2021 OFFICIAL SELECTIONS
As We Are Planted
Areas with no or very little access to affordable, nutritious food, known as food desserts, occur disproportionately often on the city's South and West sides, making daily life, healthy eating and general wellness more difficult to attain for residents. With sensitive and nuanced filmmaking, As We Are Planted gets to know exceptional Chicagoans who are working together, and with community organizations like Just Roots and the Saint James Catholic Church, to create the food ecosystem and infrastructure their communities need with locally-run food pantries and urban farms.
Directed and Produced by Anna Lee Ackermann
With lush, layered and unique animation, Bijou Doozie conjures up a vibrant carnival and an overzealous youngster named Bijou Doozie, who learns what happens when you ride too many rides at the fair. Introducing and spelling key words throughout, Bijou Doozie is a sweet story of rambunctious childhood as well as a fun vocabulary primer for early readers.
Directed and Produced by Maureen M. Miller
The Protagonist in Divine is queer, trans, divine and defiantly celebrating their whole self and their connection to the world and to their ancestors. Reflecting on strained relationships with family and double-edged affinities with femininity and matriarchy, the Protagonist recounts their difficult and deeply personal struggle to claim identity and to live in the truth and courage of their ancestors. Threaded with captivating visuals and backed by a chorus of water spirits, the Protagonist's journey stands as testament to the power and freedom of self-determination in the face of misunderstanding, prejudice and hate.
Directed by Monique Marshaun
Produced by Sebastian Olayo, DIVINE Art Book, Devin Childs, Monique Marshaun & Talia K. Wright
On a dark and stormy night, a young college student goes about her usual business, brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed. A mysterious text from an unknown number disrupts the ordinary and a creeping sense of uneasiness begins to take hold as the storm outside intensifies. In the communal bathroom things take a turn for the surreal and horrifying as her imagination runs wild. Bright, poppy animation counterpoints this creepy story in this memorable and unsettling short film.
Directed by Elisa Stanis
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.
Directed by Lisa Barcy
On a college campus, two teenagers, each at a personal crossroads, meet and feel a spark of connection. Embracing the moment, and the thrill of potential, they decide to spend an afternoon and evening together, getting to know one another. Without the pressure of expectations and in the no-stakes comfort of anonymity they are able to open up to each other in beautiful and unique ways as temporary confidantes and friends.
Directed by Robert Nelson and Noah Keckler
Produced by Evan Showalter
A Galaxy Sits in the Cracks
“A Galaxy Sits in the Cracks” is a short experimental documentary exploring the ways Black communities in Chicago, Detroit, and Durham use Afrofuturism as a tool to inspire young people, organize politically and economically, and reimagine the spaces around them. In a series of short movements the film spotlights an Afrofuturist youth center in Durham, NC, reimagines a historic university on Chicago's south side, deconstructs race as a technology at a Wakanda-inspired Afrofuturism convention, and explores Afrofuturism’s political and technological implications for the future of Detroit.
Directed by Amber Love
Produced by Andrea Raby
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.
Directed and Produced by Carlos Douglas, Jr.
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.
Directed by Luchina Fisher
Produced by Yvonne Welbon & Zainab Ali
Part of Me
Ethan is a college student, dealing with all life changes, schoolwork and social challenges all college students face. But Ethan is also fighting a daily battle with depression that has been a part of his life as long as he can remember. This unflinchingly personal short documentary intimately chronicles Ethan's struggles, his setbacks and his successes as he makes a life for himself coming to terms with his mental health needs.
Directed and Produced by Nick Forsythe
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.
Directed and Produced by Anne Colton and Michelle Yates
Sacred Brick Technology
From city, to block, to building, to brick, Sacred Brick Technology draws the viewer in to take a novel look at the familiar, pervasive, and yet often unnoticed masonry unit. The film combines dazzling imagery with interviews with architects, scholars and tradespeople to highlight every facet of the brick from its beginnings at the dawn of civilization to its role in building Chicago, a staggering metropolis that has been constructed almost entirely out of the very earth on which it stands.
Directed by Ian Bertorelli
Black history is important for all young people to learn beyond just one month of the year. Sankofa Chicago is a documentary on a mission to raise awareness of Black luminaries, past and present, who have connections to our city. Through interviews with everyday Black Chicagoans reflecting on their history in the city to kid-friendly introductions of notable Black visionaries and barrier-breakers like Ida B. Wells, Bessie Coleman, Barack Obama and more, this documentary presents the basics and lays a foundation for further exploration and learning for anyone wanting to know more about Black history.
Directed by Vanessa Page Wright
Produced by Shelby Hawkins, Vanessa Wright & James Parrish Smith
The Sweet Pursuit
When a bully steals her younger brother's Halloween candy, Lillian is on the case. With all the grit and determination of a hard boiled detective, and the smarts and passion of a protective older sister, Lillian knows she can find the culprit. Witty and charming, Sweet Pursuit features strong performances from its' two lead performers and a script that vividly portrays the unique and loving bonds between siblings.
Directed and Produced by Kendall L. Barachy
Lockdowns and Stay at Home orders hit everyone hard in 2020. In Together Apart, five high school students navigate the challenges of their changed worlds for themselves and their families. Shot entirely separately by young people in their own homes during the early days of the lockdown, Together Apart provides an intimate look at what those unprecedented days looked like and felt like for young people suddenly stuck at home. The difficulties they face like lost jobs, health scares and the ache for normalcy are universal, but also honestly specific to the teenage experience. This narrative film feels like a documentary at times, owing to its timeliness and willingness to make a film in a time none of us knew the way out of.
Directed by Ruby Fuller, Hannah Hafner, Rae Burczyk & Joanna Sodke
Produced by Lucero Less & Dana Armstrong
Walking for Water
The Nibi (Water) Walks are Indigenous-led extended ceremonies to pray for the water. Walking for Water is a meditative short documentary film that follows, step by step, along on one walk led by Sharon Day in 2019, observing the sacred process of expressing gratitude for water and offering thanks thankful for our life-giving force with every step.
Directed by Erin Babbin and Michael Sullivan