Eleven parables recount events from the history of the state of Illinois: regional vignettes about faith, force, technology, and exodus. From the violent eviction of the Cherokee to the establishment of a utopian community of French Icarians, the invention of the nuclear reactor, and the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, the film relays histories of settlement, removal, technological breakthrough, violence, messianism, and resistance. Illinois, here, functions as a convenient structural ruse, allowing its histories to become allegories that explore how societies are shaped by conviction and ideology. The Illinois Parables suggests links between technological and religious abstraction, placing them in conversation with governance. Its locations are ‘thin places’ where the distance between heaven and earth has collapsed, or more secularly, any place that bears a heavy past, where desire and displacement have led us into or erased us from the land. Utilizing reenactment, archival footage, observational shooting, intertitles, the film asks who or what we end up blaming or endorsing in our desire to explain the unknown.
by Deborah Stratman
with C. Felton Jennings II, Joshua Frieman, Anna Toborg, José Oubrerie