Make a Distinction

16mm film transferred to digital video, color, sound, 62 min
Kera MacKenzie & Andrew Mausert-Mooney, 2021

Synopsis

A family rests in the shade of a C-47 warcraft. An army installation contains the last remnants of an endangered grassland ecology. Young filmmakers hone their skills making cop shows on Chicago streets.

A debut hybrid non-fiction feature, Make a Distinction maps unseen forces of US imperialism through ostensibly disconnected aspects of daily life. If you can’t name the enemy do you become it?

Poster Design: William Nizeyimana

Make a Distinction Trailer

Press

"Make a Distinction explores American landscapes and unearths the carceral and imperial undertones embedded in them. Through a lens that fuses ecological concerns with questions about state power and the structures that keep the scales unbalanced, Make a Distinction offers us an important example of how experimental documentary practices can create bridges across seemingly disparate conceptual terrains." — UnionDocs

Make a Distinction UnionDocs Screening Trailer

"Make A Distinction is an innovative, hybrid non-fiction feature that blends together strains of essayistic, observational and agitprop filmmaking into a blistering montage. Political in a capital P way, it’s urgent for most everyone, especially those of us in the so-called Chicago universe.” — Bad at Sports Episode 797

Excerpts from Bad at Sports Episode 797

"One could say the same about MacKenzie and Mausert-Mooney’s MAKE A DISTINCTION, a bold step into the feature form by the Chicago-based duo, making its world premiere at Onion City. Made over four (shall we say, fraught) years, the film seems to narrate the course of its own development, from exploratory survey to statement of purpose: if you’re wondering where it’s going at the start, you’ll know exactly where you stand at the end. (Spoiler alert: stolen land.) Not that things are all that vague at the jump: an electric opening montage featuring clips of Kwame Ture and Fred Hampton signals the general direction. But the following scenes, cruising the communities surrounding Kentucky’s Fort Campbell Army Base and glimpsing the travesties inflicted on the American environment by capitalism and militarism, suggest filmmakers seeking refuge in pockets of untrammeled nature—and in a familiar idiom of landscape essay film. This impression is deceptive: halfway through, the film changes course dramatically, turning its focus towards Chicago and adopting a tone of forceful and incisive analysis. Defiantly casting their 16mm camera lens on the many Dick Wolf television productions shooting around the city, the filmmakers unpack incestuous relationships linking the dramatized copaganda of shows like Chicago PD, the corrupt developers behind the Cinespace Chicago studio, and the actual CPD forces who have brutalized city residents with impunity for decades. With damning precision, MacKenzie and Mausert-Mooney lay out on-screen texts and primary documents, arguing implicitly for formal, economic, and political alternatives to the commercial film industry’s hegemony…before changing stylistic gears yet again. These shifts are abrupt, but the film’s own internal polymorphism—the confidence with which it swerves from landscape to essay film to insurrectionary botany lesson (?!)—helps us imagine what such a radical film practice might look like. The electrifying Dick Wolf sequence divides the film, much as the opening’s Fred Hampton quotation divides the people from the pigs. But MacKenzie and Mausert-Mooney don’t just ask us to pick a side, they show us how. By returning, with lucid self-awareness and burning urgency, to landscapes, figures, techniques, and themes from its first half, MAKE A DISTINCTION demonstrates how historical consciousness can orient diverse experimental tactics towards a unitary, emancipatory purpose. In other words, like all the films in this program, it’s an object lesson in political filmmaking." — Michael Metzger, CINE-FILE

"Our selections for Best of Festival were made based on a desire to celebrate the strength of vision in these three works; the ambition, passion and creativity found in Make a Distinction, […]"2021 Onion City Experimental Film & Video Festival Jury Statement (Carmel Curtis, Jose Luis Benavides, & Jesse McLean)

Film Stills

Credits

A film by Kera MacKenzie & Andrew Mausert-Mooney

With: Dr. L Dwayne Estes, Chris Mausert-Mooney, Stella Brown

Writing: Kera MacKenzie, Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Ro Joonho

Music: Christopher Dammann - Composition & Analog Synths

In Collaboration With: James Davis - Trumpet, Ben Billington - Drums, Catherine Nguyen - Orchestration

Recording and Mixing: Nick Broste

Sound Recording and Design: Kera MacKenzie & Andrew Mausert-Mooney

Final Sound Mix: Ralph Loza

Screening History

2022

Make a Distinction with Hey, I Heard You Like HIV: The Diagnosis, Elsewhere Museum, Greensboro NC (forthcoming)

Make a Distinction/Q+A with filmmakers
, Anarchist Media Fest and Skill Share, PO Box Collective, Chicago IL (forthcoming)

Make a Distinction, la lumière collective, co-presented by VISIONS and the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM), Montréal QC, Canada

Make a Distinction with We Had Each Other, Epsilon Spires, Brattleboro VT

Make a Distinction with FROM ALLY TO ACCOMPLICE, The Lucy Parsons Center, Boston MA

Make a Distinction with Under the paving stones, the beach, UnionDocs, Brooklyn NY

Make a Distinction with On the Border of What is Formless and Monstrous, Visible Records, Charlottesville VA

Make a Distinction with Hail Mary
, Hi-Lo Press, Atlanta GA

Make a Distinction and Field Resistance, The Block Museum of Art, Evanston IL

Experimental Tuesdays: Make a Distinction, Union Cinema, Milwaukee WI

City on the Make, Florida Experimental Film/Video Festival, Tampa FL


2021
Video Playlist: Water or Escape, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago IL

Opening Night Film: Make a Distinction, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Chicago IL
(WINNER: Jury Award)

The Stories Left Out, Now! A Journal of Urgent Praxis, Online (trailer only)

Centerpiece Screening: Make a Distinction, Onion City Experimental Film + Video Festival, Chicago IL
(WINNER: Best of the Festival (Jury Award))