Groundbreaking film program builds inmates skills

The International Children’s Media Center (ICMC), has been invited back into Cook County Jail to present the groundbreaking program, WorldScene.

Once a week, detainees enrolled in the Sheriff’s Anti-Violence Effort (S.A.V.E) will view and discuss award-winning multi-cultural short films from around the globe.

Created by ICMC Executive Director Nicole Dreiske, WorldScene aims to help cultivate personal agency and self-determination among detainees while empowering individuals to engage critically with the media they consume. The 18-week film immersion program prompts thought-provoking peer-to-peer discussions of 40-50 short films, addressing topics such as non-violent conflict resolution, developing empathy and forming positive connections with friends, family, and members of the opposite gender.

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WorldScene culminates in the curation of an international film festival of top tier independent films, with decisions about the final film selection made solely by detainees. The detainees also get the unique opportunity to write, produce, and perform in their very own short film, which will premiere in the film festival.

This is the fourth collaboration between the ICMC and the Cook County Department of Corrections. The initial program launched in 2017-18, working with 48 young men in the Sheriff’s Anti-Violence Effort; 2018-19 saw a festival curated exclusively by high and mid-security female inmates, and a triumphant WorldScene Festival was curated by detainees in the Veterans Tier in 2019-2020.

“Not only did it offer the men exposure to different cultures and points of view through an expertly curated selection of world cinema, it also helped build job skills that will serve them well when they are released,” said Froilan Sanchez, DOC Program Manager for Mental Health Advocacy and Community Reentry Programs. “The guys loved it and looked forward to watching movies and working on this festival every week.”

Through viewing and discussing global cinema, participants are awakened to the connections between their lives and the lives of people around the world.

“The films seen in WorldScene helped me to understand issues of social justice as universal dilemmas,” said B. Jackson from the ICMC’s 2019 program.

Other participants are often moved to self-reflection, such as A. Stevenson, who commented, “It has broadened my horizons to a much higher level and helped me to become a human with care and compassion toward my fellow man.”

Another participant of WorldScene, K. Battinus, reflected on his participation after the program concluded, saying, “This is something really good. I can feel my mind changing, like there really are new parts of it opening up.”

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