image002 The 2013 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 at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 East Washington,Thursday, March 7 through Sunday, March 10. All screenings are free and open to the public. Individual screening dates and times will be announced soon.

The riveting and inspiring opening night film A Whisper to a Roar, which chronicles democracy activists around the world, premieres in Chicago after its January 29 showing at the U.S. State Department (where it was live-streamed for U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world). Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The stories in A Whisper to a Roar demonstrate that democracy is a product of tremendous sacrifice and that we all share in the responsibility to secure its promise for future generations.”

Other 2013 POEFF highlights include: the world premiere of the powerful and timely immigration documentary The Second Cooler narrated by Martin Sheen; the U.S. premiere of Mexico’s Altman-esque pastiche 180 Degrees; and the world premieres of the metaphysical student short films Historias and Chicago-based Dream Chasers created by Free Spirit Media youth.  Friday, March 8, will be Latino Night, featuring films, filmmakers and issues about people in Mexico, Central and South America.

Started in 2008, POEFF has been an annual event shining a light on filmmakers’ challenging perspectives regarding issues such as human rights, neighborhood violence, food deserts, 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:


A Whisper to a Roar (Ben Moses, Australia/USA, 95 min.) Midwest Premiere
Courageous democracy activists in five countries (Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe) risk it all to bring freedom to their people. They come from a variety of cultures and live on different continents, yet they all take enormous risks to pursue political freedom for their people and aspire for accountable government. In each country, the regimes and rulers that oppress their people use remarkably similar techniques, and the activists’ most successful techniques are also remarkably alike, regardless of their circumstances. Shot over three years and finalized in July 2012 by award-winning filmmaker Ben Moses (Good Morning, Vietnam), the film was inspired by the work of Stanford University’s Larry Diamond, author of The Spirit of Democracy and Director of Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. A Whisper to a Roar recently screened at the U.S. State Department. Writer-director-producer Ben Moses will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.

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Dancing Salmon Home (William Doolittle, USA/New Zealand, 67 min.) Midwest Premiere
Dancing Salmon Home is a journey of loss and reunification, across generations and oceans, as the Winnemem Wintu tribe of Northern California journeys to New Zealand to meet their long-lost Chinook salmon relatives, which have been missing from their river for 65 years. Along the way, the 28 tribal members hold four days of ceremony beside New Zealand’s Rakaia River, forging enduring bonds with the Maori people of the region, and sharing a message of respect for the natural world, and launching plans to bring their salmon home.


PAD YATRA: A Green Odyssey (Wendy J. N. Lee, India/Nepal/USA, 70 min.) Midwest Premiere
In this harrowing adventure documentary, 700 people trek across the perilous Himalayan mountain range with a call to save the planet’s “3rd Pole,” a glacial region now devastated by the climate chaos associated with global warming.  Along the way, they educate villages on environmental responsibility, carrying out half a ton of plastic litter on their backs through blizzards, torrents and crumbling terrain – a feat that triggered an historic green revolution across the rooftop of the world. Actress Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) executive produces.


Raising Resistance (Bettina Borgfeld and David Bernet, Germany/Switzerland, 85 min.) Midwest Premiere
Raising Resistance is a film about the resistance against the more and more aggressively expanding production of genetic soy in South America. Eighty percent of the soy production is used as animal food in order to satisfy the excessive meat consumption in the rich countries. For the small farmers in Paraguay this means: displacement from their land; loss of basic food supply; and the fight for survival. Over the past few years, there has been a growing resistance among the oppressed rural population that threatens to escalate.



