Guests gathered at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, on September 27, 2018 for the U.S. premiere of “Under One Sky,” a collaborative documentary by students of the Loyola University Chicago and the Moscow-based Institute of Contemporary Art and sponsored by Eurasia Foundation’s US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange program. The film introduced the audience to two drastically different cities – Moscow and Chicago – but focused on similar aspects of life and culture: music, coffee, pets, and more. The premiere was the first chance to bring the film’s message to a public audience in the U.S.
Filmmaker Jeffrey Chow participates in a panel discussion during the U.S. premiere of “Under One Sky”
The Social Expertise Exchange program conceived and funded the production of “Under One Sky” as its first and foremost cross-cultural exchange project and arranged for representatives from the Institute of Contemporary Art to come to the U.S. in the fall of 2016 to meet with faculty members at several U.S. universities. The team from Moscow ultimately decided to work with Loyola University Chicago after an immediate connection with School of Communications Professor John Goheen. In addition to displaying unity at a tense time in U.S.-Russian relations, the film was a collaborative experiment for professors and a brand-new experience for students, many of whom had never traveled outside their own country.
One of the first questions during the post-premiere Q&A, which featured Loyola Professor John Goheen as well as alumnus and filmmaker Jeffrey Chow, addressed the technical issues faced by the two teams. From different editing styles to communicating with partners in a different language and living halfway around the world, the making of “Under One Sky” was a challenge. The Russians used a frame rate in their editing different from the Americans, and some were more advanced filmmakers than others. Goheen described the results of overcoming these challenges: “From the start, I didn't have the best impressions of Russia. However, this project completely changed my opinion. The collaborative work and our conversations about music, politics, cinematography – about everything – played a special role. And I understood that they were normal people like us.” And much like the students involved in the project, the audience came away with a different picture of Russia than the one they had before. Moscow and Chicago became more similar – in spirit and in reality – than they had originally imagined.
U.S. and Russian students and professors involved in “Under One Sky” at Red Square in Moscow.
“Under One Sky” (which was named by the students) has been not only a path to new skills, but also a sign of hope for new U.S.-Russian collaboration and exchange. Building off the interest from the U.S. premiere, this film will be further distributed and submitted to film festivals in both the U.S. and Russia. The documentary is slowly gaining publicity, and there are already signs of it being received positively: in early 2018, “Under One Sky” won an Award of Excellence from the Festival of Media Arts, and just a few days after the D.C. premiere, Voice of America produced a video feature in Russian about the project, underscoring the overall message of the film – no matter who we are, no matter where we come from, Russians or Americans, we all live under one sky.
A special thank you to the Kennan Institute for hosting the U.S. premiere of “Under One Sky.”