Study Guides

Study Guides banner

Study Guides

Prior to Education Screenings, study guides are provided to give students background to the cultural context of the films, highlight themes and historical references and introduce questions that encourage personal examination of the films’ subject matter. Each screening is followed by a Q&A with filmmakers, subjects and/or film professionals and professors.

Study guides from past Education Screenings are available to educators to use any time in the classroom. For additional questions or lesson ideas, as well as where to find past films, please contact info@chicagofilmfestival.com.

These programs are made possible by the support of generous sponsors and patrons. Learn how you can support our education program here.

Donate

All Study Guides

Filter Guide List

5 Girls

Maria Finitzo  |  United States
Documentary  |   English
Women, Youth

Over the course of 2 years, 5 Girls follows 5 strong young women between the ages of 13 and 17, exploring the ways these girls discover the resources necessary to successfully navigate the rocky waters of adolescence.

8, 9, 10, 11, 12

‘63 Boycott

Gordon Quinn  |  United States  |  2017
Documentary  |   English
Biography, Family

In 1963, 250,000 students boycotted the Chicago Public Schools to protest racial segregation. ’63 Boycott connects the forgotten story of one of the largest Northern civil rights demonstrations to contemporary issues around race, education, and youth activism.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Kartemquin Films

93 Queen

Paula Eiselt  |  United States  |  2018
Documentary  |   English
Women, Youth

Set in the Hasidic enclave of Borough Park, Brooklyn, 93QUEEN follows a group of tenacious Hasidic women who create the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in New York City. With unprecedented — and insider — access, the film offers up a unique portrayal of empowered women who fight to change their own community from within.

7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

YouTube, Google Play

Adama

Simon Rouby  |  France  |  2015
Animation  |   English
Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Youth

In this vibrantly animated odyssey, a young boy ventures outside the forbidden cliff walls of his secluded West African village in 1916 in search of his older brother.

6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

The Agronomist

Jonathan Demme  |  United States  |  2003
Documentary  |   English/French
Tolerance, Youth

Through historical footage and intimate interviews, The Agronomist examines the life of Jean Dominique, the human rights activist and radio host whose voice inspired the spirit of revolution against Haiti’s dictatorial regime.

9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth

Pratibha Parmar  |  United Kingdom  |  2013
Documentary  |   English
Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Youth

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth tells the extraordinary story of one of America’s greatest living writers, from her childhood in a family of Georgia sharecroppers to a distinguished career as an activist and author.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

All Power to the People

Lee Lew-Lee  |  United States  |  1996
Documentary  |   English
Family, LGBTQ+, Youth

All Power to the People chronicles the history of the Black Panther Party, examining issues of racial injustice, class conflict, and political dissent.

9, 10, 11, 12

YouTube”

Amandla

Lee Hirsch  |  South Africa  |  2002
Documentary  |   English
LGBTQ+, Youth

In this moving testimony to the power of song, Amandala documents the vital role South African freedom songs played in the nearly half-century struggle against apartheid.

9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

a href=”https://www.vudu.com/content/movies/details/Amandla-A-Revolution-in-Four-Part-Harmony/7417″ target=”_blank”>Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes

Anne B. Real

Lisa France  |  United States  |  2003
Fiction  |   English
LGBTQ+, Youth

Anne B. Real centers on a young female rapper who finds inpiration in The Diary of Anne Frank in this moving coming of age tale.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Amazon DVD

The Athlete

Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew  |  Ethiopia  |  2009
Documentary  |   English
Religion, Social Justice, Youth

Seamlessly blending autobiography, biopic, drama, and documentary, The Athlete is a moving examination of Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila and his ceaseless journey for greatness.

9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

The Atom Smashers

Clayton Brown, Monica Long Ross  |  United States
Documentary  |   English
History, War/Conflict, Youth
Coming Soon

The Atom Smashers chronicles the search for the Higgs boson: a yet-undiscovered subatomic particle that could explain how matter, and therefore life, can exist.

9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Battleground

Stephen Marshall  |  United States  |  2004
Documentary  |   English
History, War/Conflict, Youth

In 2003, filmmaker and reporter Stephen Marshall travels to war-torn Iraq to investigate a spreading insurgency that is creating an increasingly unstable situation for U.S. military troops. Focusing on the story of an ex-Shiite guerrilla returning to his homeland for the first time in over a decade, Marshall uncovers a lost optimism for a truly liberated Iraq, and the roots of an ideological split that is as divisive for Americans as it for Iraqis at the center of the conflict.

