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AWARD SEASON APPROACHES: The Best Documentary Feature Oscar race continues and two Chicago-made docs are in the running. Out of 134 submissions, 15 films have advanced in the category and will be competing for a nomination in the 87th Academy Awards. The two Midwest contenders are:

LIFE ITSELF, based on Roger Ebert’s memoir of the same name, is directed by Steve James. Executive producers include Martin Scorsese, Kat White, Mark Mitten, Justine Nagan, Gordon Quinn and Steven Zaillian.

FINDING VIVIAN MAIER, directed by John Maloof and produced by Charlie Siskel, tells the story of a nanny who took thousands of photographs that were discovered in a storage locker after her death.

The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 7:30 a.m. Central in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The Oscars® will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live on ABC.

Click here for the full list of shortlisted docs.

FUNDING NEEDS TO STICK HERE: Emmy-winning producer Toni Reed has launched a crowd funding campaign via Indiegogo for the film THE SHORTEST END OF THE STICK, a documentary film that examines the financial struggles of women of color and how they struggle to build wealth through homeownership. Reed developed the idea for the film as a Fellow of Kartemquin Films’ mentoring program, Diverse Voices in Documentary.

The film showcases the stories of women of various backgrounds who question if homeownership is the way to build wealth for women of color. Included is the struggle of the filmmaker herself as she debates whether to stay in her underwater home amidst problems with employment and a belligerent neighbor. Other stories address two recently widowed women; one of whom is a business owner in Waukegan, Illinois. Both have been dealing with issues of foreclosure as well as the loss of their spouse and a host of other issues that complicate their status as homeowners.

THE SHORTEST END OF THE STICK is in early production. The funds raised through the Indiegogo campaign will be used to rent equipment, hire crew, and support continued research. Click here to contribute!

BERTHA BENEFICIARY: Kartemquin Films has been awarded a general operating support grant of $10,000 from Bertha Foundation. The funds will be used to support their field-building programs such as KTQ Labs, Diverse Voices in Docs, and Internships.

Bertha Foundation's mission is to create more progressive and just societies through activism, media, law and enterprise.

MERGING THEATRE AND FILM: Sandra Delgado’s LA HABANA is both a play and a documentary film that delves into the lives of Caribbean Latino immigrants who came to Chicago in the 1960s. It documents a culturally rich population, now in their seventies and eighties, who have seen the city grow through a different lens of experience.

Says Delgado, “The idea for LA HABANA came to me after a conversation with my father about his early days in Chicago. It was 1965 and newly arrived in Chicago from Colombia, he and my mother settled in Lakeview on Barry and Broadway. He told me about a nearby club, La Habana Madrid on Belmont and Sheffield, that they frequented. It immediately struck me as a captivating setting for a play.”

The creative team for LA HABANA includes Sandra Delgado, creator, writer, actor; 3Arts Artist Awardee Cheryl Lynn Bruce, (play) director; Liviu Pasare, video designer and Roberto “Carpacho” Marin, music director. Delgado will also be collaborating with Ben Kolack, award-winning Chicago based documentary filmmaker.

Interviews have begun and will be the basis for both the play and documentary film. Click here to follow and support LA HABANA!

Do you have anything you would like to share with the Midwest documentary community? Contact me at loadingdoc.rm@gmail.com

Rondell is currently in pre-production on a documentary about the experiences and identity transformation of Iraqi refugee women in the United States. She has completed a documentary short on Bernie's Book Bank, which can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/rondellm.