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Art Hurts, Art Urges Voyages: Looking for Democracy Film Contest Screening

The Illinois Humanities Council asked people to be radically creative and show the world what democracy -- making it & sustaining it-- means to them. The Illinois Humanities Council unveils their Looking for Democracy Film Contest winners.

The winning films are:
* American Flag by Theophilus Jamal
* Hungry for Change by Free Spirit Media & Umoja Student Development Corporation
* Democracy 2 by The Theatre of Social Justice Project

The Illinois Humanities Council held a special screening of their winning short films, along with a conversation with the filmmakers, and a panel discussion entitled “Art Hurts, Art Urges Voyages” with local artists.

Panelist include Xan Aranda, filmmaker and founder of the Short Film Brigade; Tara Malik, photographer and Program Director at Beyondmedia Education; and A. Zell Williams, playwright and recipient of a Steppenwolf Theatre Company fellowship. This celebration is emceed by touring poet Robbie Q. Telfer, and features youth poetry performances.

About the Winning Filmmakers and Films:
American Flag by Theophilus Jamal examines issues of free speech during a spontaneous heated debate over an art exhibition portraying a desecrated flag hung upside down in a highly visible Waukegan storefront in 2002. The store owner/ artist faces off against a group of disgruntled veterans over the meaning of the display. Ultimately, there is no resolution over this age old debate. As a bystander burns a flag, all we can do is watch and contemplate what has transpired.

Hungry for Change by Free Spirit Media explores how does an inner-city Chicago neighborhood cope with having one grocery store to feed underserved families? A group of ambitious filmmakers from that very North Lawndale neighborhood answer this question as they tackle the issue of living in a food desert. Partnering with Free Spirit Media, the group of students find out what's happening, who is responsible, and most importantly, what's next?

Democracy 2 by The Theatre of Social Justice Project is a public service announcement which makes a statement in 38 seconds about the importance of shared experiences and shared commitment across cultural, class, and racial lines; for democratic life in America. It questions the difficulty of realizing this kind of shared space in the segregated context of Chicago.

About the Panelists:
Xan Aranda is an independent filmmaker affiliated with acclaimed documentary company Kartemquin Films since 2007. She is a Producer of their multi-award winning 2008 release Milking the Rhino, which aired on PBS and continues to screen worldwide. Xan is directing her first feature documentary film, Mormons Make Movies, now in development with Kartemquin. She also recently produced and directed Andrew Bird: Fever Year, a feature-length concert film. As Founder of the Chicago Short Film Brigade, Xan has been curating and hosting screenings of local and international short films since 2003. She has served on competition juries for the Chicago International Film Festival, Hugo Television Awards, and Illinois Humanities Council, and is a frequently featured guest lecturer at Columbia College, among others.

Tara Malik received her BFA in Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology and has used photography as a tool for expression, education, and activism for the past fifteen years. An educator and organizer of urban youth photography programs, she helped form The New Orleans Kid Camera Project, a community based arts program created to address the impacts of Hurricane Katrina on children returning home to New Orleans. Tara is co-founder of One Bird and received her Masters degree at Columbia College Chicago in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management specializing in Arts in Youth and Community Development.

A. Zell Williams was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California and started his career as an actor in the San Francisco Bay Area. His writing examines the changing landscape of race, class, and privilege in contemporary America and how movements of the past have shaped the present. He was one of two inaugural African-American Fellows with Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Zell has received the David Calicchio/Marin Theatre Company Emerging American Playwright Prize, was a finalist for the Yale Drama Series for Emerging Playwrights, and a semifinalist for the Princess Grace Award, the Ashland New Play Festival, and the Reverie Production's next Generation Playwright's Contest. He holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Santa Clara University and is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.

This event is presented by The Public Square, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council; Independent Television Service (ITVS); Kartemquin Films; Independent Feature Project Chicago; Columbia College Television & Film Departments, Chicago Access Network Television; Chicago Short Film Brigade; Critical Encounters: Fact & Faith; and Reeltime Independent Film and Video Forum.

Recorded Monday, May 03, 2010 at Film Row Cinema.

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