Paris Is Burning is a 1990 American documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. Critics consider the film to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, and a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America. September 25, 2022
Kiss the Ground. Narrated by Woody Harrelson, Kiss the Ground is an inspiring and groundbreaking film that reveals the first viable solution to our climate crisis. Kiss the Ground reveals that, by regenerating the world’s soils, we can completely and rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies. Using compelling graphics and visuals, along with striking NASA and NOAA footage, the film artfully illustrates how, by drawing down atmospheric carbon, soil is the missing piece of the climate puzzle. Featured speaker: Liz Miernicki, MS, Wetland Science Program for the Prairie Research Institute. April 13, 2022
Storm Lake. Dark clouds hang over the cornfields of Storm Lake, Iowa, which has seen its fair share of change in the 40 years since Big Agriculture came to town. Farmers blow their life savings on new equipment they hope will keep their livelihoods intact. Migrant workers flock here—welcome and not—for their slice of the American Dream. The people of Storm Lake confront a changing and precarious existence. Enter: Art Cullen and his family members who deliver local news and editorials on a shoestring budget for their 3,000 readers. This paper means a fighting chance for their beloved hometown, and by hook or by crook, they’ll make the most of it. There’s simply too much at stake. Featured speaker: Nikki Usher, PhD, Associate Professor, College of Media, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. January 28, 2022
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, Gloria overcame traumatic violence to become a proud leader in her community. Most famously, she pioneered a charm school for young transgender people that served as inspiration for the hit play Charm. Featured speaker: Sawyer Kemp, Chancellor’s postdoctoral research fellow in transgender studies, University of Illinois. September 17, 2021
Sonita. Two-time Sundance Film Festival award winner Sonita tells the inspiring story of Sonita Alizadeh, an 18-year-old Afghan refugee in Iran, who thinks of Michael Jackson and Rihanna as her spiritual parents and dreams of becoming a big-name rapper. For the time being, her only fans are the other teenage girls in a Tehran shelter. And her family has a very different future planned for her: as a bride she’s worth $9,000. January 12, 2020
What Lies Upstream. In this classic detective story, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to uncover the truth behind a massive chemical spill that left 300,000 people without drinking water for months. But when Hoback discovers an obscene collusion between chemical corporations and the highest levels of government, the investigation spirals in a terrifying direction, and we learn the frightening truth about what lies upstream of us all. October 22, 2019
5B. This 2019 documentary is the inspirational story of everyday heroes, nurses and caregivers who took extraordinary action to comfort, protect and care for the patients of the first AIDS ward unit in the United States. 5B is stirringly told through first-person testimony of these nurses and caregivers who built Ward 5B in 1983 at San Francisco General Hospital, their patients, loved ones, and staff who volunteered to create care practices based in humanity and holistic well-being during a time of great uncertainty. The result is an uplifting yet candid and bittersweet monument to a pivotal moment in American history and a celebration of quiet heroes, nurses and caregivers worthy of renewed recognition. September 25, 2019
Freedom of Worship
Jesus Camp, a 2006 documentary directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, follows Levi, Rachel and Tory to Pastor Becky Fisher’s “Kids on Fire” summer camp in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, where kids as young as 6 years old are taught to become dedicated Christian soldiers in “God’s army.” The film follows these children at camp as they hone their “prophetic gifts” and are schooled in how to “take back America for Christ.” The film was a first-ever look into an intense training ground that recruits born-again Christian children to become an active part of America’s political future. Featured speaker: Nathan R. Todd, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois. May 3, 2019
Freedom from Want
A Raisin in the Sun, a groundbreaking film directed by Daniel Petrie, was released in 1961 and adapted from the 1959 play of the same name by Lorraine Hansberry. The story follows the Youngers, an African-American family living together in an apartment in Chicago. Following the death of their patriarch, they try to determine what to do with the substantial insurance payment they’ll soon receive. Opinions on what to do with the money vary. Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier) wants to make a business investment, while his mother, Lena (Claudia McNeil), is intent on buying a house for them all to live in―two differing views of the American Dream. March 8, 2019
Freedom from Fear
13th, the title of DuVernay’s documentary, refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. Featured speaker: Spencer Headworth, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Purdue University. February 8, 2019
Freedom of Speech
Good Night, and Good Luck: In the mid-1950’s Edward R. Murrow and his producer, Fred Friendly, help bring an end to the tyranny of the blacklist and the House Un-American Activities Committee’s anti-Communist hearings. With the platform provided by his CBS News program “See It Now,” Murrow challenges Joseph McCarthy on his claims that hundreds of avowed Communists are working covertly as Soviet spies in the U.S. government, among other allegations, and that they have the power to destroy lives and careers. Featured speaker: Dr. Janice M Collins, Assistant Professor of Journalism, College of Media, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. November 14, 2018
