Focus on Facets: Reflections on Spring

Take a closer look into our animation project in Pakistan, Facets Kids Oak Park Library partnership and other programs in our spring edition of Focus on Facets.

Facets Joins Forces with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy in Animation Project in Pakistan

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Animator, illustrator, and brilliant teacher George Berlin who has conducted many workshops at Facets and in Facets’ programs in Chicago Public Schools just returned from Karachi, where he taught animation to children in five schools in Pakistan. The project is a collaboration between the Citizens Archive of Pakistan and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who holds the unique distinction of winning two Academy Awards for Best Documentary Short.

Sharmeen’s 2012 film, Saving Face, follows the journey of plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawal, who returns to his native Pakistan to help the victims of acid attacks. Her film, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, which garnered an Oscar in 2015, tells the story of Saba, an 18-year-old girl who was shot and thrown in a river by her own family, and survived.

The Facets project is made possible by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Program, and uses tablet-based animation to enable Pakistani students to conceive, write, storyboard, draw, and animate their own stories. The completed films will be shown in Chicago in a special program at the 2017 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. The project has met with lots of enthusiasm in both Chicago and Pakistan. One of the great challenges was the availability of technology needed for the animation. A generous gift from Karachi-based Ahmad and Soghra Mirza and Armeen Siddiqui Mirza of Chicago made it possible to purchase 50 tablets which remain in Pakistan for use by the students.

Oak Park Becomes the Center of the Children’s Film Universe

Oak Park Public Library

The Oak Park Public Library is the world’s first library to make Facets Kids – Facets’ innovative, curated streaming platform of award-winning films for children – available to every Oak Park resident with a library card, for free. Over 600 short and feature-length live-action and animated films, selected and curated by the team of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival are accessible to every child. A parent can set up age restrictions, and an intuitive social-emotional interface lets a child filter films to make him laugh, think, happy, scared, excited or care. The Facets Kids Library initiative is seen as a partnership between community-based libraries and Facets to bring smart films previously unavailable to residents everywhere.

How Facets Kids breaks the stranglehold of distribution of films for children

Facets Kids

The idea for Facets Kids emerged from parents who saw films with their children at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. The most often-asked question was, “Where can I see these films again?” The simple answer? “Nowhere.” The family film scene has been long-dominated by the powerhouses of Walt Disney and Pixar, augmented by often cheaply-produced animated televisions series in which product placement and heavy merchandising have the singular effect of turning young viewers into passive, sugar-addicted consumers.

Yet so many films exist and continue to be made by talented filmmakers from around the world which strive for the opposite: to engage and provoke children into thinking about themselves, their relationships, and the world. For obvious reasons, these films have little place in the over-commercialized children’s media universe.

Making the films available to children and parents wherever they are – and on any internet-connected device – was the promise offered by digital technology, and after three years of work, with much donated time and labor, Facets Kids launched in 2016. The challenge now is to get it into every home, where films can help children grow up smart and healthy.

By working directly with producers from around the world, Facets also broke through the barriers of middle men and sales agents, giving the filmmakers an audience, and generating revenue for their next production.

Facets Teach-Ins: Confronting Urgent Issues of Our Time


This March, Facets began the Facets Teach-Ins, a series of free bi-weekly film screenings followed by talks and discussions centered on urgent historical, ethical, moral, social and political issues. Response from the packed audiences – both young and senior – has been nothing short of overwhelming. Post-screening discussions often last for hours. The series led off with The Face of Totalitarianism, screening Michael Radford’s version of 1984, followed by a Teach-In led by Professor Emeritus and social activist Bill Ayers, followed by The Techniques of Propaganda, which screened Triumph of the Will followed by a talk and discussion with University of Chicago professor Judy Hoffman.

Other programs have focused on health care (Sicko, with Dr. David Edelberg), demagoguery (Face in the Crowdwith Hugh Iglarsh), immigration (L’America, with MacArthur genius award-winning author Aleksandar Hemon), Who Polices the Police? (The Murder of Fred Hampton, with panel of producer Bill Cottle, activist Billy Brooks and moderator Gretchen Helfrich (WBEZ’s Odyssey), and, upcoming, Handmaid’s Tale with Professor Helen Thompson of Northwestern University.

Facets Kids Film Camps Expand with New Camps, Locations

Film Camp

The Western and North Shore suburbs (Lisle and Lake Forest) are the newest locations for Facets’ summer film camps for children 7-10 and 11-14. A total of 7 comprehensive camps are being presented this summer, with over 160 students, more than 50% of whom attend on full scholarship. The camps are a great introduction to the techniques, structure, and meaning of film, in which students first learn how to approach film critically, and then work in diverse teams to conceive, write, storyboard, shoot, record, direct, and act in short films all of which are shown at the conclusion of the camp. This year, Facets also developed a number of new “specialty” camps which take the experience deeper – an Acting on Film Camp, Hitchcock Film Camp, Feminist Film Camp and an Animation Film Camp

Graduates of the Facets Kids Film Camps then become eligible to serve on the Children’s or Youth juries of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. The juries critically evaluate over 100 films, and award their prizes at the Festival. The 34th edition of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival will be held this October 27-November 5, 2017. Over 250 short and feature films for children from over 40 countries will be shown in multiple locations.  The Festival is the oldest and largest festival of films for children in North America and the first children’s film festival in the world to become an Academy-qualifying festival. 34 films first shown at the Festival went on to garner Academy Award nominations, and 8 won an Oscar.

This year’s Oscar winner comes from….Facets


Sing, a short live action film by Kristof Deak, won the Best Live Action Short film at the 2016 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, which qualified it for submission to the Oscars. Most exciting, it won!! At the Oscar ceremony, director Deak gave a timely election-campaign-season acceptance speech:

“Ignoring youth appears to be a promising electoral stratagem – it is easier to play on the fears of the old generations than to satisfy the hopes of the younger ones – it is ultimately self-defeating birth socially and economically. The young people will find a way to sing.”

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