Featured Screening

Special Sneak Peek: The Homestretch by Kartemquin Films and Spargel Productions

On the first day of school each year, Chicago Public School administrators and teachers struggle to identify the growing number of students who are homeless and without adult support. This is the first critical step in providing homeless kids with what they need to stay in school and get to graduation. Last year, a record 15,580 students in Chicago Public Schools were known to be homeless. The population of homeless children and youth is growing at staggering rates all across America. Statistics from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) state that the number of homeless students identified in public schools has increased by 41% over the past two years alone, to roughly 1.6 million nationwide. Schools across the country are struggling to cope with the needs of more and more young people who have no homes or adult support. These kids turn to school for food, a warm place, and some sense of structure. In Chicago, the problem has become so pervasive in recent years that each school is now required by law to have a Homeless Coordinator. The list they create is a constantly shifting document, and far from complete. Many young people, especially teens, do not want to be identified, do not want to be in the system, and do not ask for help. Like most kids, in this adolescent time of their lives, they just want to be normal.

The Homestretch (working title) focuses on a number of these adolescents as they navigate the treacherous journey into adulthood. The film will be a haunting depiction of the intimate, often unexpected details of what it means to be young, homeless and trying to build your future in America today. Using the youth as guides, the viewer is invited inside the day-to-day lives of young people in Chicago searching for a warm place to sleep, a quiet place to study, the privacy to shower, any way to feel normal under the most abnormal circumstances. The Homestretch focuses on the adolescent years, a crucial time in any young person’s life when they are going through the final years of school and learning the life skills necessary to become successful adults.

The Microlending Film Project

The Microlending Film Project is an independently produced feature documentary centered on the current state of global microfinance to women as a tool for alleviating poverty. It was conceived as a passion project by Futures Trader turned Director/Producer Rachel Cook after reading a Nicholas Kristof op-ed in The New York Times about how empowering women with tools like microfinance can bring about positive, sustainable change (Savings the World’s Women). The project has been undertaken with the best interests of women at heart, as the film seeks to show a balanced, comprehensive picture of microfinance through the lens of the personal stories of the women it impacts. The issue of transparency and its paramount importance to the industry is a key focus, as is showcasing best-practices and suggesting how microfinance can most effectively be used as one development tool in a larger box, both domestically and abroad. Interviews with experts within the field of microfinance and development thought-leaders will ground the narrative, including two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Kristof, CEO and Founder of Microfinance Transparency Initiative Chuck Waterfield, Kiva co-founder Matt Flannery, and experts at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Also included are interviews with political and economic thought-leaders in the locations in which we film. The filmmaking team includes a Director of Photography with more than 50 studio Hollywood films on his resume, including Terms of Endearment and Courage Under Fire, a Producer/Second Camera with 16 studio Hollywood films on her CV, an Editor who has cut several films for Oscar-nominated documentarian Jon Alpert, and a composer who has produced for the Grammy-nominated Shiny Toy Guns. When premiering the film we’ll launch Seeds (Foursquare meets Kiva) a social game for mobile microlending as part of our social outreach initiative. Moviegoers will receive a free credit to make a loan through the game with the purchase of their tickets, and will be encouraged to download the game as they leave the theater. Seeds will connect lenders and borrowers through direct mobile money transfer. The initiative will launch in Nairobi, Kenya with later domestic lending opportunities in cities like Canton, Ohio, the Director’s hometown. Game design and marketing research are being completed in conjunction with Duke University and the iHub, a shared startup space in downtown Nairobi. Collaborators include award-winning game designer Brad Wiggins.