Even if you’ve never set foot in Chicago in your entire life, chances are that you’ve
heard of Englewood, the notorious South Side neighborhood that has become the nationwide
symbol of gangs and urban violence. It’s one of the Chicago neighborhoods that
makes up what is better known as… (here
it comes)… “Chiraq”.
But what a lot
of people don’t know, or refuse to believe, is that the violence was actually
much worse there almost 20 years ago. Today, shootings and other violent acts
are literally down more than half of what they were during the 90’s when
no one was paying attention.
Even the local media had a policy of NOT reporting
about murders and other crimes that took place in the neighborhood back then. Now Anderson Cooper and CNN have come to town to
report that Englewood is Dodge City run amock.
that Englewood, like other neighborhoods plagued with the same problems – such as
Roseland – are basically isolated neighborhoods.
To put it simply, there are no major businesses and very few stores there, and they’re,
for lack of a better way of saying it, “out
of the way”. Even if you live in Chicago, for most people (even
South Siders) you literally have to go
out of your way to get to Englewood or Roseland, which is even farther. They’re
not convenient places to get to. You can live you entire life in Chicago and
never even once have to drive through the place.
there are no major businesses or supermarkets in Englewood, more centrally located
South Side neighborhoods such as Bronzeville, Chatham, Hyde Park, North Kenwood
and South Shore are thriving. Even Woodlawn, which is just west of the South
Shore area and has a somewhat bad reputation, has seen a considerable increase
in development with new businesses, housing and cultural centers during the
past two years.
remains alone, isolated and still struggling..However it is still a neighborhood with people and
families living day to day, or as filmmaker Cyrus Dowlatshahi says about his new
documentary, “Takin’ Place,” a community of
“ordinary life and everyday people”.
And that’s what he chronicles in his fascinating and at times poignant new film, which
examines the daily life of people just trying to make it. They have good days and
sometime bad days, triumphs and setbacks, but it’s till a place that has the “common
aspects of all neighborhoods and communities around the world: a desire to
share, grow and celebrate”.
As for why
he wanted to make his film, Dowlatshahi says that “as an Iranian-American, I’ve
been curious all my life about places with bad reputations people tell you not
to go to. I’ve always had the opposite
reaction: go there, see for yourself, and talk to people. Born and raised in Hyde Park, the
neighborhoods south and west of me were those places, and ‘Takin’ Place’ is just
that: a window into a place few visit, that goes beyond the negative bits and
pieces you typically see in the media. I
think the South Side is a fun and lively place to hang out… and I have
certainly met some amazing and interesting and hilarious people over the past
four years. Hopefully that comes across
in the movie.”
Now “Takin’ Place” is set to have its world premiere during the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago
on Friday Aug. 21th and Thursday Aug. 27th. And afterwards it will continue on the film festival circuit before making a hopeful distribution deal.
The film presents a compelling portrait of one urban neighborhood, going beyond the
easy stereotypes to paint a picture that is much more nuanced and complex.