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Abe Lincoln No Malice Awards Celebrate Young Filmmakers At Shakespeare Theater | Festivals & Awards

L-R Zaknafein Luken, Michael Proctor, Anna Lee Ackerman. Photo credit: Chuck Osgood.

When asked what motivated him to make “A Call to Fight Lies: Practical Steps to Fight Injustice,” his 2nd place winning film in the ages 19-21 category, Michael Proctor was refreshingly honest, admitting that it was the cash prize that first caught his attention. Yet it was through the process of making the film that he found himself learning so much. 

“My goal with this film is in three parts, said Proctor. “I hope that people are moved to vulnerability, empathy and then love. It was really uncomfortable, at first, for me to have these conversations with people, but I forced myself to do it because I really wanted to bring this film to fruition, and after I did it enough, it became easier and easier to have these hard conversations. It gave me more of a language to speak with because I talked with people who are already in it, and I hope that this film produces a space that causes other people to start talking about these issues. Hopefully they can be vulnerable in that and become comfortable in that. By sharing their biases—which we all have—hopefully from that comes empathy and an understanding of one another. With empathy, we can feel and know what each other are thinking. Maybe a lot of us who don’t suffer from these problems nearly as much can empathize with those who do. This is where compassion and love are bred, and wherever there is compassion and love, I believe there is healing.”

Audience shot of filmmakers and guests assembling before show begins. Photo credit: Chuck Osgood.

Finally, we screened the 1st place winners, who each earned a cash prize of $2,000. In the ages 11-14 category, Niko Pecori-Robinson won for his extraordinary stop-motion animated film, “Be the GOOD,” which portrays the bullying endured by a student until he is defended by his peers. “I’ve always wanted my films to be seen by a very large audience, so I thought this would be the perfect chance to do that,” said Pecori-Robinson, who likely has a future at Pixar. “I hope this film will inspire people to treat others equally.” 

Anna Lee Ackermann originally made her winning film in the ages 19-21 category, “As We Are Planted,” for her Capstone project at Columbia College Chicago, where she recently graduated. Her documentary, which is guaranteed to impress the team at Kartemquin Films, focuses on the agricultural center, Just Roots Chicago, where the filmmaker had originally volunteered to work. “I thought it was incredible because I had no idea that urban farms were a thing, and so they graciously let me document their story and share their impact on the community,” said Miss Ackermann. “I really hope that the documentary will bring awareness to this issue of food deserts, or more correctly known as food apartheid, as it a very holistic issue. If you don’t have access to healthy and sustainable food options, that leads to unhealthy outcomes. I just want to bring awareness to this issue of the lack of nutritious food options that is happening around the corner from us and we might not even know it.” 

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