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Art as a weapon against violence

August 28, 2012|By Taylor Ervin | For RedEye

One Englewood resident is hoping a film fest can be one weapon in the fight against Chicago violence.

Mark Harris, the man behind the second annual Englewood Film Festival, wants to send a positive message with the Oct. 26-28 event.


"Our message is that there is a way out, and violence doesn't have to be the answer," he said. "I think art can change a life."

After receiving virtually no support from local businesses, politicians or community leaders leading up to last year's festival, Harris has turned to the internet for help funding the fest.

Last October, Harris offered two days of movie screenings and seminars and financed the $5,000 cost completely out of his own pocket, but with an expanded fest and a growing budget this year, Harris hopes that indiegogo.com can help.

The website allows users to donate money toward a campaign online using their credit card. So far he's raised $1,250 toward his $10,000 goal.

"Basically I want people to come in and enjoy films, and all we ask is for a donation in return," Harris said.

The 40-year-old filmmaker and longtime Englewood resident said he is well aware of the stigma of the neighborhood as a violent and dangerous community. As a result, he said he doesn't expect many people from outside the neighborhood to attend the festival.

"People have said to me 'why don't you hold [the festival] in Hyde Park,' but I'm like 'That's not the point of this festival,' " Harris said. "It's about improving this community from within.  My mission and goal is to change the tradition of the people of Englewood."

He hopes to make a step toward changing that tradition by screening 12 films and offering a series of discussions during the three-day fest. The schedule has not been fully compiled, but Harris said he is giving priority to local talent that has a positive message to share.

Harris said that no matter the finances, this year will definitely not be the last.

"The objective is to keep going until every person in Englewood doesn't have to look over their shoulder," Harris said. " I want to change a community that's plagued with violence into a community where children can grow and families can live because when you've got a strong home and a strong family, you've got a strong community."

For more updates about the festival and to donate visit the Englewood Film Festival 2012 website: http://www.englewoodfilmfest.com/.

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