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The Illinois Parables    cover photo

The Illinois Parables 2016


Distributed by Grasshopper Films, 12 East 32nd St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016

Directed by Deborah Stratman
DVD , color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Experimental Film, Geography, Genocide, Native Peoples, Racism, U.S. History

Date Entered: 07/26/2017

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

In the New Testament, the parables of Jesus are simple stories, often accompanied with imagery, that convey more complex messages. Experimental filmmaker Stratman uses that template to build her photographic essay on regional and national history. The eleven visual chapters included here are arranged chronologically from 600 CE through 1985. In the early allegories, birds, animals and spirits, followed by Cherokee and other Native American people, inhabit the land. White settlers and the Trail of Tears enter the narrative by the 3rd parable. Settlement, removal, violence, resistance, and environment are some of the themes covered. In this case, although Illinois serves as a topographical location for the work, the questions posed are more universal.

Beginning and ending with long panoramic camera shots of a flat rural landscape that includes farms, towns, industry, and roads, the film includes reenactment, archival footage, natural sound, and voice-over. Similar in style to the 2007 documentary Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, the director explores how the land has been impacted by culture and technology. While not all viewers will appreciate the experimental format, the visual presentation and structure are noteworthy. The award-winning film premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2016.