9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Amazon DVD

Benji

Coodie and Chike  |  United States  |  2012
Documentary  |   English
Conflict, Family, Youth

Benji documents the November 1984 death and cultural impact of Ben Wilson, a 17-year-old from the South Side of Chicago who was regarded as the best basketball player in the country.

9, 10, 11, 12

Amazon

Blindsight

Lucy Walker  |  United States  |  2006
Documentary  |   English, German, Tibetan
Coming of Age, Family, Youth

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayas, Blindsight follows the gripping adventure of six Tibetan teenagers who set out to climb the 23,000 foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Amazon

Boys of Baraka

Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady  |  United States  |  2005
Documentary  |   English
Family, Youth

The Boys of Baraka follows a group of middle school students as they journey from Baltimore to Kenya in pursuit of a better education.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Vimeo, Amazon DVD

Brooklyn Castle

Katie Dellamaggiore  |  United States  |  2012
Documentary  |   English
Coming of Age, Mental Health, Youth

Brooklyn Castle follows five chess team members at a New York school, showing how chess helps transforms the school into one of the city’s best, but recession-driven budget cuts threaten to undermine the school’s championship chess team.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Brown Sugar

Rick Famuyiwa  |  United States  |  2002
Fiction  |   English
Coming of Age, Youth

Following the evolving relationship of a revered music critic and a successful, though unfulfilled, music executive in New York, Brown Sugar uses a love story to parallel the history of hip-hop music.

10, 11, 12

Bully

Lee Hirsch  |  United States  |  2001
Documentary  |   English
Coming of Age, Youth

Following five students and their families over the course of a school year, Bully offers an intimate and unflinching look into the often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Central Station

Walter Salles  |  United States  |  1999
Fiction  |   Portuguese
Art/Dance, Youth

An emotive journey of a former school teacher, who writes letters for illiterate people, and a young boy, whose mother has just died, as they search for the father he never knew.

11, 12
View trailer

Amazon DVD

Chasing Fireflies

Roberto Flores Prieto  |  United States  |  2012
Fiction  |   Spanish
Youth

Manrique enjoys a solitary life guarding an abandoned salt mine until a firefly chasing dog and the teenaged daughter he ignored for years arrive to help him recover the joy of life.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

The Chorus

Christophe Barratier  |  United States  |  2004
Fiction  |   French
Religion, Social Justice, Women

The Chorus follows the journey of a newly-hired teacher at a school for troubled boys, as he reaches out to his new students through music, attempting to gain their trust and friendship, and show them their potential. T

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Circo

Aaron Schock  |  United States  |  2010
Documentary  |   Spanish
Social Justice, Women

Circo follows the Ponce family’s hardscrabble circus as it struggles to stay together despite mounting debt, dwindling audiences, and a simmering family conflict.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Tubi, Amazon, Vudu, iTunes

Circus Kids

Alexandra Lipsitz  |  United States  |  2010
Documentary  |   English
History, Race, Social Justice, Women

What happens when a youth circus troupe has the opportunity to travel from St. Louis to Israel to collaborate with the Galilee Circus, a local troupe comprised of Jewish and Arabic children? Circus Kids is a powerful, interfaith film that follows the kids’ experiences and witnesses the understanding that grows between youths who have little in common but their love of the circus.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Amazon

The Class

Laurent Cantet  |  United States
Fiction  |   French
History/Conflict, Women

The Class follows the year in the life of a French schoolteacher working at a high school in a tough neighborhood of Paris. Cultures and attitudes often clash in the classroom, and his classroom ethics are put to the test when his students begin to challenge his methods.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

The Closer We Get

Karen Guthrie  |  Ethiopia, United Kingdom  |  2015
Documentary  |   English
Coming of Age, Women

The Closer We Get is an autobiographical portrait of loyalty, broken dreams, and redemption told from the perspective of director Karen Guthrie in this affecting and resonating look at post-colonialism and the complicated bonds of
family.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Copyright Criminals

Benjamin Franzen  |  United States  |  2009
Documentary  |   English
Cross-Cultural Understanding, Tolerance, War/Conflict

Copyright Criminals examines the creative and commercial value of musical sampling related debates over artistic expression, copyright law, and money, tracing the rise of hip-hop in New York.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Tubi, Amazon, Vudu, iTunes

Cronos

Guillermo Del Torro  |  Mexico  |  1993
Fiction  |   English
History, War/Conflict

In 1536 during the the Inquisition, a mysterious device designed to provide its owner with eternal life resurfaces after four hundred years, leaving a trail of destruction in its path.

