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$22,994
pledged of $30,000pledged of $30,000 goal
125
backers
4days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sun, November 24 2019 1:45 PM UTC +00:00.

Czechs In Chicago: A Home in the Heartland

A Feature Length Documentary

Czechs In Chicago: A Home in the Heartland

A Feature Length Documentary

$22,994
pledged of $30,000pledged of $30,000 goal
125
backers
4days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sun, November 24 2019 1:45 PM UTC +00:00.

About

BIG NEWS!  -- We’re announcing the Claude & Helen Duchon Matching Funds Challenge! From day 1 until November 24, 2019 all funds pledged through our Kickstarter Crowdfunding Campaign will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the generosity of the Duchons. That means when you give $25, the film gets $50! When you give $50, the film gets $100 and so on! Please donate today as the Duchon's will match up to $30,000, yet we MUST reach our GOAL of raising $30,000 on our Kickstarter which is an all or nothing arrangement. Help us meet this challenge to finish the film and donate today!

A word from our funders - "As someone who's appreciative of my Czech heritage, I am excited to support the "Czechs in Chicago: A Home in the Heartland" film project. Helen and I have complete confidence in filmmakers Susan Marcinkus and Larry Jacobs to document the stories of the Czech immigrants and their descendants in Chicagoland on film. The Trailers and other films demonstrate their impressive skills in filmmaking. We can't wait to see the final cut of "Czechs in Chicago"! -Claude and Helen Duchon

"The reasons for emigration must ever be strong... But when the Bohemians decide to leave the village or town they were born in, the pain of parting gives life to a strong love for the new country, the unknown, yet longed-for home." - Alice Garrigue Masaryk (1879 - 1966) Sociologist, humanitarian, activist, daughter of Tomas G. Masaryk

“Czechs in Chicago: A Home in the Heartland” will tell the story of the Czech immigrant experience in the city, and chronicle its rich history, past and present. Spanning a century and a half of turbulent times, it will show how the Czechs helped build and shape the city, from their experience settling the Czech neighborhoods, to founding cultural and business institutions, to contributing to political and civic leadership. 

Chicago’s DeKoven street looking east, late 1800s

The film will tell how these innovative people made Chicago the heart of Czech America and how Chicago, in turn, empowered them to help establish and aid their homeland, Czechoslovakia, during all of Europe’s major conflicts.

The development of the Czech neighborhoods in Chicago will serve as our narrative thread throughout the piece, beginning in the 1840’s when they first came as political refugees and squatters in today’s Lincoln Park area, or the Sands, as it was then called. Gradually moving westward, they colonized 'Praha' in the early 1860’s, 'Pilsen' in the 1870’s, 'Czech California', a.k.a. Lawndale in the early 1900’s, and even further west to Cicero and Berwyn in the early 1920’s.  At the same time, we’ll feature the personal stories of recent as well as older immigrants and their families, spanning the generations, giving an intimate look at how individual lives were affected by public events in their Chicago neighborhoods.

From the Czech communities we’ll follow the emergence of American superstars. We’ll feature Antonin Cermak’s political ascendance as the first immigrant mayor of a major US city, with the Czech Lawndale neighborhood as his home and political power base. We’ll see the boy who narrowly escaped the Eastland Disaster, George Halas, who founded both the Chicago Bears and the NFL. Kim Novak, born into the Chicago Czech community in 1933, soared to fame in Hollywood and starred opposite leading men like Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, character actor Karl Malden, crime writer Gera-Lind Kolarik, film distributor & commentator Milos Stehlik, and former Illinois state treasurer, the late Judy Baar Topinka, are just a few of the Chicago Czech Americans who have left an imprint on the community and beyond.

Mayor Anton Cermak with his entourage, 1932, Chicago’s Loop

As a story teller and filmmaker I've been inspired by the idea of cultural identity for a long time--why people emigrated here from their native lands, how they adapted to their often shocking new environment, and what price they paid for assimilating to American culture. How did they navigate the vast differences in their day-to-day lives? What was gained? What was lost?

I saw the love my own immigrant grandparents had for their homeland--its language, music, dance, food and folk traditions. They came here from Austro-Hungary in 1912 and settled in the Midwest. I doubt that their lives were significantly improved in the U.S., but their children's lives were.

