Slamdance 2021 Hits the Small Screen
Park City’s other annual film festival, Slamdance, is taking place this year from Feb. 12 through 25. And, like the 2021 Sundance Film Festival before it, it’s taking place online.
The festival features 25 narrative and non-fiction features, including “A Tiny Ripple of Hope,” an entry in the festival’s documentary competition.
The documentary focuses on Jahmal Cole, a Chicago community organizer who is trying to promote empathy to overcome decades of segregation and institutional racism.
Cole’s organization, called “My Block, My Hood, My City,” is known for taking youths from the city’s racially segregated South and West Sides on field trips to show them other environments and cultures. For instance, said director Jason Polevoi, kids who are used to ordering food through a six-inch-thick bulletproof glass barrier visit a restaurant where that isn’t the case.
The nonprofit is funded in part by the sale of hoodies and tee shirts. Polevoi said that’s how he first noticed the program. He said Cole also put funds into the program from what should have been his house mortgage payments, and the film shows some of his resulting financial struggles.
The director shot the film principally from 2017-18. It was in post-production when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020.
“The week that everything shut down, everyone decided to close their offices and everything, I was supposed to be in L.A. with our editors working on the film, and obviously had to pay for that trip,” Polevoi said. “And so we did the majority of post-production at that point virtually, like the rest of the country.”
He said that Cole’s life was changing as well over the events of the past year.
“Jahmal took on a much greater role in terms of leadership with the city, first with the Covid response,” Polevoi said. “He was often there at the daily briefings with both the mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois. And then over the summer, he was leading rallies and participating in marches surrounding the George Floyd murder protests.”
Polevoi said they debated whether to extend the story of the film, but ultimately decided not to.
“We felt like we had what I like to call Jahmal’s ‘superhero origin story,’” he said. “We had the story of the man behind the man that you see now. So we felt like we might be diluting the message of the film, or one of the messages of the film at least, which is that it’s not easy. You have to struggle. You have to sacrifice. You have to give your everything in order to make it work. So at the end of the film, we begin to start seeing that, and that felt like the natural place to end it for us.”
Polevoi said that during the two weeks of the Slamdance Festival, his film and others can be seen on-demand. To see any of them, you will have to purchase a $10 full festival pass. Students with a .edu email address can buy the pass at a discount for $5.
Ticket sales are being conducted through Slamdance’s website, as are the rest of the festival’s events such as panels and Q and As.
As for Jahmal Cole, the director of the documentary of which the organizer is the subject thinks that politics are in his future, hinting at past Illinois figures who have risen to higher office.
“I won’t say anything specific, kinda leave that up to him,” Polevoi said. “But he would make an amazing mayor of Chicago. He would make an amazing governor of Illinois. He would make an amazing President of the United States. There’s certainly a track record for organizers coming out of Chicago, that’s for sure. And so I see amazing things in his future.”