Past Event

Looking for Democracy Short Film Contest

Image courtesy Guillermo BertThe Public Square, the Independent Television Service, Independent Lens, Kartemquin Films, Independent Feature Project (IFP) Chicago, Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV), and the Columbia College Television Department present…

Looking for Democracy Short Film Contest

Now is your chance to show what democracy means to you in our Looking for Democracy Short Film Contest. Any genre is fair game: documentary, narrative, experimental, music video. We encourage filmmakers to unleash their radical imaginations and look for democracy in creative and unusual places. Can you find democracy where you might least expect it?

As the 2008 presidential election heads into its final months, democracy is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. But democracy is defined by more than just electoral politics. Where do you find democracy in your life? Can you find it in your school, church, union, community, or a professional or sports association?How do you see democracy functioning locally, nationally, and globally?

All videos cannot be more than five minutes and must be submitted by 5:00 PM on Monday, September 15, 2008.

Information on prizes, rules, and filmmaking resources is available below or by download.

For more information, please contact Maggie Berndt at The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council at 312.422.5585 x239 or or visit


  • Finalists: Up to 10 finalists will be offered free membership in IFP Chicago and acknowledged publicly. All entered films will also be eligible for inclusion in CAN TV’s “Looking for Democracy” special that will air in Fall 2008.
  • Winners: In addition to the above, up to 5 select winners will be posted to Independent Lens’ Vote Democracy website and the filmmaker (or filmmaking team) will receive one Flip camera. As part of The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council’s Civic Cinema series, winning films will be presented in a special program in the fall at Columbia College Chicago’s Film Row Cinema. Films will serve as a springboard for discussion about issues related to democracy this presidential election season and beyond.
  • Grand prize: One grand prize winner will receive the above prizes, as well as a private consultation with Gordon Quinn (award-winning filmmaker and president and founding member of Kartemquin Films) and have their film shown at the ITVS Community Screening of Chicago Ten on Saturday, September 27, 2008 at the Chicago Cultural Center.


  • This is a regional event, and all entrants must reside in Illinois. Producers of winning films (and all entrants) are encouraged to attend the Looking for Democracy Short Film Program in Fall 2008.
  • The films to be included in the screening & in web-based & mobile showcases will be selected by the festival programmers, and will be at the discretion of the IHC (Illinois Humanities Council). All decisions are final.
  • Appropriate entry formats:
  • Video entries must be under five minutes in length. There is no minimum length.
  • Video entries can be of any media genre: narrative, documentary, experimental, music video, etc.
  • Video entries must address in some way the idea of democracy in our society. This can relate to the election, voting rights, human rights, media issues, grass roots activism, or other places that producers choose to look for democracy.
  • All video entries must be RECEIVED by Monday, September 15, 2008.
  • Entry in this competition grants the IHC the non-exclusive right to use clips (up to the full length of the entry), photographs, and biographical data for publicity and promotional purposes for this event, and for potential display on the IHC website, IHC podcasts, and mobile feeds, as well as websites of the IHC’s partners, media sponsors, and web aggregators. Entrants also grant the IHC right to feature all works on the Independent Lens Vote Democracy web page.
  • Entrants warrant that this is their work and they have the legal right to enter work in the Festival.
  • All entries must include a short SYNOPSIS and brief BIO. If selected, entrants may be required to provide publicity stills and other materials for promotion.
  • Entries that do not meet all requirements will not be considered for judging.


Resources for Filmmakers

Independent Lens

Film Contest Partners

This event is part of The Public Square’s “Looking for Democracy in ’08 and Beyond” series, which is designed to launch a conversation about the kind of world we want to build together by creating forums for intelligent discussion of politics in America through art and dialogue. The “Looking for Democracy” series is supported in part by a grant from the Woods Fund of Chicago.

Image courtesy Guillermo Bert, from “Greed, Power and Democracy, A Dangerous Liaison (Triptych).” For more information on the artist, visit