SANKOFA CHICAGO: THE UNTOLD, 102 minutes, USA
Directed by Vanessa Wright
Sankofa Chicago: The Untold is a powerful documentary that is the second part of a three-part series exposing the inadequacies of American History curriculums in Chicago Public Schools, a problem across the US. It highlights the overlooked contributions of Black and Brown people in American history. It explores methods of enhancing the current History and Social Science curriculum and alternative avenues for incorporating this vital history into other academic disciplines. The film stresses the significance of accurate representation and continuous learning, inspiring viewers to question conventional narratives and seek a more comprehensive understanding of American history.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
The motivation behind creating "Sankofa Chicago: The Untold" stems from a twofold source of inspiration. Firstly, the positive feedback received from the previous installment in the series, "Sankofa Chicago," encouraged the pursuit of this sequel, affirming its potential to resonate with and educate a broad audience. Secondly, I was motivated to create "Sankofa Chicago: The Untold" because my two kids are currently studying social science and history in the Chicago Public School system. I felt a strong need to investigate what they were learning and explore various ways in which they could be exposed to their history, mainly black history and the histories of other ethnic groups.
My motivation stems from a personal passion for uncovering untold histories. Throughout my life, I've been intrigued by the idea of delving into the hidden narratives of our past. Sharing these stories can enrich my children's education and contribute to a more inclusive and comprehensive learning experience for everyone. As a parent, I'm acutely aware that we don't always have complete insight into what our kids are learning, which further fueled my desire to provide a glimpse into their education, shed light on why it matters, and explore alternatives for teaching history to children from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
From the idea's inception to the completion of "Sankofa Chicago: The Untold," the journey took approximately one year. The concept had been brewing in my mind, particularly during the post-production phase of the first installment in the Sankofa Chicago series. I officially embarked on pre-production in the summer of 2022, and the actual production was a two-day shoot. The entire project was successfully wrapped up in the summer of 2023, reflecting a year of dedicated work. The support of grants from The Illinois Arts Council, The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the Columbia College Part-Time Faculty Development Fund significantly influenced the project's timeline. These grants imposed a tight schedule, necessitating efficient planning and execution to bring the film to fruition.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
In two words, I would describe "Sankofa Chicago: The Untold" as "Educational Awakening."
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The biggest obstacle we faced in completing this film was managing the abundance of footage we had accumulated throughout the production process. While much of the footage was exceptionally compelling, we met the challenge of condensing it into a concise one-hour presentation. Balancing the desire to showcase these powerful moments with maintaining a manageable runtime required careful editing and selection to ensure that the film remained impactful and accessible to our audience.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Watching the audience's feedback video for the film brought me overwhelming joy. It was a truly gratifying experience to witness the reactions and insights shared by those who had viewed the film. What particularly piqued my interest was the comments from the second and third individuals who offered their feedback. Their passion and enthusiasm for the film were evident, and what struck me most was their ability to provide specific details and examples from the film that resonated with them. Their thoughtful and articulate responses validated the hard work and dedication that went into creating the film and provided valuable feedback that will help shape future projects and engagements with our audience.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
As a child, I knew I wanted to do something in the entertainment industry. However, when I completed several internships during high school, and my undergraduate years at Ohio State, I truly began to understand my path. These experiences helped me identify what I didn't want to do within the entertainment field and, in turn, sparked my fascination with the behind-the-scenes aspects of film. This newfound interest led me to pursue a Master of Arts in Entertainment and Media Management, focusing on TV and Film Media. Still, it wasn't until after working as a talent agent for several years that I knew my passion was film.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
The film I've seen the most in my life would undoubtedly be "The Last Mogul," a documentary I've been screening in my class every semester since 2005.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
I'd appreciate any advice that could help with distribution.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
My experience has been very positive.
10. What is your favorite meal?
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I am currently in pre-production for a short documentary aimed at children inspired by Sankofa Chicago. This project is designed to be both kid-friendly and serve educational purposes.