Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Voices of Cabrini by Ronit Bezalel

Voices of Cabrini: Remaking Chicago's Public Housing from Ronit Bezalel on Vimeo.

Comment on the film:
1. What was the most surprising or compelling moment in the film and why did it resonate with you?

2. Describe the style and structure of this film; name three different styles of filmaking used in this documentary.

3. How is the filmmaker, Ronit Bezalel, using this film and her new film to help advocate for the Cabrini community?


  1. The beautifully lit image of the little boy at the window looking out at the world below and later talking about not wanting to leave his home as he felt like he could see the whole world from his window really moved me. There a few great moments in the film that really get the viewer to look at Cabrini Green from the point of view of the folks who have lived there for generations. Please share your thoughts!

  2. It was interesting to hear about the very young man who was ashamed of telling people where he came from, this wasn't because he felt ashamed, but because others told him he should be ashamed. Others reflected their personal views of Cabrini Green without actually understanding the community that existed there. I would of liked to see the other side of the story including reasons for demolition as opposed to refurbishing the existing buildings. Were the buildings beyond physical repair? Also I was interested in the the city employee who said this mixed level income housing project was the first of it's kind in the country. What kind of reasoning was behind their decision was their any research done? The film offered a broad view of people living in the "project" themselves but didn't offer the opinions of people who have left the project, or others who lived in the surrounding area. As media makers we need to voice the opinions of all involved to truly understand the entire story. It would be interesting to follow up with a few of the subjects in the film to see where they are today...are they still on govt assistance? Are they happy where they are, or do they still wish they were in Cabrini Green?

  3. The part in the film that resonated with me was the part where the man was talking about when he saw his first shooting. He talked about how he was playing follow the leader when he was a child and saw somebody get shot. I find it very interesting that he talks about this moment in his life while he holds his daughter in his hands. She could not be more than 4 years old. He is talking about how frightened he was when he was little to see such a thing. What I cannot grasp is why, if what he saw was so horrible, and at that moment in his life was when he realized that Cabrini was not the nice neighborhood it use to be, would he want to raise his own children in that type of environment. I understand that tearing down an area where people live is unfortunate, but I find it hard to understand why people would want to live around all of that violence. I am having a very hard time with this film. Perhaps I am coming off as cold, but I understand that it is sad that they are being kicked out of their homes, but from an outsiders perspective, this film did not show that this was a good neighborhood. I think this film was an advocacy for the people, to make viewers feel sorry for the people who had to leave their homes, but the film did not advocate for the neighborhood itself.

  4. This style of this film was observational, interview-driven, and location centered. The storytelling was very straightforward, as was the editing.

    I found myself affected most by the scene where the kids are playing on the playground and by the scenes in the barbershop. When we see the kids playing, these could be the same kids you might see on any playground, playing the same activities. It is a point at which the viewer can personally relate to the film, while this may be difficult in other parts of the film. As far as the barber shop scenes go, they are the times when you feel that you are watching in on the lives an discussions of the people in the neighborhood. I felt that I got a sense of the neigborhood cohesion by listening to the discussion about who used to live where.

    Ronit seems to be doing just what her title suggests, giving voice to the residents of Cabrini. This is important because this group of people is likely to have underrepresented voices in the society at large. I think that what Brooke was saying is valid, although I don't have the same issue understanding why people would want to stay in their community, even if it is violent. I think that when you're in a community that is so tight knit, it's easier to think about staying with the same people and trying to improve the violence than to think about losing lifetime networks of friendships and kinships. Perhaps the upcoming film could highlight why the community was so tight to help all viewers relate better to this sentiment.


  5. What I found to be most interesting about this video was that is showed that real people, with real feelings and emotions were being effected by the demolitions. It showed Cabrini as being a community and not just a ghetto that people fought to get out of. I was most affected by the barbershop owner because he knew the history of the community and barbershops are a wealth of information and entertainment in African American communities.

    I think that Ronit did a great job of giving voice to the people of the community. She showed that they tried to fight to keep it together. In a way it reminds me of beginning of The Grapes of Wrath, the struggle between the haves vs. the have nots. In a way, it was also discouraging to see that if you don't have money, you will lose.

    As far as filming styles used, verite was definitely used.

  6. I feel if I didn't live in Chicago and know people who've been moved out their homes, I wouldn't really understand the situation. I think I would have probably looked at the situation and thought that "they" were trying to make a better life for the community (honestly). Although the neighborhood was known for crime, does it make it right to push the people out or is it better to improve the community. I believe The tearing down of the projects was not a bad thing due to the buildings ruggedness, but provide the people homes in their same community instead of pushing them out and raising the prices of the newly built homes.

    Ultimately the film was put together very well. I loved how the viewer got to see in the life of the people living in Cabrini Green and I also loved the way the viewer got to view different meetings that were held to stop the falling of Cabrini Green. Seeing the two different films help me see that community is close to dead, I don't know how the two films can help the Cabrini community, but maybe other communities that are going through similar situations.

  7. This video really moved me. When you think that you are down and in the dumps, with nothing, you can turn this on and realize just how fortunate you are. I happen to be fortunate to have 2 homes. My apartment in the city, and the house in which I grew up in back home with a family that loves me. I couldn't imagine sitting there wide-eyed watching a crusher demolish my parents hopes and dreams by destroying their home. I think about it and relate it to the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. I would probably be that lonely boy that stood up against the tanks regardless of the consequences because that is how much my family means to me.

    You read about these things in newspapers and online but to be a fly on the wall and witnessing such travesty is priceless. This video portrays the community of Cabrini Green so intimately and connects me with them on a personal level due to the one-on-one interviews. It was beautifully done and made me aware of the unjust treatment of certain groups and communities. I agree that the boy looking out of the window saying “I can see the world from up here” gives the community a sense of innocence. Nothing else mattered to this boy but what it feels like to wake up and see out into the world. It was a beautiful scene.