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Facets Give Voice to Community Struggles With International Film Exchange

The nonprofit is using a MacArthur grant to bring a Brazilian filmmaker to Chicago and send Chicago filmmakers to Brazil.

Facets Give Voice to Community Struggles With International Film Exchange

By Eva Voinigescu

Lincoln Park’s Facets Multimedia, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “preserve, present, distribute, and educate about film,” is using a $40,000 MacArthur Fund grant to bring awareness to communities that Facets has designated as “under pressure” in Chicago and Brazil.

The organization will partner Chicago documentarians with indigenous Brazilian filmmaker Tuwe Huni Kui. This exchange will have the filmmakers travel to each other’s countries to produce films about communities that are struggling to have their voices heard.

“A number of indigenous people have been using film or video in an attempt to demonstrate struggle and make it visible in a fight for their rights,” said Milos Stehlik, director of Facets Multimedia. The nonprofit received the grant last month.

Facets will use the MacArthur International Connections grant to bring Kui, a member of the isolated Kaxinawa people of northwest Brazil, to Chicago for screenings and panel discussions with Chicago filmmakers, anthropologists and sociologists. 

“He will be coming to Chicago with his own work,” Stehlik said, “and we are additionally curating the work of other indigenous filmmakers of Brazil.”

Kui’s work brings attention to how the Kaxinawa way of life is threatened by illegal logging and drug cartels.

Once here Kui will work with three not yet chosen Chicago filmmakers to produce films about Chicago communities that are undergoing struggles of their own. The communities and issues featured will depend on the interests of the chosen filmmakers. Afterwards, the filmmakers will travel to Brazil to repeat the process with communities there.

One example Stehlik used to demonstrate the types of communities that the filmmakers might pursue in Chicago is Englewood, where residents are affected by the potential Norfolk Southern Railroad yard expansion.

Facets is working on the first segment of the exchange, in hopes of bringing Kui to Chicago in April. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014. The timing for the Brazilian leg of the trip will depend on preparations for the World Cup there.

Stehlik said the idea for the exchange “originated from thinking about the MacArthur Foundation’s focus on democracy,” and considering how filmmakers are using film to establish their own democratic rights.

The MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund grant was initiated in 2008, for the foundation’s 30th anniversary. The fund helps further the work of Chicago’s non-profit organizations by allowing them to develop long-term partnerships with like-minded peers abroad.

“One of the major purposes of these grants is for artistic organizations to do something they wouldn’t typically do in order to stretch themselves artistically,” said Cate Fox, a program director at the MacArthur Foundation.

The Foundation measures the success of the fund based on whether a true dual exchange is achieved between countries. “We don’t have a set metric,” Fox said. “We’re interested in what the artistic product is … and what the benefit (is) to the city.”

This year the MacArthur International Connections Fund provided a total of $559,000 to 18 organizations out of a pool of 43 applicants. According to Fox approximately 43 countries have participated in the exchange over the past five years, some on multiple occasions. This is the third time Facets has received the grant.

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