Read our Storify covering our events in Chicago.
We kicked off our Chicago visit with a celebration of the Henry Hampton Award winning film, DETROPIA,  featuring filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, with award presentation by director Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch). DETROPIA is a requiem for the death and rebirth of a great American city and explores resilience, hope, anger and change against the backdrop of staggering job and populations losses; a dramatic “downsizing” of an American city; and cuts to basic services. Following the award we had a lively discussion with the filmmakers, J. Mikel Ellcessor, General Manager of WDET, Rahsaan Harris, Executive Director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, moderated by Cara Mertes, Director of the Sundance Documentary Film Program.
Listen the great Detroit sounds of  ChiTown, our New Soul Sunday soundtrack for the evening.
Sunday morning J. Mikel Ellcessor, General Manager of WDET, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, reporter Alex Kotlowitz of WBEZ’s This American Life ”Harper High stories, Crystal Winfield Smith, School Social Worker at Harper High, and Justine Nagan, Executive Director of Kartemquin Films talked about film as a catalyst for social change.  Using media to explore one of the conference’s main themes – safe communities – we featured Henry Hampton Award-winning films DETROPIA and The Interrupters to focus on fiscal collapse, gun violence and the fight to rebuild our cities.
That afternoon we heard from Media Impact Funders’ board member Joy Thomas Moore, who moderate a terrific panel discussion with directors Eugene Jarecki (House I Live In) and Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch). The conversation covered the history of racial discrimination in shaping our prison system and unfair drug laws today and the way prosecutors exact rough justice through indiscriminate use of plea bargains and mandatory minimum sentences.
The focus on Monday was health – the peoples’ and the planet’s. We started off with a greeting from HRH Price of Wales talking feeding billions while nourishing the planet and then heard from a brave mom struggling to feed her kids. That irony of hunger wasn’t lost on us when we explored obesity in our nation through the film Weight of the Nation. Obesity and hunger are two sides of the same coin – cheap food, poverty and food policies. Thanks to Dinah Dittman at Kaiser Permanente for promoting that screening and discussion.
We finished the day celebrating, To the Arctic, a remarkable film and the funders who helped bring it to IMAX theaters around the country. The Woody Wickham Award was presented to the Campion Foundation, and Tom and Sonya Campion, for its support of To The Arctic. The foundation made a $2 million PRI to bring the epic and breathtaking story of the arctic to millions, and help us understand that vast and changing place.
To The Arctic, narrated by Meryl Streep with songs by Paul McCartney, chronicles an unforgettable journey of a mother polar bear and her two seven-month old cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home.
The ultimate tale of survival, the film offers a rare glimpse of a polar bear family and its struggle to survive in a frigid environment of melting ice, immense glaciers, spectacular waterfalls, and majestic snow-bound peaks.
Media Impact Funders was fortunate to gather a terrific group of audio creators at WBEZ right after the COF annual conference to learn more about ways that innovative radio, audio and sound programming are building community, starting important conversations, and reporting on issues often by-passed by larger media entities.
Read the Storify, and listen to the curated samples of audio from some of the most innovative radio stations, audio makers and public media hubs, featuring both examples of compelling community and talk radio, and diverse music. Thanks to WBEZ’s Silvia Rivera and Ayana Contreras for the sounds.