Marysa Cultural Club, Chicago, 1940

For the first time ever, our film will bring the story of the Czechs in Chicago to life on WTTW 11 PBS, our broadcast home. It will serve as a permanent legacy for the people of Chicago, the Czech Community and its future generations, while also educating, informing and arousing in viewers, no matter what nationality, a curiosity about their own cultural heritage.

And our film is ever more relevant now! With the dire migrant situation festering at our southern border, our immigration stories are an important thread in the fabric of our American democracy. It's not just history; it's timely!

Czech Immigrants arriving, Chicago's Train Station

We've been working on this film project for several years and have shot 80% of our interviews (the heart of the film) and B roll footage. We have begun editing our rough cut and have gathered a huge amount of archival film footage and photographs.

Our goal is to finish all shooting and our rough cut by the Spring of 2020, to start editing our fine cut at that time, and make it to the finish line by the end of 2020.

We're asking for your pledges to help us finish editing and meet the high costs of licensing the archival footage, photographs, and music. The costs of picture, audio, and music editing and mixing the final film are substantial. But with your support, we can meet our goal.

We are a team of filmmakers behind documentaries such as “Pictures from the Old Country." Producer/Director Susan Marcinkus directed and produced the dramatic short, “Second Thoughts”, winner of the CINE Golden Eagle award that aired on A&E and PBS and worked as editor on the Oscar award winning drama, “Board and Care”; editor Laurence Jacobs is the winner of an Emmy Award as editor on ”The Oprah Winfrey Show” and was honored at the Chicago International Film Festival with the Silver Hugo Award for producing and directing best short film “Late Curtain”; Max Miller is a Director of Photography with more than 20 years of experience behind the lens with work such as “Legacy” for HBO Films, nominated for an Academy Award; editor Jayasri (Joyce) Hart has worked for BBC World Service in London and her project “Where’s the Evidence? A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority,” was screened by invitation at the Mad in America International Film Festival.

  • Please donate. No donation is too small.
  • Please spread the news and share this Kickstarter link with everyone you know and any organizations, groups, or networks!
  • Please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @czechsinchicago for updates on the film's progress

Risks and challenges

“Czechs in Chicago” is currently in progress for broadcast on Chicago PBS, WTTW 11 Television. Despite having a broadcast home with WTTW 11, which we are appreciative of, we do not receive any funding from them for production or post-production costs. Documentary films take time to research the story and characters, and with a history as grand as the Czech immigrants of Chicago our team at Manifest Films needs time and additional funds to include as much as possible. Dealing with approximately 175 years of history, there’s a great breadth and complexity to the subject matter that makes it challenging along with costly clearance and permissions for archival footage and music. But we’re not intimidated by its scope; we’re excited and committed to completing this compelling film.

Based on our team’s experience with film, television, and documentary production, we are confident we will overcome the obstacles we face. We appreciate your support in helping us finish a high-quality film that will be enjoyed by viewers around the world for years to come.

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    "Just Judy" Signed Book

    The story of Judy Baar Topinka, a strong and inspiring Czech female leader who changed Illinois history through her commitment to effective government and equality. Signed by her son and author Joseph Baar Topinka

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    T.G. Masaryk Czech School Class

    The Czech language is a key to the culture--a most integral part of its cultural heritage. One of the disadvantages of assimilation (in the US) was often losing the language of our immigrant forebears. Learn the language from native Czech speakers, and have fun doing it, at the T.G. Masaryk Czech School in Cicero. Take a year long language class (Sept - May) in Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced level Czech. Applicable for school years 2020-2022.

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    Private 2-Hour Call with the Team

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    Czech Cultural Experience at Cafe Prague

    Food is an integral part of any culture. Bonus features of the film feature the importance of Czech food and now YOU can try the food yourself. Experience a fundamental part of the Czech culture by enjoying an authentic dinner at restaurants owned and operated by Czech families. Savor the Czech cuisine at Cafe Prague as you have a complete dinner for two (travel and accommodations not included)

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    Czech Cultural Experience at Czech Plaza

    Food is an integral part of any culture. Bonus features of the film feature the importance of Czech food and now YOU can try the food yourself. Experience a fundamental part of the Czech culture by enjoying an authentic dinner at restaurants owned and operated by Czech families. Situated in a Czech neighborhood, revel as you have a complete dinner for two (travel and accommodations not included)

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