Free annual showcase of feature films and shorts aims to catalyze change, March 19 – 22 at the Chicago Cultural Center


CHICAGO – The 2015 Peace on Earth Film Festival (POEFF), presented by Transcendence Global Media, NFP, in partnership with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special events, will showcase a captivating exploration of film in the areas of nonviolence, tolerance and social justice – with corresponding panels and filmmaker Q&As – at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 East Washington, Thursday, March 19 through Sunday, March 22, 2015. All screenings are free and open to the public. No reservations necessary. For complete information, visit www.peaceonearthfilmfestival.org


Last year audiences of all backgrounds and ages converged at the POEFF to watch dozens of World/US and Midwest/Chicago Premieres including 2015 POEFF award winner for Best Short Narrative, dress, directed by Lost’s Henry Ian Cusick. Additional filmmakers on hand to receive their awards include John Marks, whose Under The Same Sun won Best Feature Narrative, and Illinois resident Edgar Barens, who won Best Documentary Short at the 2014 Peace On Earth Film Festival for Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall before it went on to win the Oscar the following month.


The 2015 features promise to be equally compelling. They include the Chicago premiere of J Street: The Art of the Possible, an urgent political story told with the intimacy of cinema vérité that takes viewers to high-level strategy meetings and long nights on the road in a captivating glimpse at the role of lobbyists in the American political process. And the powerful documentary Beyond the Divide follows a Vietnam Veteran and a peace advocate in Missoula, Montana as they mend the decades of animosity left behind by the Vietnam War.


Notable international entries include Memories on Stone, winner of Best Film at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, a tragicomic view on filmmaking in a war-affected country. From The Netherlands, Joan’s Boys follows a warmhearted social worker’s efforts to save out-of-control minority adolescents, and Egyptian student short MOOD follows the filmmaker’s depressed pianist father. A complete list of 2015 films is below.


Begun in 2008, POEFF is an annual event shining a light on filmmakers’ challenging perspectives regarding issues such as human rights, neighborhood violence, domestic violence, bullying, war, world politics, environment, economics and more. The festival strives to put Chicago at the forefront of international efforts for peace and environmental recoveries, while bringing together filmmakers, academics and social activists in discussion panels and educational components.

Learn more at: www.peaceonearthfilmfestival.org/


This year’s selections include:




Beyond the Divide (Jan Selby, USA, 88 min). Set in the mountainous beauty of Missoula, Montana, Beyond the Divide is a feature-length documentary film about war, peace and the courage to find common ground. Fifty years have passed since the beginning of the Vietnam War. The politics and casualties are history, yet deep scars remain between those who served and those who fought a different war at home. In Missoula, Montana, a mysterious graffiti peace symbol inflamed the enduring animosity, dividing a community for decades. Through the courageous acts of Vietnam veteran Dan Gallagher and peace advocate Betsy Mulligan-Dague, Beyond the Divide illuminates a path to healing old wounds while reimagining peace. Their story inspires audiences to focus on what unites us instead of what divides us. Shows Saturday, March 21, 7:14 p.m. Director Jan Selby and cast members will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.


Flames of Bodhichitta (Lhak Sam, USA, 75 min). Between 2009 and the end of March 2014, 133 Tibetans self-immolated. Many in this world don’t understand why. The Chinese Communist Party taught the Tibetan people there can only be one sun in the sky at the same time. And the Tibetans who self-immolated agree, and that is His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the values and culture he embodies. Showing Saturday, March 21, 1:14 p.m. Filmmaker Lhak Sam will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.








Groundswell Rising (Matt & Renard Cohen, USA, 70 min).

Groundswell Rising documents the opposition from both sides of the political spectrum to the ubiquitous practice of fracking for natural gas, and the health and environmental reasons behind it. Parents, scientists, doctors, farmers and individuals across the political spectrum decry the energy extraction process known as fracking that puts profits over people; and tracks a grassroots movement exposing dangers to clean air, water and civil rights. Shows Thursday, March 19, 7:06 p.m. Filmmakers Renard Cohen and Matt Cohen will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A facilitated by Jerome McDonnell


Inside Peace (Cynthia Fitzpatrick, USA, 77 min). Criminal offenders, plagued by a lifetime of violence, addiction and bad choices, find their way to the Peace Class in a Texas prison where they discover their humanity and struggle to change. Inside Peace follows Trinidad, David and Jake for four years from their time in prison to their return to the outside world. They begin to drop their tough façades and transform the way they interact with people and their surroundings, as they put their lives back together from the inside out. Shows Sunday, March 22, 3:45 p.m. Cast members will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.


