Film screening: “This World is Not My Own”

Saturday, July 15, 2023
5–7 p.m. central
756 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642

Film screening: “This World is Not My Own”

Beginning with her birthday, July 4, 1900, artist Nellie Mae Rowe’s life spanned the 20th century. For most of her life, Rowe made art in obscurity, propelled by a force she viewed as a God-given gift. As the daughter of a sharecropper and former slave, she made art from whatever she could find. As an adult, she transformed her home into her “Playhouse,” an imaginative oasis filled with vibrant drawings, handmade sculptures and dolls, and collected objects. Six years before her death, a wealthy gallerist, Judith Alexander, “discovered” and introduced her work to the art world.

Over four acts and an interlude, This World is Not My Own traces the lifespan of an artist who struggled to dedicate her life to art while exploring the personal and political events that shaped her singular body of work. The film mixes traditional documentary techniques with animations and scripted scenes shot in intricately detailed sets to bring her dynamic story to life.

Black and white photograph, with added color, of Nellie Mae Rowe, in pink, and Judith Alexander, in blue
Nellie Mae Rowe and Judith Alexander (detail) art by Nellie Mae Rowe. Photography by Lucinda Bunnen

Opendox created film sets that reimagine Rowe’s “Playhouse” and partnered with Kaktus Film to design and animate 3D characters in Rowe’s and her gallerist’s likenesses. Actresses Uzo Aduba and Amy Warren perform scripted scenes based on Nellie Mae Rowe quotes. Their recorded voices and movements make the animated Rowe and Alexander come to life.

This World is Not My Own tells the story of a woman who was born an artist but had to overcome many obstacles to dedicate herself to her art. Ultimately, Rowe builds the world she wants to live in. She invites Alexander to join her and for us to consider what they left behind.

The film screening will take place in the performance space at Intuit and conclude with a Q&A with Petter Ringbom, who co-directed This World is Not My Own with Marquise Stillwell as Opendox, and Cathi Perry and Cheryl Mashack, Rowe’s great nieces.

Please note: This World is Not My Own includes imagery and language about racism, violence and antisemitism.

Please contact Lindsey Wurz at with questions related to accessibility accommodations.


  • General: $15
  • Members: $10 – please contact Lindsey Wurz at to receive the member discount code.

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This program is funded in part by the Alphawood Foundation, the Department of Cultural Affairs, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency, Illinois Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Prince Charitable Trust, Terra Foundation for American Art, and individual donations from Intuit members and supporters.

THIS WORLD IS NOT MY OWN (2023), 97 min

This World is Not My Own – Official Trailer from opendox on Vimeo.

Directed by Opendox (Petter Ringbom and Marquise Stillwell) / Produced by Opendox with co-producers Grand Slam Film

Meet Petter Ringbom

Opendox (Petter Ringbom (left) and Marquise Stillwell (right)). Photography by Jessica Antola

Petter Ringbom’s feature documentary, The Russian Winter, followed musician John Forté’s Russian odyssey after release from prison. His film, Shield and Spear, examined freedom of expression in South Africa. Ringbom’s films have screened at Tribeca, IDFA, Hot Docs, Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Hammer Museum, Miami Art Basel and Moscow International Film Festival. He has been a Film Independent Fast Track Fellow, a Gotland Film Lab resident at the Ingmar Bergman Estate and a Berlinale Talent.