creating media that inspires positive solutions

2631 N. Sacramento, #2
Chicago, IL 60647 USA


Prairie Dust Films is an independent documentary company founded by Courtney Hermann and Suree Towfighnia in 2002. As Coordinators at The Michael Rabiger Center for Documentary at Columbia College Chicago, the pair fostered a culture and community supportive of the documentary form and its practitioners. Our mission is to make films that present contemporary American issues in an entertaining way. We recognize the diversity within our culture and inspire creative solutions for positive social change. Prairie Dust Films records stories for future generations and documents an alternative record of events. We honor our documentary roots in verite storytelling while understanding that each film merits its own unique particular style.

Our films have been broadcast nationally, screened in festivals and been shown in communities around the world. Prairie Dust Film has received funding from CPB/NAPT, Playboy Foundation, Paul Robeson Fund, POV/American Documentary, Seventh Generation Fund, private foundations and individual donors.

Specializing in media that engages audiences and encourages them towards thoughtful action, Prairie Dust Films' projects work well as part of campaigns. Successful campaigns have centered around the advocacy and legalization of industrial hemp, rights for the elderly and health care reform for rural America, among others.

A big part of our work is mentorship and to that end we collaborate with the Lakota Media Project, an initiative that mentors youth who create stories from their own perspectives (view trailer). Aside from this work, we offer master classes in shooting and storytelling for others interested in crafting their ideas into a documentary. Prairie Dust Films uses many forms of media to help deliver the message including film, music, graphic arts, and education. Please explore our work and contact us for more information.

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thumbnailSuree Towfighnia
Co-founder of Prairie Dust Films, Suree directed Standing Silent Nation, which chronicles the growing of industrial hemp by Lakota on their sovereign lands. Broadcast on POV in 2007, it garnered many awards in domestic and international festivals. Suree teaches documentary with Columbia College, EICTV in Cuba, Cinema Chicago, non-profit groups and as a teaching artist. She began the Lakota Media Project (LMP) in 2003 to provide mentorship and training to Lakota girls and women dedicated to documenting their way of life. Suree was the 2004 recipient of the Studs Terkel Community Media Award for her thesis film Tampico. Sure directs, shoots, edits and produces short videos for non-profits and organizations.

thumbnailCourtney Hermann
is an independent documentary filmmaker and educator from Portland, Oregon. Courtney produced the award-winning documentary Standing Silent Nation, which aired nationally on PBS's Emmy-award winning documentary series, P.O.V. Praised by The New York Times, the documentary was featured at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and won the audience award at several film festivals, including the Sedona International Film Festival. Courtney is producer on the feature film Exotic World , a documentary about legends in the burlesque movement and the current revival to protect the past and celebrate its revival. Courtney holds an MFA in Film and Video Production from Columbia College Chicago and is the Assistant Department Director of and a faculty member in the Digital Film and Video department at the Art Institute of Portland.

thumbnailReuben Cruz
(Pee Posh Maricopa/ Mexican) is a father-musician-poet-organizer from Phoenix, Arizona. He writes and documents stories of social injustice gathered from his ancestors and the experiences he's lived. A member of the Gila River Nation, Reuben has dedicated his work to support the advancement of people in disenfranchised communities everywhere. As a member of Prairie Dust Films, Reuben works on outreach and community engagement for Standing Silent Nation and is involved with Crying Earth Rise Up on many aspects from pre-production to community education. Aside from collaborating on story elements for documentary films and edits, Reuben composes positive hip-hop music, creates visual art and writes fiction and poetry all related to his social justice advocacy.

thumbnailKerribeth Elliott
is the owner of Kerribeth Elliott Video Production Services in Portland, Oregon, where she shoots and edits documentaries, identity pieces and industrial/corporate videos. Kerribeth crewed on the award-winning documentary Standing Silent Nation, where she worked in several different capacities from development to distribution and is currently working with director Janet McIntyre on the production of the documentary Faded. She holds a BA degree in Film and Video Production from Columbia College Chicago.

thumbnailSharon Karp
has edited documentaries for over 30 years. She was the editor on Prairie Dust Films last project, Standing Silent Nation. Among her award-winning films are the Emmy-nominated Silent Pioneers, Chicago Film Festival Silver Hugo Winner The Chicago Maternity Center Story, and Return of Navajo Boy, a Sundance Film Festival official selection. Her most recent projects include The Innocent, winner of the Crystal Heart Award for documentary feature, about people wrongly sentenced to death, and Burnt Oranges, winner of the Cine Golden Eagle Award, about state terrorism in Argentina during the 1970's. Sharon is the owner of Media Monster in Chicago, which provides full-service production and editing services.

thumbnailBryan Litt
is an independent filmmaker and commercial director whose work has received numerous awards and screened around the world. When he doesn't have a camera in his hand he collects old records, vintage sports memorabilia, international folk art, and fine Kentucky bourbons. On the weekends you can often find him laying on the couch with his wife and two dogs while reading the Sunday paper and listening to Billie Holiday.

thumbnailBeth Sternheimer
has been a documentary producer and researcher for independent films and museum projects for 15 years. She co-produced the PBS/ITVS/Kindling Group series, The Calling, (broadcast nationally on Independent Lens December 2010), which chronicles experiences of seminarians preparing to enter the clergy. She was AP on Secrecy, a documentary on government secrecy and for Traces of the Trade, which follows descendants of the largest slave trading family retracing the Triangle Trade. Both films premiered at Sundance in 2008 and Traces was broadcast on P.O.V. Beth was a 2009 national Emmy nominee for Outstanding Research on Traces of the Trade.

thumbnailLakota Media Project
An initiative of Owe Aku / Prairie Dust Films, the LMP was founded in 2003 to mentor Lakota youth and women on documentary filmmaking. It creates media to complement social justice work on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This work benefits Tribal Nations' population and beyond, through distributing educational materials about Native issues from a Native perspective in a Native voice. Although they suffered a devastating blow when almost all equipment, footage and archive was lost in a fire in 2007, their work continues on. They are collaborating with Prairie Dust Films on the educational and online short campaign for Crying Earth Rise Up, the feature production, original music and artwork. View the LMP trailer.




Thank you for your interest in Prairie Dust Films. All donations, of any size, are greatly appreciated and will go toward current productions and initiatives, unless otherwise noted.

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