11, 12

Dark

D.A. Bullock  |  United States  |  2002
Fiction  |   English
Family, War/Conflict

Dark tells the story of one Dark Freeman, a young African American man who finds himself torn between his tough urban roots – living as a resident on the impoverished, crime-ridden south side of Chicago – and his day-to-day life, in the comparatively wealthy and privileged University of Chicago, where he is enrolled as a student. Walking between the two worlds, Freeman must find a way to succeed in both, with the help of lovers, family members, close friends and acquaintances.

9, 10, 11, 12

Vimeo

Day of the Crows

Jean-Christophe Dessaint  |  Belgium  |  2012
Animation  |   French
Tolerance

Raised like a wild child in the woods by his bitter and fearsome father, a boy finds himself discovering the world beyond the forest in this enchanting visualization of Jean-Francois Beauchemin’s novel.

6, 8
View trailer

Amazon DVD

Deaf Jam

July Lieff  |  United States  |  2011
Documentary  |   English/American sign language
Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Sports, Youth

Deaf Jam is the story of deaf teen Aneta Brodski’s bold journey into the spoken word slam scene. When Aneta, an Israeli immigrant living in the Queens, meets Tahani, a hearing Palestinian slam poet, the two women embark on a collaboration creating a new form of slam poetry that speaks to both the hearing and the Deaf.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Duck Season

Fernando Eimbcke  |  Mexico  |  2004
Fiction  |   Spanish
Inspiration, Race, Sports

A typical lazy Sunday gives way to an introspective look at what it means to grow up for two 14-year-old boys left alone for the afternoon in director Fernando Eimbcke’s gentle coming-of-age comedy.

11, 12

Edith+Eddie

Laura Checkoway  |  United States  |  2017
Documentary  |   English
Biography, History, Race, Ethnicity & Identity

Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Evolution of a Criminal

Darius Clark Monroe  |  United States  |  2014
Documentary  |   English
Politics & Current Events, Sports, Women

After 10 years, filmmaker Darius Monroe returns to his hometown to examine how his robbery of a bank affected his family, friends and other victims.

9, 10, 11, 12

Flex Is Kings

Michael Beach Nichols, Deidre Schoo  |  United States  |  2013
Documentary  |   English
Inspiration, Sports

Filmmakers Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols turn their cameras on a group of Brooklyn dancers and street performers whose talent may provide them with the means of transcending their meager beginnings in this inspirational, visually-striking documentary.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

For Akheem

Jeremy S. Levine, Landon Van Soest  |  United States  |  2017
Documentary  |   English
Biography, Coming of Age, Conflict

Daje Shelton, a 17-year-old girl from St. Louis, just wants to do the right thing. But growing up in a tough neighborhood, she can’t catch a break: she’s struggling in school; she’s distracted by boys; and she’s surrounded by a culture of violence and brutality. The fatal shooting of Michael Brown Jr. provides a powerful backdrop for this masterfully crafted portrait of working-class urban life.

9, 10, 11, 12

For Grace

Mark Helenowski and Kevin Pang  |  United States  |  2015
Documentary  |   English
Art/Music, Sport

After cooking his way through several of Chicago’s top restaurants, Chef Curtis Duffy is ready to open his new and ambitious restaurant, Grace. An in depth look at what it takes to create and manage one of the world’s greatest eateries, For Grace also tells the complex story of a man constantly pushing forward in a quest to overcome his traumatic past and create his own future.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Forbidden Games

Rene Clement  |  France  |  1952
Fiction  |   French
Social Justice, Women, Youth

