Preservation Chicago, the Chicago Film Archives, and Kartemquin Films present three short films documenting demolition and change in 1960s and 1970s Chicago. These films are both fascinating archival documents of the city’s past appearance, and also reminders of what’s at stake in contemporary efforts to preserve Chicago’s historic neighborhoods. All films will be presented in their original format – 16mm.
A Place to Live depicts the large-scale slum clearance undertaken in the 1960s as a necessary and welcome part of the city’s development. Kali Nihta, Socrates takes the opposite view, dramatizing the human cost of the 1960s destruction of Greektown by imagining it through a young boy’s eyes. Now We Live On Clifton employs a similar narrative tactic in a documentary format, with an intimate look at the lives of children affected by demolition and gentrification in 1970s Lincoln Park.
Although decades have passed since these films were made, demolition and displacement caused by government policy and demographic change remain pressing concerns for preservationists and all Chicagoans. The three different perspectives offered by these films give us a multi-faceted look at the social, political, and economic forces that continue to shape our built environment.
A Place to Live, DeWitt Beall, 1968, 16 mm, color, sound, 28 min. [found in Chicago Film Archives' DeWitt Beall Collection]
A City of Chicago sponsored film commissioned by Lewis W. Hill for the Department of Urban Renewal. The film attempts to defend the city’s redevelopment plan for residential and commercial urban renewal, and explains how relocation officers can assist those who have been recently displaced. As the narrator succinctly states, ‘We are tearing down what stands in the way of a better city. Some buildings must go simply because they occupy space needed for something else, but for the most part, it’s the worn out areas of the city that are making way for the new.’ Recently displaced home owners are interviewed, expressing their distaste of the urban renewal process. The film explains how the city will help these displaced home owners, by use of a good relocation officer from the Department of Urban Renewal.
Kali Nihta, Socrates (Good Night, Socrates), Stewart Hagmann & Maria Moraltes, 1963, 16 mm, B&W, Sound, 34 min. [found in Chicago Film Archives' Chicago Public Library Collection]
A fictionalized account of a young boy and his family learning that their block on Socrates Street in Greektown will be demolished to make way for expressway construction. The film features slice-of-life footage of now-vanished neighborhood homes, residents, and businesses with dramatic voiceover lamenting the imminent loss of history and community. Awarded the Golden Lion at the 1962 Venice Film Festival.
Now We Live on Clifton, Jerry Blumenthal, Alphonse Blumenthal, Susan Delson, Sharon Karp, Peter Kuttner, Gordon Quinn, and Richard Schmiechen, 1974, 16 mm, color, sound, 26 min. [print courtesy of Kartemquin Films]
Now We Live on Clifton follows 10 year old Pam Taylor and her 12 year old brother Scott around their multiracial West Lincoln Park neighborhood. The kids worry that they’ll be forced out of the neighborhood they grew up in by the gentrification following the expansion of DePaul University. Restored in 2011 thanks to a prestigious National Film Preservation Foundation grant.
Preservation Chicago is an activist organization that advocates for the preservation of historic architecture, neighborhoods and urban spaces throughout the city of Chicago.Preservation Chicago achieves its mission by: Partnering with communities, providing advice and assistance for their advocacy efforts; Advocating for responsible public policy; and Educating citizens about at-risk historically significant buildings and urban spaces.
Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, New Americans) is a home for independent filmmakers developing documentary as a vehicle to deepen our understanding of society through everyday human drama. Focusing on people whose lives are most directly affected by social and political change and who are often overlooked or misrepresented by the media, Kartemquin’s films open up a dialogue, both in communities and between the general public and policymakers.