Indie films find home at WILL-TV


Our first round of posts on C-U Blogfidential here in the New Year will talk about small-screen viewing choices worth tracking on your radar. To begin, the Urbana-based PBS outlet WILL-TV Channel 12 has begun airing an original branded showcase that will bring topical fare to our living rooms with stories rooted here in the Flyover Zone. REEL MIDWEST made its debut last week on Thursday, January 3, with INQUIRING NUNS (1968), one of the first pieces made under the Kartemquin Films banner and a clear-eyed look into the hopes of Chicagoans at a time of social upheaval thanks to its approachable hosts, Sister Mary Campion and Sister Marie Arné.

Directed by Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner for the seminal Chicago studio, INQUIRING NUNS launches a series of 10 episodes that will play weekly at 9 p.m. with the second, a short subject collection titled DIVERSE VOICES that is curated in league with Kartemquin, airing later tonight, Thursday, January 10. The show will conclude on Thursday, February 28, and apparently be made available to other PBS stations in the region as described in the press release and episode guide appearing after the jump. Tune in to see what you think, dearest readers!

We will also find out if REEL MIDWEST is simply a broadcast equivalent to the Art Theater’s “Illinois film” program from last spring, replete with the same rich content and an apparent blind eye towards the local lens, or if IPM staff can spin the program with fresh insight. To the latter point, IPM invites producers to drop them a line if they have candidates for inclusions in future seasons.

We close with a link to last week’s edition of “THE 21ST” program on sister station WILL-AM-FM that features an interview with Steve James, possibly the best-known filmmaker in the Kartemquin stable, who discusses the 10-part documentary series he directed and executive produced for the studio, AMERICA TO ME. Taped at the Oak Park and River Forest (IL) High School two years ago and aired last fall on the STARZ network, this program navigates the halls of a massive suburban microcosm in which students, instructors, and administrators are struggling with racial diversity, the modern education system, and growing up a 21st century American.

~ Jason Pankoke



From December 18, 2018:


Illinois Public Media launches Reel Midwest

(Urbana, Illinois) December 18, 2018: Illinois Public Media is proud to announce the launch of REEL MIDWEST, a new independent film series that aims to find the best in features, documentaries, and short films in Illinois and across the Midwest. REEL MIDWEST will showcase the region’s brightest talents through a selection of thought-provoking documentaries, powerful narrative dramas, and insightful short films.

“Many people seem to think the best documentaries come from New York or Los Angeles. But the Midwest is blessed to have an extraordinarily creative filmmaking community, and Illinois Public Media is extremely fortunate to work with and support them,” said Moss Bresnahan, president and CEO of Illinois Public Media.

REEL MIDWEST continues public media’s long-standing commitment to independent film and rivals other powerful and established film series, such as POV and INDEPENDENT LENS. However, REEL MIDWEST’s primary goal is to showcase the heartland of our country along with the history, struggles, art, and issues that bind us as a region.

“Independent filmmakers take creative risks, tackle complex issues, and express points of view rarely explored in the mass media. We take great pride in broadcasting such work to audiences in Illinois and beyond,” continued Bresnahan.

Kicking off season one of REEL MIDWEST is INQUIRING NUNS, which has experienced a recent revival with its first-ever theatrical release by Kartemquin Films, 50 years later. Since then, the 1968 film has received critical acclaim, including from Kathleen Reinmuth (formerly Sister Marie Arné) at the Chicago Sun-Times, Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribune, and “Critic’s Pick” from The New York Times.

REEL MIDWEST premieres Jan. 3, 2019, on WILL-TV with films airing every Thursday night at 9 p.m. through February 28. You can find the full schedule, along with film descriptions, below.

INQUIRING NUNS (air date: Jan. 3, 2019): Two young nuns explore Chicago—from a supermarket to the Art Institute to the front of churches on Sunday—to confront people with the crucial question, “Are you happy?” The answers they get range in sincerity and depth.

DIVERSE VOICES (air date: Jan. 10, 2019): This collection of short films, created in association with Kartemquin Films in Chicago, follows the life and times of a variety of everyday people, including a shoeshine technician, a magician, a skateboarder, a mom-and-pop hardware store owner, and more. Films include: SHINEMEN, THE AMAZING MR. ASH, and PARTS AND LABOR.

VIETNAM, LONG TIME COMING (air date: Jan. 17, 2019): Back in 1998, the World T.E.A.M. (The Exceptional Athlete Matters) took a 16-day, 1,100 mile bicycle expedition through once war-torn Northern and Southern Vietnam. For the veteran athletes, the ride is more of an exorcism than a race.

NOW WE LIVE ON CLIFTON (air date: Jan. 24, 2019): 10-year-old Pam Taylor and her 12-year-old brother Scott grew up in a multiracial Chicago neighborhood, but they worry that they’ll be forced out of the neighborhood by the gentrification following the expansion of DePaul University in 1974.

WINNIE WRIGHT – AGE 11 (air date: Jan. 24, 2019): Winnie, the daughter of a steel worker and a teacher, lives in a Chicago neighborhood that is changing from white to black. As her family struggles with racism, inflation, and a threatened strike, she learns what it means to grow up white, working class, and female.

MY SISTER HALI (air date: Jan. 31, 2019): After 50 years of burying the past, Paul Sheriff returns to his childhood hometown of Blue Mound, Illinois, to reconstruct the pieces of his extraordinary childhood filled with Olympic dreams and catastrophic loss.

THE GUN SHOP (air date: Feb. 7, 2019): Go behind the scenes at a gun shop in Michigan where customers come to get advice, handle the weapons, and practice at the on-site shooting range. Each has their own rationale for wanting to own a gun, some thoughtful, and some shocking. All are thought-provoking.

ON BEAUTY (air date: Feb. 14th, 2019, 2019): In hopes to change the way we see and experience beauty, fashion photographer Rick Guidotti refocuses his lens on those too often relegated to the shadows. His photos challenge our narrow scope of beauty and the dehumanizing black-bar convention of medical textbooks.

IN THE GAME (air date: Feb. 21, 2019): Follow a girls soccer team on Chicago’s south side as they face problems at home, uncertain futures, discrimination, and poverty. However, thanks to their team camaraderie and dedicated coach, they remain undaunted in their pursuits of higher education.

THE WAY TO ANDINA (air date: Feb. 28, 2019): This is a witty and surprisingly comical personal journey that begins with the discovery of a long-lost opera. Led by the composer’s great grandson, who knows nothing about opera, the show will be put on for a world premiere 80 years after it was written.

Season one of REEL MIDWEST is also airing on WTVP (Peoria, IL). It will be made available to public media stations across the Midwest in the spring of 2019. If you’re a Midwestern filmmaker and would like more information about our submission process or the series in general, email us at reelmidwest [at] Illinois [dot] edu.



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