Short Film: OURS TO TELL, 17min., USA, Documentary

Without shame and without fear “Ours to Tell” depicts four people who share their stories and walk in their truth. By owning the lives they choose, what unfolds is an unfiltered and poetic demonstration of how the right to access abortion acts as a dynamic turning point in an individual’s journey to freedom and self love. Each with different perspectives and experiences, the film’s subjects — Brittany, Hannah, Nick and Ylonda — take us inside their worlds, their families, their souls and boldly illustrate the beauty and power of bodily autonomy. As we watch, listen and love each storyteller, we also bear witness to a chilling reality: The fundamental freedom to own our body and future has never been more uncertain than it is today.

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Short Film: KENYA’S SYMPHONY, 5min., USA, Animation/Drama

Kenya, A bold five-year old girl, reluctantly ends up in her first symphony concert with her mother. As the conductor lays a downbeat and the orchestra begins to play, Kenya’s patience wears thin. To entertain herself, the bold young girl pulls out a straw and begins to reign havoc in the auditorium with spitballs. Against her mother’s pleading, Kenya continues to behave in disobedience.

Kenya ultimately wins the higher ground and takes one final shot with her straw in hand; suddenly, a sour music note is produced in place of a spitball. To Kenya’s surprise, her straw has become a musical instrument, imitating the oboe soloist’s instrument on stage. She cautiously gives the straw another try, and more music notes emanate out the other end! Enchanted by the sounds of music, Kenya’s imagination soars with the whimsical melody in a colorful epiphany. After the piece’s conclusion, Kenya is triumphantly escorted out of the symphony hall as the newest (and youngest) patron of the orchestra.

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Director Biography – Brian Sutow, Jessie Mills (FALL TO FAME)

BRIAN SUTOW is an LA-based playwright, director, screenwriter, and a Helen Hayes Award winning producer. His first feature film, Vengeance, is currently being packaged by Myriad Pictures. He is a former Kennedy Center Playwright in Residence and O’Neill Visiting Playwriting Fellow. Selected plays include Between Us (co-written with Emmy Award winner Ashley Nicole Black of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), Vengeance (GreenHouse National New Play Winner), and Peril on the Red Planet (commissioned by NASA). His work as a screenwriter includes dozens of commercials, the original comedy pilot A Bowl of Cherries (finalist in the 2006 Chicago Comedy TV Pilot Competition), the short film The SunnySide Singers (prod. First Team Productions), the commissioned pilot The Vamps (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim), the documentary series ReDiscovering Oklahoma! (Kenan Foundation), as well as many web-series.

JESSIE MILLS is a professor of theatre at Pomona College and a professional director. She directs, adapts, and devises theatre, opera and film throughout national and international venues, including the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina; The Lincoln Center & The Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York; The Goodman Theatre & The Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago; and The Sala Beckett Institute in Barcelona, Spain (co-directing with Neil LaBute). She holds graduate degrees in direction from Carnegie Mellon University and performance theory from Northwestern University. Beyond her work as a director, her scholarship and publications center around ensemble-theatre and comedy-as-community.

Short Film: FALL TO FAME, 9min., USA, Relationship/Drama

Following his first Grammy nomination, a young, gay rockstar is confronted with the painful price of his ambition.

  • Project Type:Short
  • Genres:Narrative
  • Runtime:9 minutes
  • Completion Date:October 8, 2019
  • Production Budget:8,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:United States
  • Country of Filming:United States
  • Language:English
  • Film Color:Color

Short Film: COLLAPSE, 6min., USA, Thriller/Drama

Kyle, a 17-year-old with PTSD goes through a rough therapy session talking about his friends who he witnessed get murdered. During the therapy session, the therapist pushes a little too hard into Kyle’s head and finds himself revealing that Kyle is indeed the murderer of his best friends.

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Director Biography – Dekel Berenson (ANNA)

Dekel Berenson is a writer, director, activist and graphic designer. Drawing inspiration from traveling to more than sixty countries, Dekel explores real-world social and humanitarian issues. His second short film, “Ashmina” won several prizes, including Best Short Film award at the 59th Krakow Film Festival and Best Live Action Short at the 36th Jerusalem Film Festival, qualifying the film for Academy Awards consideration. His third film, “Anna”, premiered as Official Selection in Competition at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival and won the Best British Short Film award at the 22nd BIFA awards.Director Statement

Director’s Statement

I first visited Ukraine in 2012, while traveling across Europe in a van. It was an important step for me personally as my grandmother was born in Khust, a small Ukrainian border town. She witnessed how Ukraine, like the rest of Eastern Europe became a part of the USSR, and then later gained its independence, which is now once again threatened. When I went, I was fascinated by the mixture of Eastern and Western traditions, by the people, and was heartbroken by Ukraine’s poverty and the rampant corruption that plagues its institutions.

