In 2002, Illinois' political establishment decided to redraw the map, and created the 39th District on the West Side of Chicago. Toni Berrios, Chicago native and daughter of Cook County Democratic Party Chair Joe Berrios, won the new majority-Latino district handily, unopposed for nearly a decade. 

That is, until Will Guzzardi, a long-shot candidate by every measure, showed up. In 2012, Guzzardi — an unknown, inexperienced 24-year-old from North Carolina — came within 125 votes of a win. The establishment was completely blindsided by the loss.

Guzzardi had sparked a grassroots movement to do things differently in Chicago — and as primary season fired up again for 2014, volunteers from across the district started flocking to his people-powered campaign HQ, confident that door to door organizing could bring down the machine.

The 39th is the story of how campaigns are won and lost in Illinois today — the strategists, the people, the tactics — and what happens when a community comes together to take back local politics.

The Filmmakers


Laura Fallsgraff is the Director of Engagement at Kindling Group, a nonprofit film production company in Chicago. Laura studied international development at Georgetown University (B.S.) and George Washington University (M.A.), and first dipped her toe into documentary at GWU’s Institute for Documentary Film. After writing for video and digital content for President Obama’s re-election campaign, she joined Kindling Group as a director, producer, and impact producer. She has produced and led campaigns for Kindling's films @home and Radical Grace, as well as Kindling's current feature in production, No Small Matter. She loves nothing more than bringing online organizing and compelling storytelling together to inspire change.

Adam Wisneski got his start in journalism, winning both state wide and national multimedia awards for his documentary work. He joined the Obama campaign in 2011 as a cinematographer, and spent 15 months on the road and on Air Force One telling stories about supporters and filming President Obama. As a part of Obama's inner circle, he documented every campaign stop at union halls, doughnut shops, firehouses and campaign rallies across America, capturing iconic moments that helped lead to Obama's victory in 2012. Adam Wisneski is now the Creative Director of HardPin, a video production company he co-founded with other members of Obama's 2012 campaign video team. HardPin consults and completes projects for companies and organizations like The One Campaign, Microsoft, Legendary Entertainment and the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

Josh Kanipe is a six time Telly award winning editor and producer with 15 years of experience crafting video projects for clients diverse as major motion picture studios to national political campaigns to local non-profit organizations. After years of editing and producing projects for the biggest names in Hollywood - including Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, Focus Features and Universal Music Group - creating everything from 15 second promo spots to long-form documentaries; Josh was brought onto President Obama's reelection team in 2011 as the campaign's first video editor.  There, he edited many of the campaign's most crowd-pleasing and inspiring videos. Josh believes in the power of film and continues to find inspiration in telling people's stories.

Press Kit

Please click here to download the film's synopsis and production information.

Please click here to download hi-resolution images and logos for The 39th (please credit all photos to Chris Dilts).

Please click here to view the film's trailer.