J Street: The Art of the Possible (Ken Winikur and Ben Avishai, USA, 71 min). This gripping political documentary takes viewers inside the world of lobbying as it tracks a young, progressive pro-Israel advocacy group, challenging the establishment and pushing the Obama administration to take a more active role in negotiating a two-state solution. Formed around progressive Jewish groups, but seeking to organize all concerned Americans, J Street offers a bold vision for Middle East peace and US regional policy by asserting that a two-state solution is Israel’s only hope for a viable future. Shows Friday, March 20, 6:57 p.m. Filmmaker Ken Winiker will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.


Joan’s Boys (Catherine van Campen, Netherlands, 60 min). Joan Sträter offers psychotherapy to out-of-control teenagers, predominantly of ethnic minorities. Mostly boys. They have all had encounters with the police, for reasons varying from robberies to abuse, skipping class or shoplifting. This hour-long documentary shows Joan counseling Alaa and Adil, 14-year old twins of Moroccan origin. Joan’s Boys is about the interaction between Joan and “her boys” and how their often completely separate worlds can connect. More than a double portrait of client and counselor, it is also about “looking” and “being looked at” and how we so easily judge worlds foreign to us. Shows Sunday, March 22, 6:42 p.m.





Memories on Stone (Bîranînên lí der kevírî) (Shawkat Amin Korki, Kurdistan Regional Government Iraq/Germany, 97 min). After Saddam’s collapse in Iraq, childhood friends Hussein and Alan decide to produce a film about the Al Anfal Kurdish genocide. But making a film in post-war Kurdistan isn’t easy, especially finding a lead actress. Enter Sinor, young, beautiful and passionate about the project, since her own childhood is deeply affected by the Al Anfal campaign. But her cousin and uncle control her fate. Something compels Sinor to star in the film, even as it becomes clear that the only way to achieve this is by a marriage deal with her cousin, whom she doesn’t love. A tragicomic view on filmmaking in a war-affected country. Shows Saturday, March 21, 9:11 p.m.





African Grandmothers Tribunal: Seeking justice at the Frontlines of the AIDS Crisis (Neal Hicks, Canada, 44 min). Grandmothers are the primary caregivers for a large portion of children left orphaned and vulnerable by HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. But their ability to care for these children, and for themselves, is greatly compromised by the effects of gender- and age-based discrimination. This film chronicles the journey of three African grandmothers from their homes in Uganda and Swaziland to Canada to testify in a People’s Tribunal held in the fall of 2013, sending the very timely message that a rights-based response to the HIV and AIDS crisis is necessary to build a sustainable future for sub-Saharan Africa. Shows Saturday, March 21, 4:11 p.m. followed by an extended Q&A in GAR Ballroom with Alexis Macdonald of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.


The Chicago Boyz (Tiara Epps, USA, 13 min). Tim Shaw, founder of The Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team, is giving young men the opportunity to escape the epidemic of increasing violence in the city of Chicago. Shows Saturday, March 21, 12:47 p.m. Filmmaker Tiara Epps will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.


The Chikukwa Project (Gillian Leahy, Australia, 52 min). This feel-good story out of Africa is an amazing tale of African villagers who turned their lives around. For the last 20 years an incredible permaculture project has been growing in Zimbabwe, the largest such project in the world. Where the people of the Chikukwa villages once suffered hunger, malnutrition and high rates of disease, this community has turned around its fortunes using permaculture farming techniques. Shows Thursday, March 19, 9:42 p.m.


The Elmira Case (Jon Steckley, Canada, 16 min). A drunken rampage in small-town Elmira, Ontario, Canada sparks a worldwide revolution in the justice system in 1974. Today, more than 50 countries around the world practice restorative justice as part of their legal system and all owe their roots to an inspired probation officer, a forward-thinking judge and two wayward youth. Shows Sunday, March 22, 1:23 p.m. followed by Q&A with filmmakers Jonathan Steckley and Ken Ogasawara and Chris Cowe, executive director of Community Justice Initiatives


Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story (Robert H Gardner, USA, 60 min). Throughout the 1930’s, an unimaginable evil tore through Europe as Hitler’s Third Reich terrorized its way to domination. During these tumultuous times, a young Muslim woman living in Paris found her calling. Noor Inayat Khan (played here by Grace Srinivasan in this reenacted documentary) grew up in a home that fostered faith and hope. Leading with her heart, she overcame her quiet nature and joined Winston Churchill’s covert operation to give the allies a new chance at victory. This is her story, narrated by Helen Mirren. Shows Saturday, March 21, 6:11 p.m.