The Second Cooler (Ellin Jimmerson, USA, 87 min.) World Premiere
The Second Cooler asks, “Who benefits from illegal immigration?” while bringing major systemic issues into focus. Those issues include US complicity in creating Latin America’s extreme inequality, the officially anticipated, devastating impact of NAFTA on millions of Mexican peasants, the militarization of the US/Mexico border in anticipation of those displacements, the US’s socially encoded dual legal entry system which discriminates against poor and indigenous people, the legal exception of the guest worker program which is a system of indentured servitude, and the deaths of thousands of illegally crossing migrants along our southwestern border. The film features rare interviews with illegal immigrants, including children, and guest workers in ongoing lawsuits, with original art, music and score. Fully subtitled. Martin Sheen narrates.http://thesecondcooler.com/

Uprising (Fredrik Stanton, Egypt/USA, 85 min.) Midwest Premiere

An authoritative, behind-the-scenes view of one of the most dramatic events of our generation.  Uprising tells the inside story of the 2011 Egyptian revolution from the perspective of its principal leaders and organizers, including four Nobel Peace Prize nominees. Their success in harnessing social media to force the downfall of a brutal dictatorship has changed the face of the Middle East and provided hope for millions of oppressed people across the world. Above all, it is a story of profound hope, of courage rewarded, of a people who beat back a police state and threw off the shackles of decades of degradation and oppression. Produced by an Academy Award-winning team including the executive producer of Taxi to the Dark Side and the editor of Inside Job.



180 Grados (Fernando Kalife, Mexico, 105 min.) U.S. Premiere

After targeting the wrong mark, the life of conman Salvador Diaz now lies in the hands – or rather the bum knee – of Gasparotto, an injured soccer star whose success in the game becomes the most important factor for not only “bringing in the big bucks,” but for reclaiming his life. Getting people to believe in Gasparotto is Salvador’s greatest act of con artistry yet. Writer-director Fernando Kalife’s Altman-esque tapestry of interwoven stories is about changes, from the ones that never took place, to those that might still happen. It’s about dreams abandoned, words never said, streets never crossed and the yearning for true love.


Not Today (Jon Van Dyke, India/USA, 105 min.) Midwest Premiere

Roaming from California to India, Not Today weaves a moving, inspiring story of a young man’s (Hollywood Heights’ Cody Longo) journey from spoiled Orange County “adult-olescent” to a true believer in the fight against human trafficking, risking his life to help the helpless. Not Today is a powerful reminder that change is possible if we’re willing to open our eyes … today. With Walid Amini, Shari Rigby and John Schneider (The Dukes of Hazzard).


The Other Side of the Mountain (Hak Jang, North Korea, 106 min.) Mainland U.S. Premiere

A North Korean nurse and a South Korean soldier fall in love during a tumultuous time of the Korean War, and experience lifetimes of consequences, separation and pain, with the hope of reuniting one day.


778 Bullets (Angela Aguayo, USA, 18 min.) Chicago Premiere
In November 1970, university, state and local police shot 778 bullets into an off campus rental house in Carbondale, IL. The residence was rented to a handful of university students, some assumed to be associated with the local Black Panther Party. Unlike other police raids of known Black Panther residences across the country, the Carbondale Panthers shot back. Using archival material, newspaper accounts, witness testimony and experts in the field, 778 Bullets recovers a little-known history of resistance and resilience of the human struggle for self-determination. The dominant memory of the Black Panther Party would have us believe that the Panthers existed only in major urban cities; this story documents a more rural presence of radical politics and the struggle for civil rights.

Amazon Gold  (Reuben Aaronson, USA, 53 min.) Chicago Premiere

Narrated by Academy Award winners Sissy Spacek and Herbie Hancock, Amazon Gold is the disturbing account of a clandestine journey into the Amazon rainforest. Ron Haviv and Donovan Webster, two war journalists led by a Peruvian biologist, uncover the savage unraveling of pristine rainforest. They bear witness to the apocalyptic destruction in the pursuit of illegally mined gold with consequences on a global scale. An animated Agouti springs to life to tell the story of his ecosystem. Left in the wake of surreal images of once extraordinary beauty turned into hellish wasteland, Amazon Gold reaffirms the right of the rainforest to exist as a repository of priceless biodiversity.


Child 31 (Charles Kinnane, United Kingdom, 31 min.) Midwest Premiere

In a time of unprecedented technological achievements and luxuries, close to one billion people still go to sleep hungry; but there’s an organization attempting to change that. This powerful new documentary captures the life-changing work of Mary’s Meals in action throughout Malawi, Kenya and India and its mission to help millions of children around the world realize their dreams. Grassroots Films follows Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow – recognized as one of CNN’s Heroes in 2010 – to give a glimpse into his simple, yet groundbreaking, approach that is working to lift the developing world out of poverty and give a face to hunger’s deadly numbers.


