Chicago-based filmmaker Deborah Stratman structured her one-hour film essay The Illinois Parables (2016) in 11 episodes. The U.S. government's ‘resettlement’ of the Cherokee Native Americans, the arrival and exodus of the Mormons of Nauvoo, the deadly 1925 tri-state tornado, the invention of the nuclear reactor, a series of mysterious fires, the killing of Black Panther activist Fred Hampton — Stratman mined the history of Illinois, and traveled to the charged locations where they occurred.
Stratman layered vivid 16 mm observational shots with related diagrams and texts, eye-witness testimonies, found archival footage, staged reenactments, and exacting sound design. Through her confluence of this seemingly disparate material, she traverses fourteen centuries of settlement and expulsion, displacement and resistance, natural and unnatural disasters, the achievements and consequences of technological innovation, and violence by the state towards the people of Illinois. Entities come into contact with greater forces. Specific, earthly, stories come to yield sublime meanings.
Like most other states in the U.S., Illinois is haunted by triumphs and tragedies. And if it is indeed ‘America’s Most Average State’, then the fragmented, subjective, and highly-localized vignettes Stratman uses to rigorously scrutinize this metonymical microcosm of the U.S. extend beyond the boundaries of any single territory.