The Fading Valley (HaEmek HaNe’elam) (Irit Gal, Israel, 56 min). Without water there is no life – and agriculture is disappearing in the fertile Jordan Valley where a group of Palestinian farmers is hidden from the eye. Their pastures have been declared military areas, their water wells have been closed up and the water has been diverted to the Jewish residents of the valley, the beautiful valley which is the lowest on earth. Shows Friday, March 20, 8:34 p.m. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.





The Game Changer (Indrani Kopal, USA, 17 min). Rehabilitation through arts. Every Sunday afternoon for the last seven years, 68-year-old dance trainer Susan Slotnick has driven an hour up the mountains to the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, a medium security prison for men, to teach modern dance. The lives of men whom she touched have never been the same since. This is her story… Shows Sunday, March 22, 12:37 p.m. Filmmaker Indrani Kopal will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.




HEAL! Veterans Speak About PTSD (Vicki Topaz, USA, 5 min). Among service members who suffer psychological trauma from active duty, combat, multiple tours, military sexual trauma, or survivor guilt, all are contributing to the alarming rate of veteran suicides (currently 22 each day). As stories and imagery from HEAL! circulate, veterans in need can learn about how the human-canine bond is a path for hope and healing, and see that there is no shame in asking for help. Shows Saturday, March 21, 5:50 p.m. followed by Q&A with filmmaker Vicki Topaz.


HOPE Credit Union, a Bank with a Twist (Micro Documentaries, USA, 5 min). How might we address income inequality, the civil rights issue of our time? What happens when you up-end all the negative stereotypes about banks and put them squarely in service of the community? When banks started disappearing in the Mississippi Delta, transforming low- and mid-income communities into “bank deserts” where people couldn’t get a loan or secure their savings, William Bynum turned despair into hope by founding a new sort of community bank. Shows Sunday, March 22, 11:01 a.m.


The Light at Walden (Pablo Frasconi, USA, 38 min). A visual poem shot at Walden Pond, Massachusetts, interweaves pieces of Thoreau’s texts and a war resister’s personal journey on a wilderness island in Canada. The filmmaker, as a young man during the US/Vietnam War, attempts to follow Thoreau’s principles: building a cabin and living sustainably in the woods, “to front only the essential facts of life.” This is one story among the 125,000 conscientious objectors in Canada. Shows Thursday, March 19, 8:42 p.m. Filmmaker Pablo Frasconi will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.

Madame Parliamentarian (Rouane Itani, Lebanon/USA, 15 min). Although Lebanon is considered the most progressive nation in the Arab world, only four of the 128 Lebanese parliament members are women. Lebanese-American filmmaker Rouane Itani depicts women’s active participation in Lebanon’s political life, explores the reasons behind this situation and examines solutions adopted by other countries to increase the number of women in political leadership. Shows Friday, March 20, 6:03 p.m.



Memory of Forgotten War (Ramsay Liem and Deann Borshay Liem, USA, 38 min). Memory of Forgotten War conveys the human costs of military conflict through deeply personal accounts of four Korean American survivors whose experiences and memories embrace the full circle of the war: its outbreak and the day-to-day struggle for survival, separation from family members across the DMZ, the aftermath of a devastated Korean peninsula and immigration to the United States. Shows Friday, March 20, 10:17 p.m.






The Road to Little Rock (Art Phillips, USA 30 min). The story of one judge and nine teenagers who demonstrated enduring positive human qualities of courage, honor, determination and responsibility. In 1957, nine African-American teenagers sought enrollment at an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. This untold story features never-before-seen interviews with three members of the Little Rock Nine and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. It blends current interviews with archival footage to tell the story of the integration of Central High School. Federal Judge Ronald Davies, from Fargo, North Dakota, followed the law, ignored political pressure and required the school district in Little Rock to integrate. His ruling provided great urgency for the desegregation of public schools and the course of the Civil Rights movement in America. Shows Sunday, March 22, 12:06 p.m.


