TYPE: Documentary Feature
The coming-of-age story of Daje, a Black teenage girl in a North St. Louis alternative school fighting to make a better future for herself and her son.
For Ahkeem is the coming-of-age story of Daje Shelton, a 17-year-old Black girl from North St. Louis. After a school fight places her in an experimental court-supervised high school, nearby Ferguson erupts, friends are killed, family members are incarcerated, and she fights to make a better future for herself and her newborn son.
Beginning one year before the fatal police shooting of a Black teenager in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, For Ahkeem is the coming-of-age story of Daje Shelton, a Black 17-year-old girl in North St. Louis. She fights for her future as she is placed in an alternative high school and navigates the marginalized neighborhoods, biased criminal justice policies and economic devastation that have set up many Black youth like her to fail.
After she is expelled from her public high school, a juvenile court judge sends Daje to a court-supervised school that offers her one last chance to earn a diploma. Over two years we watch as Daje struggles to maintain focus in school, attends the funerals of friends killed around her, falls in love with a classmate named Antonio, and navigates a loving-but-tumultuous relationship with her mother. As Antonio is drawn into the criminal justice system and events in Ferguson just four miles from her home seize the national spotlight, Daje learns she is pregnant and must contend with the reality of raising a young Black boy.
Through immersive, cinematic scenes of one girl’s struggle to make a better life for herself and her newborn son, For Ahkeem explores the complex web between juvenile justice, education, and race in America today.
Jeremy Levine - Director/Co-Producer
Jeremy Levine is an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker focused on bringing strong, cinematic narrative arcs to social issue films. Good Fortune, his last feature, explores how efforts to aid Africa may be undermining the very communities they aim to serve. The film was awarded a 2007 fellowship from the Sundance Institute, the Witness Award for Human Rights at its 2009 Silverdocs Film Festival premiere, and the 2010 Overseas Press Club Carl Spielvogel Award for international reporting. Good Fortune was broadcast on the award-winning PBS series, POV, where it won a 2010 Emmy. His first film, Walking The Line, a feature documentary about vigilantes along the U.S.-Mexico border, was screened in dozens of film festivals around the world, broadcast nationally in five countries, and recognized with several awards for production, reporting, and preserving human rights. Along with Landon Van Soest, Jeremy co-founded Transient Pictures, a production company with a mission of producing innovative, socially charged films. Together, they also co-founded the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective to provides community and support to independent filmmakers. Jeremy is currently directing the Sundance Institute-supported School of Last Resort, a meditation on an experimental school in north St. Louis through the eyes of a 16-year old girl.
Landon Van Soest - Director
Landon Van Soest is an award winning director and producer of independent films. His original work has broadcast to millions of viewers in seven countries, screened at over fifty international film festivals, received several awards for production and championing human rights, and used in classrooms and conferences across the country. A two-time Sundance Fellow, he has received an Emmy Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, and has been honored by the Overseas Press Club. His last film, the documentary Good Fortune about two Kenyans battling large-scale foreign aid projects designed to help them, broadcast in primetime on POV, PBS's premiere showcase for independent documentaries, to an estimated 2.4 million viewers. It went on to win an Emmy Award. Additional directing credits include the award-winning documentary Walking The Line, about vigilantes along the U.S.-Mexico border, and The Axial Moment, a full length documentary about the most diverse college program in the world. He is currently directing the Sundance-supported documentary School of Last Resort about a neighborhood and experimental school in north St. Louis, an untitled documentary about 'bionic retinas that give vision to the blind, and his first narrative project.
Nicholas Weissman - Producer/Cinematographer
Nicholas Weissman is a documentary filmmaker and freelance producer for Time Inc. Studios. Since coming to New York in 2006 he has worked as a producer and cinematographer for numerous media outlets including Sony Pictures, National Geographic Channel, Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, MSNBC, PBS, TNT, and The History Channel. His first independent film, The Minutemen, produced by Weissman and directed by Corey Wascinski, won the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival and both Best Documentary and Grand Jury Prize at the Brooklyn International Film Festival.
Jeff Truesdell - Executive Producer
Jeff Truesdell is a staff writer for People Magazine. Since 2000 he's covered a human-interest/breaking-news beat that has taken him from coast-to-coast and to seven countries, reporting on stories that include Hurricane Katrina, the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, the Terri Schiavo right-to-die debate, and the search for the missing Natalee Holloway. His feature article School of Last Resort, which he spent 13 months researching and appeared as a four-page feature in People Magazine's Heroes Among Us series, was an inspiration for this film. He taught journalism at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and as a newspaper editor and reporter previously worked for The Miami Herald, St. Louis Sun, Columbia Daily Tribune, and was a founding editor of Orlando Weekly. He is based in St. Louis.
Iyabo Boyd - CoProducer
Iyabo Boyd is an independent film producer and writer/director, and an Impact Partners Creative Producers Fellow. She has previously held positions at Chicken & Egg Pictures, Tribeca Film Institute, Independent Feature Project (IFP), the Sundance Film Festival, and has served on juries for DOC NYC, IDA Awards, Cinema Eye Honors, and SXSW. She produced the fiction feature film Sun Belt Express, which had its international premiere in Paris at the Champs-Elysée Film Festival in 2014, and is now available on VOD. She directed and co-wrote a short fiction film called Forever, Ally, which screened at Out on Film: Atlanta’s LGBT Film Festival and the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in 2015. She graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BA in Film & Television in 2006.
Bradley Rayford - Field Producer
Brad Rayford is an independent photographer, video journalist, and human rights activist based in St. Louis. His work has been featured on CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera America, and the LA Times. He has been at the forefront of the Ferguson story, capturing historic moments seen across the world.
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