Broaden Your Worldview at the 2017 Doc10 Film Festival

Step. Photograph courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Step. Photograph courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

For the second year in a row, Chicago Media Project, a non-profit organization supporting social-impact documentary film, presents the DOC10 Film Festival, running Thursday, March 30 through Sunday, April 2 in Lincoln Square at the recently renovated Davis Theater. The festival will feature local premieres of 10 of the best documentaries of the current season, and post-screening Q&As with many of the filmmakers represented in the lineup.

This year, the DOC10 will open with two films that celebrate the power of music, art, and dance to transform the lives of youth. The first is Step, the 2017 Sundance recipient of the Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking, which chronicles the senior year of a girls’ high-school step dance team against the backdrop of social unrest in inner-city Baltimore. In their review, Variety called it “Hoop Dreams for the social media generation”.

Next up is Sweet Dillard, which chronicles the journey from the first day of class to a national competition for one of the nation’s best public high school jazz bands and their inspirational bandleader, Christopher Dorsey. This screening will take place at the Music Box Theatre and is a benefit for Chicago’s Merit School of Music. It will also include a Q&A with the filmmaker and musical & dance performances.

Casting JonBenet. Photograph courtesy of Netflix
Casting JonBenet. Photograph courtesy of Netflix

The other films at the festival are just as impressive. We find ourselves intrigued by Trophy, a buzzworthy film at Sundance that provides a surprisingly balanced look at big game hunting and asks whether it’s simply a murder sport or the key to saving endangered species. Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, which is directed by Chicago native John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs. John Lennon) and features voice work by Denzel Washington, will be screened on closing night. Another highlight is Whose Streets?, a powerful condemnation of police actions in Ferguson both before and after the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. We’re also looking forward to Casting JonBenet. A favorite at Sundance that recently was picked up by Netflix, the film bends the lines and definitions of a documentary as it explores both the murder of the child pageant star and the fascination with her case during the investigation.

The rest of the films being presented at DOC10 are as follows:

  • Death in the Terminal, an award winning look at the 2015 terrorist attack in a Israeli bus terminal that left two dead and many versions of the events for investigators to sift through.
  • Rat Film, director Theo Anthony’s exploration of society’s failures and prejudices by following a common brown wharf rat through the streets of Baltimore.
  • The Cinema Travelers, an Indian work that won Best Documentary at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
  • The Island and the Whales, focusing on the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands during a time of complete upheaval for them.
  • Obit, director Vanessa Gould’s lively profile of obituary writers at the New York Times.

The DOC10 Film Festival takes place at Davis Theater (4614 N. Lincoln Ave) March 30 – April 2. Tickets, the full schedule, an updated list of Q&A, and further information can be found at the festival’s website.

Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.