A film by Deborah Stratman
2016, 60 minutes
No. 056

In her breathtaking new documentary, The Illinois Parables, noted filmmaker Deborah Stratman recounts eleven episodes from American history to consider how societies are shaped by belief and ideology.

Concentrating on her home state of Illinois (often referred to as a miniature version of America), Stratman extracts, and reflects upon, a series of disruptive historic events–from the violent eviction of the Cherokee to the establishment of a utopian community of French Icarians, the invention of the nuclear reactor and the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. Utilizing an array of cinematic tools, including reenactment, archival footage, observational shooting, inter-titles, sound design and voiceover, Stratman probes beneath the surface of our national identity, examining the larger forces at work, and specifically, the role belief and ideology played in its construction.

Building on past acclaimed films like In Order Not to Be Here and O’er the Land, Stratman continues to deftly explore the foundational tenants of this country with this densely-layered and fascinating film.

* World Premiere, Sundance Film Festival
* Official Selection, Berlin Film Festival
* Official Selection, New York Film Festival

"I’ve seen Deborah Stratman’s The Illinois Parables only once, but I’m eager to see it again. A dense weave of found and original sights and sounds, this hourlong film is at once an experimental documentary, a work of historical excavation and an insistently moral ideological critique. It’s also a lament, one that uses Illinois to sift through history in 11 sections, including the Trail of Tears and the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation. As she moves across both time and place, locating ghosts and tapping voices as different as those of Emerson and the Black Panther Fred Hampton, Ms. Stratman finds a country that is as haunted and haunting as her film."
- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

"A beautiful ghost of a film. Stratman makes intuitive and delicate connections between her subjects, often letting a dense and rather brilliant sound design lead us into the woods and out again." - Chicago Tribune

"Stunning. One of the most striking examples of documentary filmmaking you’re likely to see anywhere this year." - Sight & Sound

"One of the most quietly radiant movies of recent memory." - Film Comment

"The best film I saw at this year’s Berlinale was The Illinois Parables... Stratman’s rhythms are seductive, her chosen histories fascinating." -

"The movie is fascinating because whatever interpretation you give the parables, the film takes you to interesting places in unusual ways, making it a pleasure to develop your own elucidation." - Journal of Religion and Film

"In Deborah Stratman's film, the ugly reality of human nature, the power of faith and the danger of human ingenuity are all examined through a masterful presentation of both archival footage and audio recordings." - Vox Magazine