Documenting the Ongoing Story of Cabrini-Green

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 19, 2011 10:00PM

2011_01_cabrini.jpg Long after the last structure is demolished, Cabrini-Green will remain a potent symbol of 20th Century Chicago's complicated history of dealing with segregation and poverty. And long after the last resident moved out, Cabrini-Green will still be thought of as "home" by thousands of Chicagoans. Its complete story cannot yet be told, one local filmmaker is looking for help to put the latest chapter in the books.

Director Ronit Bezalel was a Columbia College film student in 1995 when Cabrini-Green demolitions captured her attention. In collaboration with classmate Antonio Ferrera, she filmed the lives and relocation of its residents over the course of three years, eventually producing the acclaimed Voices of Cabrini documentary. An essential antidote to any conception of Cabrini that begins and ends with the only the housing project's infamous reputation.

We mentioned earlier that a sequel was in the works, and now Bezalel is just a few hundred dollars away from completing the film, titled Cabrini Green: Mixing it Up, using a kickstarter project page to help raise the cash. As of this writing, the filmmakers were $330 shy of achieving their fundraising goal.

According to the project page, this followup effort "centers on Cabrini's Jenner Elementary School and features Raymond McDonald, an entrepreneurial and politically active elementary school student who confronts Chicago Mayor Daley; Mark Pratt, a resident, teacher and respected figure in the community; the legendary Stamps family of educators and activists; students at Jenner Academy; and Deirdre Brewster, one of the few Cabrini residents that qualified to return to live in the new mixed income development."

"Our film is really unique because we were there to film the first building being demolished and the last family in the high rises being evicted," Bezalel told reelchicago.com. Reflecting on the residents' diaspora over the past decade and putting the Cabrini-Green community's story in the context of larger debates on race, poverty and social planning appears quite promising.

Bezalel anticipates a finished product in Fall 2011.