70 Acres in Chicago: Film Screening and Panel Discussion
70 Acres in Chicago is a critically acclaimed documentary film that chronicles the redevelopment of Cabrini-Green — a public housing development on the Near North Side of Chicago — into a market-rate, mixed-income housing development through the federal HOPE VI grant program. The film follows the redevelopment story as families struggle with the impact of social policy on their community and personal lives. By putting faces to the story of the birth of a mixed-income community and how people negotiate through complicated situations, the film provides a lens for analyzing the larger picture of economic and racial injustice. The event includes a screening of the film, followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Ronit Bezalel and the three former Cabrini-Green residents upon which the film is centered — Mark Pratt, Raymond McDonald, and Deidre Brewster. The panel will be moderated by Assistant Professor Suzanne Lanyi Charles.
Ronit Bezalel has been creating social issue documentary films for more than 25 years. Bezalel began her career at the National Film Board of Canada, where she directed When Shirley Met Florence (1994). Her award-winning film, Voices of Cabrini: Remaking Chicago's Public Housing (1999), received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Award to catalyze dialogue about affordable housing issues in Chicago neighborhoods. Newsweek magazine selected Bezalel as one of the "Top 10 Women of the 21st Century" (January 8, 2001) for this work. Bezalel holds an M.F.A. from Columbia College Chicago and a B.A. from McGill University in Montreal.
Mark Pratt, a former Cabrini-Green resident, is both producing and featured in 70 Acres in Chicago. In 1998, Pratt graduated with a B.A. in film from Columbia College Chicago and has since directed, filmed, and edited dozens of independent narrative films and music videos. Pratt produced and edited the award-winning narrative film Hell Ain't Full (directed by Russell Norman), which was screened at the 2010 Black Harvest Film Festival and the American Black Film Festival. Pratt relocated his family from Cabrini Green to Chicago's South Side. It was a rocky journey, as he had to move five times in 10 years, in search of safe and affordable housing.
Raymond McDonald grew up in Cabrini with his grandmother. The film follows 15-year old McDonald at home, in school, and challenging Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. The film depicts McDonald's maturation into a young adult as he starts a dog-training business with the new mixed-income residents as customers.
Deidre Brewster is one of the few Cabrini residents to return to the mixed-income homes. Unfortunately, in order to return to the community, she had to face a heart-wrenching decision that no parent should ever have to make.