Award-winning documentary ‘For Ahkeem’ to be screened at FilmScene

Vino Vérité: For Ahkeem with special guests

FilmScene – Sunday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.

The rocky adolescence of Daje Shelton is the subject of the documentary ‘For Ahkeem.’ — video still

In the course of two years, teenager Daje Shelton is placed in an alternative high school, attends the funerals of friends shot in the streets of North St. Louis, falls in love, becomes pregnant, struggles towards her uncertain graduation, watches the Ferguson protests — just four miles away — on television and gives birth to a boy, grappling with the reality that her son may fall into the cycle of violence and incarceration in which black men in Missouri have been trapped for decades.

Though the film depicting these years is deeply personal, Shelton is just one of millions of African American teenagers coming of age against a mountain of challenges.

The multi-award-winning independent documentary For Ahkeem will premiere at FilmScene on Sunday, Dec. 3, and will include a dialogue with the filmmakers, as well as possible other guests to be determined.

The event is part of the Vino Vérité series (co-presented by FilmScene, Little Village and Bread Garden Market), which invites filmmakers to engage FilmScene audiences in person to present and discuss “their thought-provoking, chance-taking and visually-arresting films,” according to the FilmScene website. Like a fine cheese, the movies are paired with wine selections from Bread Garden Market.

The series is named for a style of documentary film dubbed cinéma vérité (French for “truthful cinema”), in which the camera acts as a kind of fly on the wall; in many cases, the film will also feature some form of stylized interaction between the subject and filmmaker. For Ahkeem plays like a gritty indie drama, literally following Shelton’s footsteps through every angry, disheartened, playful, flirtatious and hopeful emotion. Rather than offer a journalistic depiction of social injustice in St. Louis, the movie focuses in on Shelton’s perspective. The 17-year-old offers occasional, diary-like voiceover narration describing her tired grief after attending a friend’s funeral — “I thought I was going to be next. All the time.” — or, a year later, her determination to give her son Ahkeem an “almost perfect childhood.”

For Ahkeem is directed by Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest, who also produced the Emmy-winning film Good Fortune. For Ahkeem, which premiered at the Berlin Interational Film Festival, has been picked as a top 10 film of the year by People and Entertainment Weekly, and the film has already nabbed seven “Best Documentary” festival awards. Shelton has been named as one of Cinema Eye Honor’s 2017 Unforgettables.

Tickets for the Dec. 3 event cost $25 for the public and $20 for FilmScene members. This includes the film screening, Q&A with the filmmaker, wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres and after-show wine and dessert.

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