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Lillian Likes..."Holy Ground"

Lilllian Likes...“Holy Ground”

The film opens on children singing a beautiful hymn over the scripture, “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called him from the bush, ‘Moses, Moses.’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer.’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” All of the text except for the words holy ground fades out, and we are taken to a shot of grassy ground with the title “Holy Ground” humbly presented in the corner. The artistic choice was such a meaningful way to present the title and overall theme of this documentary.

Lillian Likes…The opening montage of religious iconography interspersed with someone writing on a chalkboard, “How does one tell the story of a church?”

There are some impressive camera shots peppered throughout this informative documentary. This camera work was not just there as a showy display, but rather mirrored the awe-inspiring structures and art discussed in the film.

Lillian Likes…The breathtaking aerial shot of the front of the St. Joseph Catholic Church, panning up and over the roof of the church.

Lillian Likes…The way that the filmmakers chose to have the producer/host, Marla Seidell, write the important dates and places mentioned on a chalkboard, almost as if she was laying out these facts to solve a mystery for the viewer.

Lillian Likes…The way the editor used cross-cuts between Marla’s chalkboard inquiry into Chicago’s official birthday and Eric Cunningham’s commentary about history as a whole.

Lillian Likes…The creative way that the hosts/interviewers took pictures on their phones of important sites, adding a layer of authenticity and sincerity, giving the impression to the viewer that they were not merely on-camera talent, but rather active participants in the historical experience.

Lillian Likes…The choice of the filmmakers to use fast motion driving down streets of Chicago as text is overlayed on the screen about the road being the original 4-mile trail used in the 1860s to travel between two German parishes.

Lillian Likes…The way that the director captured the incredible importance of the Church architecture and iconography to convey deep meaning even to those who could not read the religious scripture at the time.  

One of the most interesting facts that I took away from this film upon watching it was how inextricably linked the Chicago churches were with the Native Americans, who were in attendance of the first mass at St. Mary’s, Chicago’s first Catholic Church.

Lillian Likes…The beautiful shot of the awe-inspiring woodworking art in the middle of the St. John Cantius Church, with an interesting panning shot gliding in a circular fashion around the church piece.

Lillian Likes…The shots of the stained-glass Fibonacci spiral, a sample of the spectacular work of Gabriel Loire, among other renowned artists that did artistic work for the church.

Lillian Likes…The majestic aerial shot moving over the St. Lambert Skokie’s cross on the church, with the gleaming sun almost forming a halo in the background.

Lillian Likes…The moving way in which the filmmakers decided to close out the film with the dissolve from the stained glass into a tree with the sunlight shining through.

Lillian Likes…The choice that the filmmakers made in closing the film like the way in which it began: closing on the grassy ground that the word “holy ground” was inscribed at the beginning. A subtle touch, but one that proves the attention to detail that the filmmakers put into the film.

Lillian Likes…The music choice of the closing of the film of Native American chants with text overlays of what became of the important figures in the development and establishment of Chicago’s churches. There was an unexpected blending of musical genres in this film: angelic choir music with Native American chants, perfectly highlighting the deep connection and history of the origins of Catholic churches in the Chicagoland area and the Native Americans.

The religious statues, stained-glass and other iconography were captured so beautifully in this film, bestowing upon the viewer a sense of unparalleled awe.  

Documentaries are a challenging genre to make visually interesting for a viewer when conveying dates, map locations and other expositional information. This film really knocked it out of the park in the creative ways of presenting the history of the development of Chicago and its deep connection to the Native Americans and the Catholic Church.

The majority of those who will take the time to watch “Holy Ground” will probably be those involved in the Chicagoland Catholic scene. However, even someone who doesn’t belong to a particular parish, such as myself, will undoubtedly walk away from this film moved and with a greater appreciation of Chicago’s rich history and development.  

Lillian Likes…”Holy Ground”

Directed by Michael Jolls

Produced by Marla Seidell, Michael Jolls, Natalia Samoylova, Father Rich Jakubik, Kristine Wolflick, Nick Allexon, Clint Cottrell, John Quirk, & Norena Scanlan

Narrated by Father Gregory Sakowicz


Father Gregory Sakowicz, Father Paul Adaja, Larry Biela, David Buisseret, Eric S. Cunningham, Ann Durkin Keating, Susan L. Kelsey, Father Andrew Luczak, Olivia Murray, Deacon Chick O’Leary, Peter Scheidler, John Schoonhoven, Marla Seidell

Be sure to check out the film here:

Official premiere takes place on 12/14/23 at the Landmark’s The Glen Theater 1850 Tower Dr. Glenview, IL 60026


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