Black Harvest 2015
African Diaspora, Chicago International Social Change, Collected Voices
A chronicle of an urban renewal project and gentrification.
Filmed over the course of two decades, Bezalel’s project explores the fate of Chicago’s Cabrini Green public housing projects. Developed between 1942 and 1961 to serve as housing for lower income working class families, a lack of upkeep and a rise in factors associated with poverty – crime, gangs, and drugs – contributed to Cabrini Green’s degradation in the 1980s and 1990s. Concurrently, the projects’ location, adjacent to Chicago’s in-demand lakefront communities, grew desireable for redevelopment, spurring Mayor Richard M Daley’s controversial plan to raze Cabrini Green’s towers and replace them with mixed-income housing. Bezalel’s film surveys the impact of this decision, from community organizers protesting the racial and class undertones of this plan to its uneasy implementation over the years that follow, including draconian restrictions that have had the (likely intended) effect of keeping out most of Cabrini’s past African-American residents. Unfortunately constraining this complex material to a far-too-truncated hourlong project, the director overly depends on overwritten narration that detracts from the stronger longitudinal observational footage featuring appealing subjects like teenager Raymond McDonald. Despite this, the film takes on a vital subject, and demonstrates over time the consequences of ill-thought out “urban renewal” programs that don’t take into account the communities which will be most affected.