The Illinois Parables
March 6, 2017 (Mon) - 7:00pm, Bratte Theater
$12 / $10 Brattle members

Co-presented by the DocYard and the Film Study Center at Harvard University.

Chicago-based filmmaker Deborah Stratman returns to present her new 16mm experimental documentary, The Illinois Parables, described as "a suite of Midwestern parables that question the historical role belief has played in ideology and national identity." Balagan last screened Stratman's work in 2010, with O'er the Land, "a meditation on the milieu of elevated threat addressing national identity, gun culture, wilderness, consumption, patriotism and the possibility of personal transcendence" that remains particularly poignant in today's political climate.

A Q&A with Deborah moderated by Dennis Lim will follow the screening.


The Illinois Parables is comprised of regional vignettes about faith, force, technology and exodus. Eleven parables relay histories of settlement, removal, technological breakthrough, violence, messianism and resistance, all occurring somewhere in the state of Illinois. The state is a convenient structural ruse, allowing its histories to become allegories that explore how we’re shaped by conviction and ideology.

The film suggests links between technological and religious abstraction, placing them in conversation with governance. Locations are those where the boundaries between the rational and supernatural are tenuous. They are “thin places” where the distance between heaven and earth has collapsed, or more secularly, any place that bears a heavy past, where desire and displacement have lead us into or erased us from the land. What began as a consideration of religious freedom eventually led to sites where belief or invention triggered expulsion. The film utilizes reenactment, archival footage, observational shooting, inter-titles and voiceover to tell its stories and is an extension of previous works in which the director questioned foundational American tenants.

The Parables consider what might constitute a liturgical form. Not a sermon, but a form that questions what morality catalyzes, and what belief might teach us about nationhood. In our desire to explain the unknown, who or what do we end up blaming or endorsing?


Deborah Stratman is an artist and filmmaker interested in landscapes and systems. Much of her work points to the relationships between physical environments and human struggles for power and control that play out on the land. Recent projects have addressed freedom, expansionism, surveillance, sonic warfare, public speech, ghosts, sinkholes, levitation, propagation, orthoptera, raptors, comets and faith. She has exhibited internationally at venues including MoMA NY, Centre Pompidou, Hammer Museum, Mercer Union, Witte de With, the Whitney Biennial and festivals including Sundance, Viennale, CPH/DOX, Oberhausen, Ann Arbor, Full Frame, Rotterdam and Berlinale. Stratman is the recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim and USA Collins fellowships, a Creative Capital grant an Alpert Award and the Film Study Center at Harvard University’s Robert Gardner Fellowship.


dir. Kathryn Ramey, 2016, 7 mins,  double 16mm on video

followed by...

The Illinois Parables
dir. Deborah Stratman, 2016, 60 min, 16mm