The opening night screening of Sundance sensation STEP was preceded by an inspiring performance from Chicago’s South Shore Drill Team and followed by an equally captivating presentation from the step dance team of Roosevelt University’s Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, cementing the overarching theme of the power of the performing arts to engage and empower today’s youth.
The standing ovation after Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s WHOSE STREETS? When the lights came up, the crowd erupted in cheers, inspired by the film’s powerful story of the residents of Ferguson, Missouri, who took to the city’s streets in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown, Jr. A profound and emotional discussion followed with Folayan and Davis, along with Kofi Ademola from Black Lives Matter Chicago and activists Charles Alexander Preston and Luna White, moderated by community organizer L. Anton Seals, Jr.
Fascinating Q&As with the year’s most innovative nonfiction filmmakers, Theo Anthony and Kitty Green, after the Chicago premieres of their bold and mind-bending films, RAT FILM and CASTING JONBENET, respectively. Speaking to rapt audiences, the two filmmakers spoke on successive nights about their inventive filmmaking processes. While Anthony compared his film to "surfing the internet and having 50 browsing tabs open at once,” Green spoke about how she’s hoping to have finally put an end to any more movies about JonBenet Ramsey.
"'Objectivity' usually means it's from the lens of the oppressor,” said Damon Davis, one of many memorable quotes from this year’s “State of the Doc” panel, focusing on the theme, “The Nonfiction Resistance.” Joining Davis and moderator Paula Froehle from Chicago Media Project, were Catapult Film Fund’s Lisa Chanoff, Kartemquim Film’s Gordon Quinn, “Trophy” filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau, and Davis’ co-director Sabaah Folayan. They all spoke candidly about the ways in which filmmakers approach their subject matter as outsiders, and whether they should or should not actively try to make a political impact with their films.
The provocative presentation of TROPHY, a sprawling and complex look at the tensions that exist between wildlife conservation and the global hunting industry. The film and Q&A with directors Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau had audiences questioning their assumptions not only about the subject matter, but more widely about beliefs and ideas that they initially might disagree with. Even Schwarz acknowledged he set out to make a very different film than the one he ended up with.
The resounding support given to a slew of filmmakers; on Saturday night, aspiring filmmakers Jim Lebrecht, Kimberly Reed, Elaine Sheldon and Whitney Dow received Chicago Media Project's first ever Impact Grant Fund Awards, supporting early stage filmmaking, sustainability among doc filmmakers and innovative outreach campaigns. “We look to make films about people with disabilities that are not sympathy films nor films about heroes, rather to show that the disabled are people, plain and simple.” voiced Jim LeBrecht, whose project CRIP CAMP was supported with an Early Stage Grant. In addition, filmmaker Elaine Sheldon was overcome with emotion after viewing a clip from her project RESCUE BREATH about opioid addicts in her home state of West Virginia.
CMP’s signature “Pitch and Mimosas Brunch” saw 3 filmmaking teams present their compelling stories to the crowd, who were then able to donate to each film through CMP’s innovative imPact app. Over $15,000 was committed in the room to the three projects, including Rachel Pikelny’s GRACE, Josh Simon and James Sorrels’ AREA 2 and Suhad Babaa’s WOMEN LEADER OF THE INTIFADA.
Gorgeous and absorbing storytelling: Transporting audiences to the fading ways of traveling film projectionists in India,and whale hunters in the remote Faroe Islands off the Norwegian coast, THE CINEMA TRAVELERS and THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES, respectively, provided viewers with some of the most eye-opening and mystical images of the year. With rich and vivid imagery of endangered ways of life, these showings offered powerful evidence that some documentaries deserve to be seen on the big screen.
At the North American premiere of the award-winning and critically acclaimed Israeli film DEATH IN THE TERMINAL, a stunned crowd was palpably effected by the tense and gripping story of a terrorist attack in a bus terminal. Four analysts from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology were called in to help audiences reflect on the film, while co-directors Tali Shemesh and Asaf Sudry joined the discussion via Skype, speaking about how their film has helped further discussions of racism, violence, and othering in Israel.
Obituary writers from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and other publications in the Chicago area met for the first time ever to commemorate their profession with one of their fellow scribes, the New York Times’ Bruce Weber, one of the main subjects of the lively and thoughtful new film OBIT. Along with Weber, director Vanessa Gould spoke about the film to the standing-room only crowd. Following the Q&A, as wine was served to moviegoers, local theater group BRUISED ORANGE presented a spoken word performance of quirky, insightful and funny guest book entries and obits from DOC10 Sponsor Legacy.com.
When the initial cosmic images and sounds of CHASING TRANE: THE JOHN COLTRANE DOCUMENTARY filled the Davis’ big theater on closing night, the packed audience was transfixed—and remained engaged throughout the film and the informative and inspiring post-screening discussion with some of Chicago’s best jazz performers and experts: Grammy Award-winning music critic Neil Tesser, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s Orbert Davis, drummer and head of jazz studies at DePaul University Dana Hall and saxophonist Geof Bradfield. After the screening, a jazzed-up crowd stuck around to hear Hall and Bradfield play live in the adjoining Carbon Arc bar and enjoyed a champagne toast to the festival, docs and “community.”