Loyola Phoenix

In/Motion Dance Film Festival Celebrates Social Justice

"The Prince" explores Islamophobia through film, acting and dance.

The In/Motion Dance Film Festival returned to Loyola University Chicago March 21-25 for its fourth year to celebrate the best in dance-centric film in Chicago and across the country. The annual festival boasts a strong collection of short dance films about modern social justice issues from a diverse array of filmmakers.

From the Water Tower Campus’ Corboy Law Center to Lake Shore Campus’ Mundelein Center, In/Motion is held in various locations on campus and is partially curated by students of the university as well as emerging filmmakers. Some events are free and some charge a ticket fee of $5.50-$25. Thirteen short films were screened at this year’s festival, as well as two feature-length documentaries.

Amy Wilkinson, Loyola dance professor and artistic director and co-creator of In/Motion, said the festival is looking for particular things in the films it accepts into its lineup, including the strength of the filmmaker’s vision, how the production supports that vision and what, if anything, the film has to say about social justice.

“[In/Motion] is a dance film festival that really celebrates the innovation of dance movement material and digital technology, and the artists that we host and the films that we screen usually have to do with social justice,” Wilkinson said.

From incarceration to gender and sexuality, Wilkinson said the 2018 In/Motion film festival covered a range of important topics in today’s culture, and dance has a unique way of exploring these ideas.

“The physicality of the human body has a way of manifesting social and cultural values like nothing else does,” Wilkinson said. Wilkinson said 2018’s In/Motion grew in scope compared to previous years. The festival increased from three to five days with nearly double the amount of events over that span, with more than 200 people in attendance, according to Wilkinson.

“The Prince,” one of the films shown at the festival, tackles Islamophobia as much through traditional storytelling as it does through dance.

The 12-minute short centers around Amir, a Middle Eastern actor, and his daughter, Olivia, who’s a dancer. When Amir is called a terrorist on a city bus, Olivia expresses her feelings the only way she knows how — through dance.

Kyra Zagorsky, the director of the film and a veteran television actress, said the short film was based on a true event in her life when she was riding public transit with her young children. Because her own daughter is a dancer, Zagorsky said she felt inspired to tell her story by blending the two art forms she knows.

“[Dance] is my daughter’s way of saying, ‘Accept me and accept my family, and we can be a part of [this country, too],’” Zagorsky said. “I wanted to use [Olivia’s] dance to drive [Amir’s] emotional journey forward and express what he wasn’t expressing in the film.”

Zagorsky said the reaction to the film’s direct address of Islamic discrimination has been diverse.

“There’s people who identify with it completely and are moved by it, or people who are really floored by it and say, ‘I had no idea,’” Zagorsky said. “And then there’s the reaction where people just want to act like it has nothing to do with them and doesn’t concern them.”

Filled with beautiful cinematography, tight editing and stark discourse on an important issue in modern America, it’s not difficult to see why “The Prince” was chosen to play at 2018’s In/Motion festival; it embodies everything Wilkinson looks for in a festival film.

Sarah Fluegel, a 21-year-old Loyola student and marketing-communication intern for the festival, said “The Prince” was a particularly impactful film she saw as part of her job to watch all 300 plus entries.

“‘The Prince’ got at the heart of a social justice issue and how we see the people around us,” Fluegel said. “We like think that these prejudices don’t exist, but they do. It might be jarring for audiences to see them play out on screen.”

In addition to “The Prince,” Fluegel saw numerous films from all over the world in preparation for 2018’s In/Motion festival. She said one of her favorite things about the festival is how dance seems to unite people from all walks of life.

“We love to show dance on different bodies,” she said.

From skin color to gender to one’s level of physical ability, In/Motion seeks to cater to dancers across the globe. According to Fluegel, this was the festival’s best year yet.

The future looks bright for the In/Motion Dance Film Festival, and emphasizing social justice and starting important conversations should keep it relevant for years to come.

“The Prince” is currently on the festival circuit and will not be available to stream until it’s done.

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