Films by Chicago crew members at MoFest, April 16-17

Mofest founder Mo Wagdy

THIRTY FILMS BY CHICAGO CREW MEMBERS are featured on Industry Night, April 16, in the 6th annual MoFest festival and party, and features, The Beekeeper, by filmmaker Sean Jordan and Chicago Overcoat by Beverly Ridge Productions will screen Sunday, April 17. 

“The shorts are mainly 90-second to 15-minute comedies, dramas, experimental films,” says MoFest founder Mo Wagdy, a producer for Mini Gorilla.  The MoFest board, which runs the festival, consists of Wagdy, Brian Babarik, a food and beverage coordinator, both Local 476 members, and DGA member and assistant director John Adams.

“We foster growth among emerging talent at the crew and student level by providing the organization and resources to link up with filmmakers,” says Wagdy.  “Our eventual goal is building a solid creative base in our great city that rivals those on both coasts.”

Sponsors this year are Fletcher, Honest Foods, Traveling Fare, CRC and Parameter, Radar Studios, Odd Machine, Local 476, Essanay, RSL, A to B, Half Acre, Filmworkers and Astro Labs.

A $25 weekend pass includes food and drink; $12 for April 17 screenings only.  

A GRANT from the Native American Public Telecommunications went to the three producers of their in-progress documentary, Crying Earth Rise Up –- one of seven films sharing a total of $460,000 in funds.

Debra White Plume

Suree Towfighnia, Beth Sternheimer and Debra White Plume’s film is about the movement of Lakota Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota against uranium mining, which, they say, threatens to contaminate the High Plains/Ogallala Aquifer, the largest underground freshwater source in North America.

Towfighnia’s documentary, Standing Silent Nation, was also supported by NAPT and was broadcast nationally on PBS’s POV in 2007.  That film was about White Plume’s husband Alex White Plume’s protracted battle with the DEA, in which he invoked tribal sovereignty for the right to grow low-THC industrial hemp as an environmentally sustainable cash crop on the impoverished reservation. 

Sternheimer is a producer for the Kindling Group, where she was co-producer of Danny Alpert’s recent four-part PBS miniseries The Calling, about religious students from diverse faiths.

is producing and directing the in-progress documentary Home Again, alook as the difficult adjustment faced by teenage children of missionaries when they return to the U.S. after long periods abroad.

Home Again is an intimate documentary that poses questions about citizenship, faith, politics, and identity,” Englander writes on the film’s Kickstarter page.  “Home Again will vividly portray the risks and rewards of living between and among cultures in today’s ‘global age.’” 

Scene from "I Used to Love Her"SELF-PROCLAIMED “King of Self-Distribution” Mark Harris’ 2008 romantic comedy,  about the relationship between a Muslim man and a Christian woman, I Used to Love Her, sold 13,000 units in its first five days of release on Amazon VOD, placing it in on Amazon’s black comedy and romantic comedy best sellers lists.

Mel Roberson and Toya Turner star with Tiffany J. Curtis, Lil Rel, Simeon Henderson, Jaci Williamson, Ruby Gonzalez, Dori King, Damon Williams and BLT.

Harris is also producing Christopher Nolen’s The Good Life and Ricardo Islas’s Frankenstein: Day of the Beast

MUSIC BOX FILMS has acquired Djo Tunda Wa Munga’s drama Viva Riva!, the first feature in decades to be shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Viva Riva! swept the African academy awards last week.

Patsha Bay stars as a hustler who gets in over his head, stealing a shipment of gasoline from an Angola crime boss and falling for the girlfriend of a Kinshasa gangster. Music Box will open the film in theaters in New York and L.A. on June 10, followed by a national platform release.