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CHICAGO (June 29, 2017): Four teens from Chicago’s South Side are using their creativity, and an opportunity created by a unique Chicago partnership, to flip the narrative on violence. At this year’s Windy City International Film Festival, these teens are shining the spotlight on the lives behind the headlines with their powerful documentary film Rise Up which depicts how violence has impacted their lives.
“I thought it would be a chance for me to tell a part of a story that changed my life,” said Tay'rece Wise, one of the Rise Up teenage filmmakers. “It was something I’ve never done before and it was a challenge.”
Thanks to a documentary film program sponsored by the Chicago Housing Authority and DePaul University’s School of Cinematic Arts, last summer 16 young women who are Chicago Housing Authority residents, spent their time creating documentary films about their lives and their communities on the South and West sides of Chicago. The teens worked with professional film equipment, learned from professional filmmakers and mentors, cut and edited their films at DePaul Studio space and visited Cinespace Studios (home to film series that include Empire, Chicago PD and Chicago Fire).
“We had no idea what they wanted to pitch,” said Liliane Calfee, the program director and an accomplished documentary filmmaker herself. “What did they want to talk about? They could have done it on makeup videos but they didn’t. They really went to the heart of what mattered to them as young people and what mattered to their communities.”
Rise Up was created by these teens in response to violent episodes that some of the city’s young people experience. The main subjects and filmmakers are teenage girls who have witnessed violence in their neighborhoods, backyards and even living rooms, but refuse to be
defined by it. Their goal through this process has been to help others feel the humanity of their intimate experience with violence.
Now completed, the teens have been submitting their documentaries to film festivals, and Rise Up has been selected to screen at the Windy City International Film Festival on opening night.
Franshay Lopez, another Rise Up team member said she thought this program would be interesting and something new for her. This was her first experience with filmmaking, and Lopez has hit the ground running. This summer she will participate in Flash Forward, a selective film program run by Free Spirit Media that will again allow her to spend the summer behind the camera.
The first cohort of filmmakers has been so successful that the DePaul/CHA Documentary Film Program for Girls will again run this summer with a new cohort of teen filmmakers. This year’s program
launched June 26 at DePaul’s downtown campus in the Loop and will run for five weeks.
Watch Rise Up here
Photo Caption: Rise Up Film Cover – featuring filmmakers Tay’rece Wise (top left), Franshay Lopez (top right), Shawntel Smitherman (bottom left) and Deja Flanagan (bottom right)