Call Me By Your Name: In the summer of 1983, in the north of Italy, Elio Perlman, (Timothée Chalamet) a 17-year-old American spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa lazily transcribing music and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). One day Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student working on his doctorate arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture. Soon, Elio and Oliver discover a summer that will alter their lives forever. September 12, 2018
El Norte: When a group of Mayan Indians decides to organize a labor union to improve conditions in their village, their community is violently destroyed by the Guatemalan army. Teenage siblings, Rosa (Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez) and Enrique (David Villalpando) manage to escape the massacre and decide to start a new life in El Norte — the USA. The two trek through Mexico, meeting a variety of characters and facing trials and tribulations on their journey toward lives as illegal immigrants in Los Angeles. April 27, 2018
Selena: The true story of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart topping albums on the Latin music charts. March 23, 2018. Featured speaker: Rev. Deborah Owen
Snow Falling on Cedars: Ethan Hawke stars in this “riveting tale of mystery” (FOX-TV) based on the award-winning best-selling novel. A murder trial has upset the quiet community of San Piedro, and now this tranquil village has become the center of controversy. For Ishamael Chambers (Hawke), a local reporter, the trial strikes a deep emotional chord when he finds his ex-lover is linked to the case. As he investigates the killing, he uncovers some startling clues that lead him to a shocking discovery. Co-starring James Cromwell, Sam Shepard and Max Von Sydow, Snow Falling on Cedars is “hypnotic, mesmerizing and inspiring” (ABC-TV). March 9, 2018. Featured speaker: Rev. David Oliver-Holder
Fences: Some people build fences to keep people out — and other people build fences to keep people in. Academy Award® winners Denzel Washington and Viola Davis deliver the “performance-driven masterpiece” of the year in the film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, the film takes a passionate look at former Negro-league baseball player Troy Maxson (Washington) as he fights to provide for those he loves in a world that threatens to push him down. Washington’s directorial triumph “connects with people on a deep, emotional level” and pulses with the universal truths of love and forgiveness, despite what lies beyond your own fence. February 23, 2018. Featured speakers: Naomi and Eric Jakobsson.
Red Tails: Italy, 1944. As the war takes its toll on Allied forces in Europe, a squadron of black pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen are finally given the chance to prove themselves in the sky – even as they battle discrimination on the ground. It’s a tribute to the unsung heroes who rose above extraordinary challenges and ultimately soared into history. February 16, 2018. Featured speaker: Jessica Ballard, granddaughter of Colonel A.J. Ballard.
The Visitor (2008): When professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) travels to New York for a lecture, he’s stunned to find illegal immigrants Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira) living in his apartment. It comes out that it was rented to them by a swindler, and Vale feels sufficiently sorry for them that he invites them to stay. They get on well until Tarek is accused of jumping a subway turnstile and lands in a detention center. He risks being deported, and Vale does everything he can to prevent it. November 17, 2017. Featured speaker: Imam Ousmane Sawadogo, CIMIC-Central Illinois Mosque And Islamic Center
Gentleman’s Agreement (1948): When journalist Phil Green (Gregory Peck) moves to New York City, he takes on a high-profile magazine assignment about anti-Semitism. In order to truly view things from an empathetic perspective, he pretends to be a Jew and begins to experience many forms of bigotry, both firsthand and through a Jewish friend, Dave Goldman (John Garfield). Phil soon falls in love with beautiful Kathy Lacy (Dorothy McGuire), but their relationship is complicated by his unusual endeavor. November 10, 2017.
Get Out (2017): Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.
Featured speakers: Dr. Ghassan Moussawi, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Univ of IL; Ms. Coltrane Zerai-Che, undergraduate student, Media and Cinema Studies, Univ of IL. November 5, 2017. Goodwill donations were made to Black Lives Matter: Champaign-Urbana.
Rosenwald is the incredible story of Julius Rosenwald, who never finished high school, but rose to become the President of Sears. Influenced by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington, this Jewish philanthropist joined forces with African American communities during the Jim Crow South to build over 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century. Inspired by the Jewish ideals of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world), and a deep concern over racial inequality in America, Julius Rosenwald used his wealth to become one of America’s most effective philanthropists. Because of his modesty, Rosenwald’s philanthropy and social activism are not well known today. He gave away $62 million in his lifetime.
Featured speakers: Rabbi Ariel Naveh, Senior Jewish Educator, Illini Hillel; Rebbetzin Ahava Zarembski-Schachter, OU-JLIC Jewish Educator, Illini Hillel. October 8 & 17, 2017
Pride (2014) is inspired by an extraordinary true story. It’s the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families. Initially rebuffed by the Union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person. As the strike drags on, the two groups discover that standing together makes for the strongest union of all. September 15, 2017.
Racial Taboo is a one-hour, documentary-style film designed to bring together people of diverse backgrounds for constructive and healing conversations on race. McKinley Pastor Keith Harris is one of a small group who will facilitate discussion after the screening. Featured speaker: Brian Grimm, Director, The Racial Taboo Initiative. March 12, 2017