Loading Doc: Spurlock, Dinosaurs and the FBI

Loading Doc: Spurlock, Dinosaurs and the FBI

Documentary filmmakers in Chicago are known for speaking truth to power and giving voice to the voiceless. Now everyone with a smartphone could potentially make a documentary. Will this truth lead us into a Tower of Babble or a free marketplace of ideas? Or both? How can doc makers get beyond the bubble of social media? Look in the Loading Doc. You can discover non-fiction filmmakers here who are creating bold new works and at the same time learn about a monthly live event known as The Doc Talk Show where you can meet filmmakers.


137 Films teams with Morgan Spurlock as Co-Producer

In rural Kentucky a high tech $200 million dollar tourist attraction boasts a 510 foot replica of Noah’s Arc complete with animatronic Noah and yes, dinosaurs. The trailer for this eye-opening film-in-progress pits creationists inside their theme park against scientists who recognize that the biblical Disneyland is in fact a powerful cultural force dedicated to debunking evolution. A rousing singalong in the trailer shows children proudly belting these lyrics, “I don’t believe in evolution, I know creation is true.”

With their Indiegogo fundraising campaign goal of $50,000, 137 Films successfully raised $61,182 earlier this year just after the Presidential election. After starting the project four years ago the filmmakers experienced a turning point when Trump administration attacks on science began to underscore the urgency of the project. Clayton Brown, Executive Director of 137 Films has built an award-winning non-profit documentary company dedicated to promoting science through storytelling. Producer Amy Ellison anticipates a Spring 2018 premier. Co-Directors Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown will position audiences inside a story about this unsettling and uniquely American battle between science and religion. With Executive Producer Morgan Spurlock on board, this story should get a lot more exposure.


Why was my suburban Chicago community under FBI surveillance?

I met Assia Boundaoui when she came to present her trailer for this film-in-progress at The Doc Talk Show. It sparked more discussion than any other film. An Algerian-American journalist and filmmaker, Assia has reported for NPR, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and VICE. Check out the many organizations lined up in support of her production which includes Producer Jessica Devaney, Editor Rabab Haj Yahya and Director of Photography Shuling Yong.

THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED recently received a major grant from the International Documentary Association. A brief description shines a light on extremely sensitive challenges facing the veteran journalist as she places herself in a documentary.

In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of declassified FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counter-terrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11 – code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.”

What fascinates me in this case is the way Assia weaves the personal and the political as she explores why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. One can relate to Assia as she pieces together a secret FBI operation and grapples with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.

Are you interested in developing your own voice and storytelling techniques as a documentary filmmaker? You may be a good candidate for Kartemquin Films Diverse Voices In Documentary training program. The deadline to apply is November 18th.


Another way to learn more and to meet documentary filmmakers is to come to The Doc Talk Show #8: Fight or Flight on Thursday October 26th (7pm – 9pm) at Uncommon Ground Lakeview. This is a monthly showcase with food and drink featuring a variety of filmmakers and short non-fiction works organized around a theme. Click here to reserve your seat(s) on Eventbrite. I look forward to seeing your work in the Loading Doc soon.

JEFF SPITZ is a Chicago-based Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Sundance Film Festival honoree and Associate Professor at Columbia College Chicago. Jeff curates and hosts THE DOC TALK SHOW – a monthly non-fiction showcase with filmmakers, food and drink presented by Groundswell Films.