Buy your tickets:

Cinema Femme kicks off its 2022 ChiFilmFest coverage by speaking with filmmaker Mercedes Kane about her doc “Art and Pep”. We talked about why this film is so important, especially now as our government has been stripping away some of our progressive laws. Also, there has not been a lens like this one on Chicago’s thriving LGBTQIA+ community, and on the scope of the fight for Gay rights in Chicago since the 1980s AIDS crisis in America. We get a window into a 50-year relationship between two beautiful people, Art Johnston and Pepe Peña, who have been paving the way for their community.

The film has its premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival Thursday, October 13th, at 6 PM at AMC River East.


Art Johnston and Pepe Peña are civil rights leaders whose celebrated gay bar Sidetrack has helped fuel movements and create community on Chicago’s Halsted Street for decades. Bringing together a wealth of archival video footage, photographs, and lively animated sequences, Art and Pep chronicles the story of Sidetrack, beginning with its humble origins in 1982 as a single storefront, and the lives of its proprietors. The couple fought on the frontlines of the AIDS crisis, helped co-found Equality Illinois, and have continued to serve as a beacon for equal rights through the pandemic and beyond. Mercedes Kane (2015 Festival hit Breakfast at Ina’s) returns with another loving tribute to an iconic Chicago establishment and the individuals who have transformed the site into a haven of joy and solidarity. (ChiFilmFest summary)

Mercedes Kane

Mercedes Kane (Director and Producer)

As a storyteller Mercedes Kane is forever fascinated by the human experience and the many ways to explore and express that experience. She most recently directed WHAT REMAINS: THE BURNING DOWN OF BLACK WALL STREET (2021) about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. Her third feature length documentary, the award-winning BREAKFAST AT INA’S, premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival before being acquired by American Public Television. It has screened at 50+ film festivals and educational screenings nationwide, garnering a number of high honors, including
audience awards and Best Documentary Feature.

Mercedes’ other films include BANANA SEASON (producer, 2018), TODAY WE SAW THE FACE OF GOD (director, 2012), HEARTS OF HOPE (director, 2009) CHICAGO HEIGHTS (associate producer, 2010), named “One of the Best Art Films” of the year by Roger Ebert.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.