Right There: A Short Film about Tolerance (Florence Buchanan, USA, 17 min.) Midwest Premiere

Shot on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at a public elementary school three blocks north of the World Trade Center, Right There is a glimpse of some New York City teenagers who are thoughtful, tolerant, hopeful and wise. Some of the little children who were at PS 234 in 2001 return to their south-facing classroom. This is their film.


Ru (Water is Life) (Shawn Small, USA, 19 min.)
Ru asks the question, “How can one little girl’s life be changed if she is given easy access to clean water?” For most of us, fresh water is a tap away. For others, it’s an arduous daily journey. For every human, water is life.  This film, set in South Sudan, shows a day in the life of a remarkable 12 year old girl, Jina Teji. Her world revolves around walking a mile to the nearest well and back to fill a jerry can of water three times a day, to sustain her family, for whom she is the primary caretaker. Brilliant, beautiful and gushing with joy, Jina warms our hearts while illustrating the tremendous need for clean water sources in countless villages around the world. An encore Chicago presentation in celebration of the 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation.


The Suffering Grasses: When Elephants Fight, It is the Grass That Suffers (Iara Lee, USA, 52 min.) Chicago Premiere

With thousands dead and counting, the ongoing conflict in Syria has become a microcosm for the complicated politics of the region, and an unsavory reflection of the world at large. Against the backdrop of the Arab Spring and the complicated politics of the region,The Suffering Grasses explores the Syrian conflict through the humanity of the civilians who have been killed, abused and displaced. In all such conflicts, it is civilians, women and children, families and whole communities, who suffer at the leisure of those in power. When elephants go to war, it is the grass that suffers.

TRUST Alaska  (Kelly Matheson, USA, 8 min.) Midwest Premiere

The 10-part short film series Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery is about the perfect trifecta of youth, law and justice. These short documentaries feature daring youth from across the country going to court to compel the government to protect our atmosphere, in trust, for future generations. In part three –TRUST Alaska – meet youth plaintiff Nelson Kanuk, a 17-year old whose story focuses on the problems endured by people living in the Arctic because winter is coming late: from increased erosion due to permafrost melt and increased flooding due to the warmer temperatures, to intensified storms because the sea ice forms later in the season. All this affects our northern communities losing their homes, culture and way of life.



La Decima Onda (Francesco Colangelo, Italy, 15 min.) U.S. Premiere

In La Decima Onda (The Tenth Wave) three tough and seasoned Apulian fishermen make the painful decision of what to do with the washed-ashore body of a migrant worker. How did he come here, who might be responsible for his demise? Because of past lawlessness, the fishermen avoid the authorities, yet the sacredness of this task and deep-seated superstitions of respect for the dead taunt morality.

Liberty Road (Jason Fraley, USA, 17 min.) Midwest Premiere
Set in a Maryland crab shack where newspaper tablecloths record the climate of the Great Recession, Liberty Road follows a lowly bartender who loses his job and his “underwater” home the same day. Pushed to the brink, he pulls a gun from under the bar and takes aim at his boss. That’s when a chain of good deeds, unwittingly begun by the gunman himself, brings the film to an epiphanic conclusion. Juggling fate and free will, the film explores whether enough random acts of kindness can overcome even the worst random act of violence, and whether these acts are ever truly random at all. Here, the restaurant becomes a microcosm of America, packing all of the combustible elements of our society into one location and watching as the “melting pot” boils over.


The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill (Rob Pondillo, USA, 23 min.) World Premiere
Millie, a selfless, young girl who pines for a true love companion, lives a beautiful, simple life in a little house at the top of Honey Bee Hill nestled next to the Little Stone Church that Millie attends with Reverend Filch and a faithful, colorful congregation. Through a magical turn of events, Millie finds her true love, yet there is one little problem. Follow Millie through the topsy-turvy adventure of her life through this story full of life, love and the beauty of acceptance starring a cast of child actors.