In the nightclubs of Odessa, on a hot summer evening, I witnessed events similar to the ones depicted in Anna. These clubs are notorious for being hot spots for the type of men and women who seek others while harboring secret agendas. The men ogle women as if they were the pieces of meat hanging in Anna’s workplace. The women size up the men according to the perceived value of their shoes.

The men, hoping to take advantage of the women’s despair and desire to move abroad, try to seduce them with promises of a possible relationship. The women, pretending to be unaware of the obvious scheme, make promises of their own and scam free drinks, expensive dinners, and gifts from the men. The savviest and most determined women will, in turn, seduce naive men with promises of love and everlasting marriage, only to quickly divorce them once they set foot in their new home country. So, each side attempts to take advantage of the other and more often than not fails at it but then returns the next evening for more of the same. For underneath the cynicism and objectification there is the driving force of hope, that on one of these evenings an interaction will lead to something deeper and more meaningful – a real connection based on genuine feelings, a relationship that will lead to a better life.

After observing what went on at the nightclubs of Odessa I discovered the existence of the “love tours” that are depicted in Anna and found the subject compelling enough to return to Ukraine six years after my original visit, and capture it on film. In Anna the backdrop is wintry and cold, but regardless of a country’s regions everyone ultimately harbors dreams and aspirations. These international dating events, which have been organized since the fall of the Iron Curtain, continue to take place, with groups arriving in Ukraine many times a year. The mass parties in which men are usually outnumbered 1 to 10, now take place almost exclusively in East Ukraine, the industrial and more impoverished part of the country.

Ironically, Svetlana Barandich who portrays Anna, participated in such an event more than 20 years ago. And, an actress that we auditioned for the role of the translator told us that she was recently hired as a translator for one of these events. She said that, similarly to the corresponding scene in Anna, she would make up conversations and that “All men and women were always Leo,” for it was the only astrological sign for which she knew the English word.

This is an important story of hope and despair, one which I have attempted to capture as authentically as I could.

Short Film: ANNA, 15min., Ukraine, History/Drama

Cannes Official Selection 19′ – Living in war-torn Eastern Ukraine, Anna is an aging single mother who is desperate for a change. Lured by a radio advertisement, she goes to party with a group of American men who are touring the country, searching for love. Nominated for a short Palme d’Or, TIFF, AFI Fest + dozens of selections and awards. Currently, BAFTA shortlisted. BIFA award for Best British Short Film.

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Chicago Festival Videos: Feb. 21/2020 Event.


Theme of night: Passions and Trajedy

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Videos:

festival posterLET THE BLONDE SING, 13min., USA Documentary
festival posterWE WERE HARDLY MORE THAN CHILDREN, 9min., USA, Documentary
festival posterSEX + ICE CREAM, 6min., USA, Documentary
festival posterBALLHAWKS, 10min., USA, Documentary
festival posterSATURDAY, 9min., USA/Iran, Drama
festival posterLACUNA, 7min., USA, Drama
festival posterRED THREAD, 3min., USA, Experimental
festival posterHONOR AMONG THIEVES, 10min., USA, Sci-Fi/Western
festival posterWELL DONE, 3min., USA, Comedy

The 1st festival in Chicago in 2020.
3 more festival events in 2020.

See you at the festivals.

– Matthew Toffolo

Well Done Short Film, Audience FEEDBACK from CHICAGO Festival Feb. 2020

WELL DONE, 3min., USA, Comedy

Directed by Brian Ernst

Neil needs his co-worker BBQ to go off without a hitch in order for his boss to entrust him with the warehouse club membership. Then he will choose the SNACKS!

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

We Were Hardly More Than Children Short Film, Audience FEEDBACK from CHICAGO Festival Feb. 2020


Directed by Cecelia Condit

“We Were Hardly More Than Children” is an epic tale of a friend’s traumatic abortion; a deep hurt not remembered, but poignantly visible in her paintings.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!