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Judging the No Malice Film Contest

I am happy to give a bit more insight into how we chose the winners of The inaugural No Malice Film Contest, presented by The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation (ALPLF) in conjunction with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. I recruited a Panel of Judges from an international list of film critics and filmmakers that I have worked with other the years. I was pleased that we received a robust response to the call, as so many of the film critics and filmmakers were heartened to see youth and young adults taking an interest in bringing people together through art, in this instance, film. We had to reduce the list of esteemed judges to 21. 

The entire Panel of Judges was tasked with judging the entries based on how they addressed the issue of racial healing in creative, engaging and informative ways. The Panel of Judges was divided into three groups: Group One previewed and rated the films submitted by contestants in the age group 11-14. This group was led by Chief Judge Nell Minow and included: Simon Abrams, Hallin Burgan, Sonia Evans, Veronique Hester, Collin Souter and Gerardo Valero. Winning first place in that category was Niko Robinson's "Be the GOOD. Second place was won by London Shields' "Racial Healing in Oppressed Communities." Tying for third place were Abigail Eldridge's "We the People" and Jessica Wong's "Racial Justice."

Group Two: Ages 15-18 was led by Chief Judge Niani Scott and included: Sarah Adamson, Sue-Ellen Chitunya, Jordan Csigi, Matt Fagerholm, Brandon Towns and Jason Yue. Winning first place in that category was Kenya Apongule's "Hush," followed by Sean Emmanuel Atienza's "Puzzle" in second place and Azalee Irving's "Interracial Relationships" in third place.

Group Three: Ages 19-21 was led by Chief Judge Robert Daniels and included:  Mark Dujsik, Jana Monji, Omer Mozaffar, Ezra Pelaez, Ibad Shah and Wendy Wolverton. Winning first place in that category was Anna Lee Ackermann's "As We Are Planted," followed by Michael Proctor's "A Call to Fight lies: Practical Steps to Fight Injustice" in second place and Zaknafein Luken's "Hate Is Not Welcome Here" in third place.

The winners and the Panel of Judges for this year's contest will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face at one of two events: the Ebertfest Film Festival in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois between September 8th-11th. Or at the Shakespeare Theater (The Yard) at Navy Pier in Chicago, Sunday, September 19th. 

It will be interesting to see what advice the Winning Entrants and the Judges have for each other at these events. Congratulations to all of the talented winners. And a special thanks to all of the Judges who took time to view the films and carefully consider the winning entries. 

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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