For Ahkeem

After a school fight lands 17-year old Daje Shelton in a court-supervised alternative high school, she's determined to turn things around and make a better future for herself in her rough St. Louis neighborhood. But focusing on school is tough as she loses multiple friends to gun violence, falls in love for the first time, and becomes pregnant with a boy, Ahkeem, just as Ferguson erupts a few miles down the road. Through Daje’s intimate coming-of-age story, For Ahkeem illuminates challenges that many Black teenagers face in America today, and witnesses the strength, resilience, and determination it takes to survive.

  • Jeremy S. Levine
  • Landon Van Soest
    Good Fortune
  • Nicholas Weissman
    The Minutemen
  • Jeff Truesdell
  • Iyabo Boyd
  • Brad Rayford
  • Daje "Boonie" Shelton
    Key Cast
  • Noah Bennett Cunningham
    Original Music By
  • John Moros
    Sound Design
  • Lily Henderson
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Drama, Indie, Coming-of-age, Political, Personal, Youth, Teen, Women, Black, African-American
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes 25 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 10, 2017
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    1080 24p
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Berlinale
    February 10, 2017
    World Premiere
    Nominated for Glashütte Original Documentary Award
  • Tribeca Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    April 23, 2017
    North American Premiere
  • IFF Boston
    United States
    April 29, 2017
    New England Premiere
    Winner, Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature
  • Hot Docs International Film Festival
    April 30, 2017
    Canadian Premiere
  • Doc Edge
    New Zealand
    May 14, 2017
    New Zealand Premiere
    Winner, Special Jury Mention for Best International Feature
  • Sheffield Doc/Fest
    United Kingdom
    June 13, 2017
  • Tacoma Film Festival
    United States
    October 7, 2017
    West Coast Premiere
    Winner, Best Documentary Feature
  • International Black Film Festival
    Nashville, TN
    United States
    October 5, 2017
    Winner, Best Feature Documentary
  • Santa Fe Independent Film Festival
    Santa Fe, NM
    United States
    October 19, 2017
    Winner, Best Feature Documentary
  • Tallgrass Film Festival
    Wichita, KS
    United States
    October 20, 2017
    Winner, Outstanding Documentary Feature
  • AFI Docs
    Washington, DC
    United States
    June 15, 2017
  • St. Louis International Film Festival
    St. Louis
    United States
    November 11, 2017
    Winner, Midrash St. Louis Film Award
Distribution Information
  • Sales: Submarine
    Country: United States
Director Biography - Jeremy S. Levine, Landon Van Soest

Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest are an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaking team. Their latest feature documentary, Good Fortune, about two Kenyans battling major foreign aid efforts that bring them more harm than benefit, was broadcast to millions of viewers in prime time on the PBS series POV. Good Fortune received a National Emmy Award in addition to awards for international reporting and promoting social justice from the Overseas Press Club, Fledgling Fund, and Witness. Their previous documentary Walking the Line, about vigilantes on the U.S.-Mexico border, was broadcast nationally in five countries and recognized with awards for production, reporting, and preserving human rights. In 2014, Levine directed/co-produced “Am I Next,” a short film about a teenager navigating the protests on the streets of Ferguson for Time. The short was also featured on Upworthy and Dazed Magazine and selected as a Vimeo Staff pick, with over 500K combined views. Van Soest is also currently directing Light Darkness Light, a feature documentary that tracks the life-altering experience of a man who receives a bionic eye and learns to see again after thirty years of blindness. Landon and Jeremy co-founded Transient Pictures, a full service production company that produces original content for organizations like Facebook, Unicef, Ben & Jerry’s, Toyota, and Lincoln Center. The team also co-founded the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, a not-for-profit group of professional filmmakers who come together weekly for feedback and support.

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Director Statement

For us, For Ahkeem is about an extraordinary young girl who never gives up. We capture Daje's personality and experiences with astonishing intimacy—with all of her positive attributes, flaws, choices good and bad laid bare with artful nuance that resembles a fiction film. But Daje is neither Malala (the exception) nor Precious (the victim); she is one of the millions of Black women and girls who are somewhere in between, doing their very best to keep their heads above water, to not slip even though the weight of the world is on their backs.

Daje exemplifies the awareness and insight many Black teenagers bring to the unique challenges of their lives; how they are in constant dialogue about how to process, survive, and transcend the violence and other systemic obstructions put in their paths. Through Daje's inner world and day-to-day experiences, For Ahkeem provides an important window into the complexities of growing up with this trauma, and aims to highlight the urgent, devastating consequences of being a Black teenager in America today.