A timeless evocation of childhood innocence corrupted, René Clément’s Forbidden Games tells the story of a young girl orphaned by war and the farm boy she joins in a fantastical world of macabre play. At once mythical and heartbreakingly real, this unique film features astonishing performances by its child stars and was honored with a special foreign language film Academy Award in 1952.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Amazon DVD

Girls On The Wall

Heather Ross  |  United States  |  2009
Documentary  |   English
Social Justice, Sports

In this affecting documentary, the girls of the Warrenville, Illinois prison are given a chance to tell their stories in a musical based on their lives. To do this, they must reach within themselves and reflect on the life choices they have made. With unprecedented access to the juvenile prison, director Heather Ross skillfully traces these young women’s attempts to reclaim their humanity and ultimately their freedom

9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Amazon

Go For It!

Carmen Marrón  |  United States  |  2011
Fiction  |   English
Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Social Justice

In this high-energy coming-of-age tale from local filmmakers, feisty Carmen spends her days working and her nights wowing club crowds with her dancing. But an opportunity to win admission to a prestigious dance school forces Carmen to choose between fulfilling her obligations to her family and urban community or moving on to a brighter but uncertain future

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Good Morning

Yasujiro Ozo  |  Japan  |  1959
Fiction  |   Japanese
History, Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Social Justice

A lighthearted take on director Yasujiro Ozu’s perennial theme of the challenges of inter­generational relationships, Good Morning tells the story of two young boys who stop speaking in protest after their parents refuse to buy a television set. Ozu weaves a wealth of subtle gags through a family portrait as rich as those of his dramatic films, mocking the foibles of the adult world through the eyes of his child protagonists.

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Grand Illusion

Jean Renoir  |  French  |  1938
Fiction  |   French
Family, Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Social Justice

One of the very first prison escape movies, Grand Illusion is hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. Jean Renoir’s antiwar masterpiece stars Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay as French soldiers held in a World War I German prison camp, and Erich von Stroheim as the unforgettable Captain von Rauffenstein.

9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Google Play, YouTube, Vudu

Grey Gardens

Albert and David Maysles  |  United States  |  1976
Documentary  |   English
Coming of Age, Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Social Justice

Grey Gardens is a hypnotic, tragic and affectionate classic, featuring 79-year-old Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie, the aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy. Sharing a decaying seaside mansion with countless cats and rodents, the disarmingly eccentric duo competes for attention, revealing a complex relationship, as well as some famously far-out fashion experiments.

9, 10, 11, 12

Harlem Aria

William Jenning  |  United States  |  1999
Fiction  |   English
Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Social Justice

An aspiring opera singer from Harlem teams up with a charismatic busker and a kindhearted hustler to share his voice with the world, and teaches his two newfound friends the importance of taking your destiny into your own hands.

11, 12

The Hate U Give

George Tillman Jr.  |  United States  |  2018
Fiction  |   English
Art/Music, Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Social Justice

The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr Carter, a young woman who is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

10, 11, 12
View trailer

Heat Wave

Kevin Hooks  |  United States  |  1990
Fiction  |   English
Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Social Justice

As the Watts riots erupted one steamy night in 1965, the Los Angeles Times sent its reporters to the scene – white men who, soon after they arrived, had to run for their lives. Then Bob Richardson, a young African American messenger for the paper, volunteered to cover the story alone. He braved fire, fury, bullets and death to report the courage and the cowardice, injustice and hate that engulfed the streets. His work helped earn the Times a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the uprising. Heat Wave tells the dynamic true story of America on the brink of racial meltdown and of citizens – black and white – who refused to allow violence to conquer hope.

11, 12
View trailer

Amazon, Vudu

The Homestretch

Kirsten Kelly, Anne de Mare  |  United States  |  2014
Documentary  |   English
Race, Ethnicity & Identity, Social Justice
Coming Soon

Three homeless teenagers brave Chicago winters, the pressures of high school, and life alone on the streets to build a brighter future. Against all odds, these kids defy stereotypes as they create new, surprising definitions of home. Can they recover from the traumas of abandonment and homelessness and build the future they dream of?

9, 10, 11, 12
View trailer

Hunting Season

Natalia Garagiola  |  Argentina  |  2017
Fiction  |   Spanish
Art/Music, Youth

Animosity gives way to love and forgiveness when an angry teenager reunites with his estranged biological father in the wilds of Patagonia.

10, 11, 12

Netflix