Parallax (Paul DeNigris, USA, 22 min.) World Premiere
Daniels, a U.S. Army infantryman with a hatred for all Arabs, is injured in a convoy ambush and rescued by Iraqi civilian Hassan and his son Jabir. As the three of them hide from the insurgents, Daniels learns that his prejudices and his hatred have been misplaced and comes to respect Hassan and Jabir as human beings. Making a sacrifice himself in order to save his new friends from the insurgents, Daniels emerges from the experience with his perspective shifted and his heart utterly changed.


Parrot  (Craig Foster, Australia, 24 min.) Midwest Premiere
In the wake of his brother’s untimely death, a young atheist scrambles for emotional support as the relationship with his deeply religious parents crumbles.



The Catalyst (Rachel Pontbriand, USA, 8 min.) World Premiere
Rue’s world is in crisis: it is literally going dark. When Rue discovers her own mysterious ability to restore its light she seeks the help of Tym Woodward, once a renowned scientist, now an embittered black marketeer. However, she soon realizes it may be too late to revive Tym’s hope in the future.

Children of Kabul  (Jawad Wahabzada and Jon Bougher, Afghanistan, 25 min.) World Premiere

Children of Kabul provides rare access to the war-torn streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, documenting the unfolding tragedy of child labor. Taking you into the lives of four young Afghan children – Omid, Sanabar, Yasamin and Fayaz – this short documentary provides first-hand accounts of a generation washing cars, picking garbage, selling food and hammering metal to earn money for their families. Devastated by war and economic difficulties, these children are the breadwinners of their families, creating an uncertain future for a country on the front lines of American foreign policy.

Dream Chasers (Free Spirit Media, USA, 8 min.) World Premiere
A Chicago-based documentary created by Free Spirit Media youth working with Washington, DC’s Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, Dream Chasers explores the struggles of an unauthorized immigrant teenager and what the DREAM Act would mean for her and other teens like her.


Graceland Girls (Jordan Salvatoriello, USA, 28 min.)

Educating its adolescent girls has proven to be the cornerstone of Kenyan development, yet so many are denied equal access to education, social and economic equality, and respect. Graceland Girls provides an intimate look at how the high school students at Graceland Girls School in central Kenya have, so far, defied the odds. Using a combination of video and digital photographs – taken by both the subjects and the filmmaker – the girls express the beauty and pressures of empowered Kenyan girlhood and share their personal struggles to find hope for a better future. A documentary about the power of girl education and empowerment on students.


Historias (Gloriana Fonseca-Malavasi, USA, 20 min.) World Premiere

Legend becomes reality in this story about a teenager who tries to reject his identity. Manuel is tired of his grandmother’s fanciful stories from the old country and of being the only poor kid at an upper-class school. He wishes he were more like his classmates until, one night, he hears the cry of the Weeping Woman.

House Devil, Street Angel (Fivel Rothberg, USA, 30 min.) World Premiere

Inspired by the feminist tenet “the personal is political,” Fivel Rothberg’s autobiographical documentary looks at the filmmaker’s relationships with his son and father in order to address the root causes of abusive relationships and mental illness in his life and open up possibilities for change. At first, Rothberg tries to pin the blame for his behavior and depression on a cycle of abuse, but he comes to realize through the making of the film that reality is far more complicated. An intensely personal experience, House Devil, Street Angel asks viewers to question notions of abuse, fatherhood and masculinity as multiple generations of fathers and sons pursue their own directions.


The Skin That Burns (Nargas Bajoghi, Iran/USA, 21 min.) World Premiere
The Skin That Burns tells the story of Iran’s volunteer soldiers who were exposed to chemical bombs during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). The documentary follows veteran Ahmad Salimi, who is now legally blind and has scars throughout his body from exposure to chemical weapons. From the daily regimen of pills that Ahmad has to take to the inhalers that allow him to breathe, Ahmad’s story reveals the deadly affects of chemical bombs, a rarely talked about consequence of modern warfare. Following Ahmad’s story as he struggles to stay alive and fights for peace, The Skin That Burns explores issues of chemical warfare, how families struggle with disability and illness, and chronicles one man’s determination to live, despite it all.


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