Reel Midwest

 
 

Illinois Public Media is proud to launch Season Two of Reel Midwest, an independent film series that helps to find and broadcast the best feature, documentary, and short films from Illinois and across the Midwest.

If you're a Midwestern filmmaker and would like more information about our submission process or the series in general, you can use this form, or email us at reelmidwest@illinois.edu.

Season Two:

People looking at the sky

This Has Been To Space

This has Been To Space follows a group of kids and astrophysicists as they launch a high-altitude balloon outfitted with cameras, GPS, and a Geiger counter. The kids interview each other on flip phones as they add action figures, seeds, and a Twizzler to the “payload” and release the balloon. Two vans race cross-country, following with GPS until the balloon finally pops, and with cameras recording, plummets to earth, only to land in front of two surprised locals heading to a Burger King. Reunited with their supercharged souvenirs, the kids watch their space video: the curvature of the earth, the perilous descent — and everyone gets a bite of the Twizzler.

People looking at the sky

BT Lives in the Stitch

North Lawndale College Prep is a high school located on the south side of Chicago, in a neighborhood notable more for urban blight than quality education. Then, teacher Dorothea Tobin introduced the BT Lives in the Stitch program, creating a much needed after-school program as well as an avid knitting circle amongst an unlikely group of teens.

 

a man answers a call from a prisoner

Stateville Calling

Bill Ryan, 84-years-old and with a southern drawl from his Kentucky upbringing, has spent the last several decades befriending and advocating on behalf of a group of men and women incarcerated for life, helping to abolish the death penalty in Illinois, publishing a newspaper written by prisoners, and ceaselessly negotiating with victim's advocates, legislators and lobbyists from both sides of the aisle.

 

Rita Crundwell at a horse race track

All the Queen's Horses

As city comptroller of Dixon, IL, Rita Crundwell stole $53 million of public funds across 20 years––making her the perpetrator of the largest case of municipal fraud in American history. She used the funds to build one of the nation's leading quarter horse breeding empires, all while forcing staff cuts, police budget slashing, and neglect of public infrastructure. ALL THE QUEEN'S HORSES investigates her crime, her lavish lifestyle and the small town she left in her wake.

 


Season One was aired in January 2019 on WILL-TV - here are the films:

a nun wearing her habit

Inquiring Nuns

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.

 
a man walking into a True Value hardware store

Diverse Voices

This collection of short films follow 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.

 
men riding bicycles past young Vietnamese children

Vietnam, Long Time Coming

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.

 
two children on rollerskates

Now We Live on Clifton

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.

 
Winnie Wright holding a magazine

Winnie Wright – Age 11

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.

 
a young girl exercising on a balance beam

My Sister Hali

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.

 
a woman looking toward the camera

The Gun Shop

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.

 
a woman with a birthmark on her face

On Beauty

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.

 
a male coach and a number of young girls in a sports huddle

In the Game

This Kartemquin documentary film, directed by Peabody award-winner Maria Finitzo, follows the ups and downs of a girls’ soccer team on Chicago’s South side, and reveals the very real obstacles that low-income students face in their quest for higher education.

 
woman and young man looking at sheet music while seated at a table

The Way to Andina

A witty personal documentary about the discovery of a long lost opera written by a pioneering Colombian-American immigrant composer, and his great-grandson’s comical attempt to put the show on for a world premiere 80 years after it was written.

 

If you're a Midwestern filmmaker and would like more information about our submission process or the series in general, you can use this form, or email us at reelmidwest@illinois.edu.