Press Release


The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council and its partners challenge local filmmakers to find democracy in creative and unusual places.

CHICAGO – 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 politics. Where can democracy be found in everyday life? How can people participate in democracy locally, nationally, and globally?

Now is the chance for local filmmakers to show what democracy means to them in the "Looking for Democracy" Short Film Contest. Filmmakers are encouraged to unleash their radical imaginations and look for democracy in creative and unusual places.

Films should be submitted online through to The contest is free to enter, but all entrants must reside in Illinois. Films should be five minutes or less and must be submitted by Tuesday, September 2, 2008. Any genre is fair game: documentary, narrative, experimental, music video. For a complete listing of rules, visit, or contact Maggie Berndt at The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council at 312.422.5585 x239 or


  • 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 October 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 contest is co-sponsored by The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council, Independent Television Service (ITVS), Independent Lens, Kartemquin Films, Independent Feature Project (IFP) Chicago, Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV), and the Columbia College Television Department.


The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council fosters debate, dialogue, and exchange of ideas about cultural, social, and political issues with an emphasis on social justice. Programs promote participatory democracy by creating space for public conversations. This event is part of The Public Square at the IHC’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.

For more information about The Public Square at the IHC, please visit or call 312.422.5580.

The Illinois Humanities Council is a nonprofit educational organization [501 (c) 3] dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. Organized in 1973 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.

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