The Sacred Place Where Life Begins – Gwich’in Women Speak (Miho Aida, USA, 20 min). The Gwich’in people, native to northern Alaska and Canada, call the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” This area is the birthing and nursing ground for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, on which the Gwich’in people have depended for millennia. Since 1988, the Gwich’in nation has been gathering every two years to discuss the threat of oil and gas development on this sacred land. This film shares the voices of Gwich’in women at the 2010 gathering, who speak for their sacred land, the caribou and their way of life. These women inspire audiences around the country to join their effort to protect their sacred land. Shows Friday, March 20, 9:30 p.m. Director Miho Aida will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A.


The Table of Alliance (La Tavola Dell’alleanza) (Francesco Miccichè, Italy, 33 min). The titular table of alliance is a banquet held around a table covered by a tablecloth embroidered with a map of the human genome. This documentary narrates the creation and the realization of artist Daniela Papadia’s art project, an embroidered tablecloth created in an Italian women’s correctional center, bringing peace to the participants, in a combination of art, science, multiculturalism and spirituality. Shows Saturday March 21, 5:00 p.m.


Unafraid: Voices from the Crime Victims Treatment Center (Karin Venegas, USA, 45 min). Set at St. Luke’s Hospital’s pioneering Crime Victims Treatment Center in New York City, this documentary about rape trauma and the obstacles rape victims face to recovery tells the real stories of four female and male survivors – their struggles and ultimate triumphs on the road to healing. More than a story of victimization, it is a story of courage, resilience and activism. Shows Sunday, March 22, 11:08 a.m.





For Francis (Angelique Letizia, USA, 15 min). Francis is a seven year old boy who loves dresses. When his teacher makes Francis a dress, his father Matt becomes enraged. Fearing the worst, Matt is forced to face his own fears and to choose between protecting his son from an intolerant world and allowing the boy to live truthfully. Shows Sunday, March 22, 5:28 p.m. Filmmaker Angelique Letizia will be in attendance for post-show Q&A.


Home Delivery (Tom Brandau, USA, 15 min). Home Delivery is a story of two 13-year-old-newspaper delivery boys in adjacent Baltimore neighborhoods in 1974; the white boy delivers the Baltimore News American and the Black paperboy delivers the Baltimore Afro-American. When the Black paperboy is chased down by a group of white teenagers for taking a shortcut through their neighborhood in order to deliver his papers, the white paperboy comes to his aid. Shows Sunday, March 22, 11:50 a.m.


Of Stones and Water (Tonia Shimin, USA, 9 min). Meditative, poetic and vibrant, Of Stones and Water traces a dancer’s response and relationship to a labyrinth of stone and to the sea, finding the point of connection where the two worlds come together with his own. Shows Sunday, March 22, 6:10 p.m. followed by Q&A with filmmaker Tonia Shimin


Silent Tears (Mouna Vizhiththuligal) (Ilango Ramanathan, Sri Lanka, 13 min). An innocent father and his blind daughter with a doll spend their days within the walls of a bunker during the final stages of civil war in Sri Lanka. A surprising third character connects the father, daughter and the doll in this award-winning short and festival favorite. The blood tears they shed during the darkest hours are unheard by many. The characters represent the current stages of the tamils in Sri Lanka. The ones who died, disappeared and the living dead. Shows Friday, March 20, 6:19 p.m. In Tamil with English subtitles.


A Story About Rain (Bracha Yaniger, Israel, 18 min). In a world without rain, a couple discovers that they have the power to create water. The man’s special powers challenge the couple’s relationship. Shows Thursday, March 19, 6:08 p.m.





Abdulai (Aidan Avery and Lane Brown, USA, 14 min). Through the eyes of a village patriarch, this poetic and observational portrait piece sets out to reveal the basis of joy and sense of community in Ekumfi-Atakwa, Ghana. While exploring both the strength and resilience found in this remote African village, the film shines light on the source of happiness from a new perspective. Shows Saturday, March 21, 10:10 a.m.


Anonymous: Giving a Voice to the Voiceless (Joshua Rosario, USA, 6 min). Young women recount their sexual assaults. Rather than living in fear, these are strong young women who remind us, “You are not alone. You are not anonymous.” Shows Saturday, March 21, 11:18 a.m.


