Finalists Announced for First In The Nation Film Festival


Progress Iowa today announced the three finalists for the First In The Nation Film Festival, which called for short films focused on progressive issues. The winner will be announced at a screening of the three films on Monday, January 13th, at FilmScene in Iowa City. As part of the program, a panel discussion including the filmmakers will immediately follow the screening of the films. 

The three finalists will be ranked by judges including Roger Wolfson, a TV Writer, Screenwriter, and Speechwriter, Ben Godar, with the Des Moines Film Society, and Rebecca Fons, the Programming Director for FilmScene. Cash prizes will be given to each of the three finalists.

The First In The Nation Film Festival finalists include a film about the portrayal of women in media, the experience of an Iowa native living with HIV, and a man in Iowa City who is trying to have his voting rights restored. 

“We are thrilled to have had so many submissions and to be recognizing such quality films for our first festival,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “Each one tells a unique story, and brings an important issue more attention. We have to continue lifting up these powerful stories if we want to create change, and film is an incredible way to do just that.”


WHAT: First in the Nation Film Festival

WHEN: Monday, January 13th, 6:00 PM

WHERE: FilmScene 

COST: Free to attend!

RSVP: Click here to RSVP on Facebook

Click here for information about the screening at FilmScene in Iowa City

Here are descriptions of each finalist for the First In The Nation Film Festival: 

Painting With Light (Run Time: 14:04) 

A film by Kai Swanson and Eli Boonin-Vail 

Discusses how lighting portrays women on screen, as a way to examine how film and our culture objectify women, also discussing harassment and the me too movement.

I Just Want To Vote (Run Time: 11:18)

A film by Sarah Beckman

Following the story of a man in Iowa City who is trying to have his voting rights restored, this documentary also looks at action taking place at the Iowa statehouse to restore the voting rights of felons.

Happy Tragedy (Run Time: 8:21) 

A film by Emily Harmon

This short documentary follows Sam Kyker, an Iowa native, on his journey of recovery from HIV—battling stigma, economic pains, and mental health struggles—while pursuing his dream of acting.

Progress Iowa launched the First In The Nation Film Festival as a way to bring progressive stories to the forefront. A prominent group of politically active screenwriters, Writers Action, has partnered with Progress Iowa on the festival, along with the Des Moines Film Society and FilmScene. Fourteen films were submitted, and the three finalists were selected from those submissions.