdinand Avenue (Robert Nelson and Noah Keckler)

Friday, September 3
Big Marsh Park (11555 S. Stony Island Ave.)
Chicago Film Society Film Selections

Churchill Field (1825 N. Damen Ave.)
Bijou Doozie (Maureen M. Miller), Kenya’s Symphony (Carlos Douglas, Jr.), The Sweet Pursuit (Kendall Barachy), Rebel Bells (Anne Colton and Michelle Yates), and Together Apart (Ruby Fuller, Hannah Hafner, Rae Burczyk & Joanna Sodke)

*This screening is Chicago Onscreen’s first dedicated family-friendly and kid-appropriate evening of films.

Saturday, September 4
McKinley Park (2210 W. Pershing Rd.)
Full Spectrum Features presents Chicagoland Shorts Vol. 7

Stout (Florence) Park (5446 S. Greenwood Ave.)
Mama Gloria (Luchina Fisher) with A Galaxy Sits in the Cracks (Amber Love) and Kenya’s Symphony (Carlos Douglas, Jr.)

Online at
September 5-25

Visit for more information and a complete schedule of screenings.

Click here for the full Movies in the Parks 2021 schedule.  Admission is free, and all movies begin at dusk (8 p.m.), weather permitting.  Patrons can call the Movies in the Parks hotline for daily listings and updated weather-related cancellations at 312-742-1134.

Information is also available on the Chicago Park District: Movies in the Parks Facebook page.