City of the Damned (Nate Skeen, USA, 15 min). City of the Damned focuses on LGBT rights in the face of the brutal anti-homosexuality bill before the Ugandan Parliament. Although the death penalty has been withdrawn from the bill due heavily to international pressure, punishments are harsh and public opinion remains the biggest threat to the Ugandan LGBT community. The daring non-governmental organization Youth on Rock Foundation is fighting against this stigma by promoting economic empowerment among its members. Najib, YRF’s treasurer, sells clothes in Uganda’s largest market. He wants to prove that his sexuality does not define him; it’s his respect for life, his determination for equality and his aspirations to become a lawyer and self-respecting Ugandan citizen. Shows Saturday, March 21, 10:57 a.m.


The Collapse of Evil (Steven Olivieri, USA, 10 min). John Garrison is a man on a personal campaign against evil itself, and has written a book titled, Violence in 21st Century America. As he becomes more broadly recognized for his work, he contends with media moguls who plot to shut him down in their relentless pursuit of a buck, while forcefully perpetuating the most violent programming on the face of the earth. Shows Saturday, March 21, 12:29 p.m.


Daughters of Emmonak (Samantha Andre, USA, 17 min). A documentary film about a Yup’ik Eskimo woman, Lenora “Lynn” Hootch, working to bring an end to domestic abuse in her rural village of Emmonak, Alaska. In 1982, Lynn opened the Emmonak Women’s Shelter to provide a safe place for women and children from surrounding villages. Lynn has dedicated her life to reclaiming her people’s culture and traditional values as alcohol, drugs and violence have torn through her community. Daughters of Emmonak brings these powerful stories to the fore, highlighting Lynn’s dream of a future where her grandchildren will walk the streets without fear. Shows Saturday, March 21, 10:26 a.m.


MOOD (Mahmoud Yossry, Egypt, 22 min). This darkly comic documentary short is about the filmmaker’s pianist father struggling with fear and depression. In Arabic with English subtitles. Shows Saturday, March 21, 11:37 a.m.


My Fellow Americans (Garret Laver, USA, 7 min). An American President addresses the nation about the impending WWIII while he reflects on the country’s past, as well as his own. He surveys the surprisingly similar circumstances that Franklin D. Roosevelt faced during his presidency and the preparation for WWII. The president alludes to his own experience as a child with bullies and ultimately war. These flashbacks synthesize with the speech in moments of oppression, violence and the destruction of nature. Shows Saturday, March 21, 10:02 a.m.


The Peace Exchange (Free Spirit Media, USA, 16 min). Calling themselves “Peace Builders,” five young Chicagoans traveled to Thailand and Burma in the winter of 2013-14. Hosted by local community and peace leaders, they continue their studies on how culture, spiritual and social factors contribute to either peace or violence. Shows Thursday, March 19, 6:27 p.m. Cast and filmmakers will be in attendance for a post-show Q&A facilitated by Jerome McDonnell.


Soldiers Song (Roger Bell, UK, 2 min).

A man lays in a field with his wife near Passchendaele and reflects on what it must have been like for his great grandfather who died in battle there 100 years before. Shows Saturday, March 21, 10:54 a.m.


The War on Drugs: And Its Effect on Low Income Communities (Free Spirit Media, USA, 11 min). This documentary explores three possible solutions to improve and heal the negative effects of the war on drugs, mass incarceration and the lack of opportunities that exist in neighborhoods throughout the US: decriminalizating certain drug crimes; improving support and treatment for drug addicts and ex-offenders that are re-entering communities; and providing a stronger base of education for community members. Shows Saturday, March 21, 11:25 a.m.

You are Special (Sherryn Sim, USA, 4 min). This lovely four-minute film about bullying is a result of a program called Young Writers, started by Zita Lefebvre at Cartoon Network of Burbank. Cartoon Network and the Burbank Unified School District partnered to send animators into the school to talk with kids and encourage them to write a story. The teachers and principal judged the stories, and sixth grader Sherryn Sim won with You Are Special. Sherryn then worked with artists to design characters and create a storyboard for her film. Shows Saturday, March 21, 10:48 a.m.


POEFF’s mission is … raising awareness of peace, nonviolence, social justice and an eco-balanced world.


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