2017 POEFF Best of Fest Winners

Beyond the Wall (USA, 75 min)

  • Directed by Jenny Phillips & Bestor Cram
Through the personal stories of six former prisoners documented over four years, Beyond the Wall bears witness to the challenges of life on the outside. Our characters are in transition; they must relinquish their old lives and build new ones often with little help from the criminal justice system. This film is an intimate portrait of their struggle, their reentry, relapse, recovery and redemption.

Mango Dreams (USA, India, 93 min)

  • Directed by John Upchurch
Hindi Dr. Amit Singh (Ram Gopal Bajaj) survived the British partition of India; yet, cannot shake the trappings of dementia. Salim (Pankaj Tripathi), is a Muslim auto rickshaw driver whose wife was raped and burned to death by Hindu rioters. Now the journey of a thousand miles will heal bitter cultural wounds and forge an unforgettable friendship.

Three Boats (three documentary poems) (USA, 12 min)

  • Directed by Irina Patkanian
An intimate look into the eyes of bewildered children – refugees of Syria. Children account for One-third of the 4.8 million total refugees since Jan 2015.

iWITNESS (Greece, 8 min)

  • Directed by Georgios Mastrakoulis
A man is assaulted by a group of young men. The assault is recorded, the video goes viral – an instant hit. Life through a lens proves to be far more engaging than the real thing, and an exposé of cyber voyeurism.

A Bold Peace (USA, Costa Rica, 90 min)

  • Directed by Matthew Eddy & Michael Dreiling
Costa Rica’s civil war in 1948 shook the country to its foundations, culminating in the decision to abolish the military. From there, they intentionally cultivated security relationships with other nations through treaties, international laws, and international organizations; they created a vital democracy, a wide middle class, and a strong welfare state with free university education and universal health care. Over the last 68 years, the Costa Rican model has survived several serious crises, but the current threats may be the most formidable of all.

The Little Dictator (Israel, 29 min)

  • Directed by Nurith Cohn
An uncharismatic history lecturer of totalitarian leaders, on the Sabbath weekend celebrating the 90th birthday of his wife’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, is forced to confront history, family and self.

Dividing Line of Chicago (USA, 9 min)

  • Directed by Students from Free Spirit Media at North Lawndale College Prep
Students of Free Spirit Media–North Lawndale College Prep Chicago youth see their city as diverse; but also see it as segregated.

Ubuntu: The Peace Exchange in South Africa (USA, S. Africa, 14 min)

  • Produced by Chad Rispalje & Jessica Work (Free Spirit PRO)
Students of Chicago’s violence-plagued neighborhoods travel to S. Africa in 2016, 22 years after apartheid, to prepare to become the Peace Builders needed in their communities.


Student Voices for Peace Awards
Student Voices for Peace Showcases are held on Thursday (middle school) and Friday (high school) mornings of the festival. The students screen Official Selections that the POEFF Teacher Advisory Panel has recommended to the festival directors for students in 7th – 12th grades. The students share dialogue on each film then cast their votes for the Student Choice Award for Most Inspiring Story.

Exposé Awards
A special category that the festival directors created 5 years ago to recognize short and feature documentaries that expose a subject that has received little or no media or public attention, but that shares a potent message, and a clear demonstration that change is needed and is possible.

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