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Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and the Ebert Foundation Sponsor the No Malice Film Contest for Children and Young Adults Across Illinois to Promote Racial Healing

I am proud to announce that the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation is joining the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation in presenting the inaugural No Malice Film Contest for Illinois youth and young adults. Young filmmakers between the ages of 11 and 21 are invited to create short films that explore and promote racial healing. The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation will help run the contest and select winners in three age groups. The project is funded through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation with a grant from Healing Illinois, a racial healing initiative of the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust.

The name of the contest is inspired by President Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address in which he called for Americans to end slavery, rebuild the nation and bind up the nation's wounds "with malice toward none, with charity for all." But as we learned during 2020 following the death of George Floyd and the social justice protests across the globe, the wounds still sting. To heal, we must first listen to the expression of people’s pain and lived experiences. Storytelling through film has the power to change hearts and minds. My late husband Roger Ebert said that movies are a machine that generates empathy allowing us to put ourselves in the shoes and emotions of another. Empathy can lead to more understanding and compassion, acts of kindness and or forgiveness. It’s essential that the next generation who will lead us to a better place has a chance to be heard. Perhaps they can help forge a path toward unity and harmony through their art.

The emerging filmmakers will get advice from professional filmmakers in Zoom workshops held on Saturdays in February and March. To promote justice and a better world by highlighting important voices in film and supporting young artists, I have arranged for virtual presentations by Pamela Sherrod Anderson, founder of Graceworks Theater and Film Productions and an award-winning writer, filmmaker and playwright; Rita Coburn, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning  writer, and producer and co-director of "Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,"; Oscar-nominated documentarian Steve James, who directed the famed movie “Hoop Dreams” and "Life Itself," about Roger Ebert; Troy Osborne Pryor, a Chicago-based producer, host, and actor and founder of Creative Cypher; and T. Shawn Taylor, a writer, journalist, consultant and documentary filmmaker. You can find their full bios as well as links to register for their workshops below.

We will award cash prizes at a red-carpet debut to be held at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois on July 31st of this year. First place winners in each age bracket will receive $2,000; second place winners in each age bracket will receive $1,000; and third place winners in each age bracket will receive $500. The winning films will also be shown at the Ebertfest Film Festival at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Illinois schools will use the films, and supplemental curriculum created by educators, to talk about race and the harmful impact of bias and injustice. 

Students will compete as individuals or in groups in three age brackets: 11-14, 15-18, and 19-21. Entries are due by Friday, April 30th. Live action films must be between three minutes and seven minutes long. The minimum length for animated films is 45 seconds. For more information on the No Malice Film Contest, visit the official site of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Below you will find the full line-up of virtual events scheduled for the next two months, complete with the bios of each esteemed participant...



Troy Osborne Pryor is an American producer, host, and actor. His stage, on-camera, and voice over work has led to award-winning content on multiple platforms including collaborations with ABC, Warner Brothers, HGTV, DIY Network, TV One, and Aspire TV. A Chicago native, Troy is an advocate for connecting local, undiscovered diverse talent to mainstream content and media platforms through his production network, Creative Cypher. Pryor established Pryor Holdings in 2012 to include the brands: Troy Pryor Studios, Creative Cypher, Cypher Foundation, BLACC, and Dark Berry Productions. This ecosystem aggregates hundreds of artists, connecting them to the resources and tools that enable new content production for major brands. Through these production deals, Troy aims to support the expansion of Chicago’s multi-million-dollar creative community footprint, globally.

Register for the Zoom session here.



An eloquent poet, writer and performer, Maya Angelou’s life intersected with the civil rights struggle, the Harlem Writers Guild, the New Africa movement, the women’s movement, and the cultural and political realignments of the 1970s and ’80s. Her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, catapulted Dr. Angelou onto the literary stage and became an international best-seller. She appeared in numerous documentaries, talk shows and feature films, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, yet shockingly, has never been the subject of her own feature documentary. 

Having lived such a rich, passionate life and been a witness, as well as a participant, in some of the most profound periods of the last century, her full biography is extraordinarily rich and varied. Dr. Angelou lived not one life, but half a dozen, and yet parts of her story have fallen into obscurity. "Maya Angelou And Still I Rise" reflects on how the events of history, culture and the arts shaped her life and how she, in turn, helped shape our own worldview through her autobiographical literature and activism. This screening is offered courtesy of American Masters, The People’s Poet Media Group, ITVS and Artemis Rising.

Register for the Zoom session here.



Rita Coburn is a Peabody and Emmy Award winning Director, Writer, and Producer with nearly four decades in radio, television and film. Coburn primarily focuses on the stories of women by uniquely addressing topics from a multi-generational lens through the untold stories of prominent figures and key ideals relevant to our culture. Coburn co-directed and co-produced "Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise for American Masters" which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and garnered a Peabody Award in 2017. It also earned the first Ebert Icon Award at the Roger Ebert Film Festival (Ebertfest) in 2019. Coburn's notable credits include historical documentaries on black culture, the Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah Radio, and BET/Centric. Her current project in production is "Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands." The documentary is a Co-Production of Coburn’s company RCW Media Productions, Inc and American Masters.

Register for the Zoom session here.



Steve James previous work includes Academy Award nominated films "Hoop Dreams" and "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail." Other award-winning work includes "Stevie", "The Interrupters", "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson", and "Life Itself". 

His Starz docuseries, "America to Me", was one of the most acclaimed TV shows of 2018. His most recent docuseries, "City So Real", premiered to rave reviews on National Geographic and Hulu.

Register for the Zoom session here.



Pamela Sherrod Anderson, founder of Graceworks Theater and Film Productions LLC, is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, playwright, educator and journalist. She is currently Board Chair of Kartemquin Films, which celebrates its 55th anniversary in 2021 and remains even more committed to social justice and democracy through documentary. Her films have been shown in national and international film festivals and are available on streaming services. 

She has taught in film and journalism departments at DePaul University and Columbia College of Chicago. Her illustrious journalism career includes editor, reporter and columnist at Chicago Tribune newspaper and United Press International. Pamela is a proud product of Chicago’s South Side and proud of her family’s Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi roots.

Register for the Zoom session here.



A self-described nerd who wrote short stories and poems in grammar school and charged kids on the playground a quarter apiece to read them, in 2006, Shawn tapped into that entrepreneurial spirit to found Treetop Consulting, a boutique communications firm, following a successful career in newspapers that spanned the Midwest. Still a journalist at heart, Shawn has employed her interviewing and research prowess to examine the social, emotional and economic impact the early deaths of Black men have on families and communities in the documentary in progress “Gone Too Soon: America’s Missing Black Men.” In October 2019, she graduated from Kartemquin Films’ Diverse Voices in Docs program for aspiring filmmakers.

Shawn has built a reputation as a skilled writer and master storyteller, developing content on a range of topics including social justice; gender and racial equality; equal pay; equity in education; and entrepreneurship, among others. A trained flutist and master Hoola Hooper, Shawn's motto is, “Whenever possible, start at the top.”

Register for the Zoom session here.

Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, including the President of The Ebert Company Ltd, and of Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of, President of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 24th year.

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