Twenty-years in the making, 70 Acres in Chicago tells the story of the Cabrini Green public housing development located on the most hotly contested 70 acres of land in Chicago. With its prime central location, Cabrini Green was initially hailed as a public housing triumph, then more recently demonized as an urban disaster. It was demolished, bit and bit, beginning in 1995, and repackaged as a “mixed income” development. The mainly black residents of Cabrini were forced out, though there is still a remnant of Cabrini in the row houses. The few residents who were able to move into the highly relegated mixed income settlement, are negotiating through an unwelcoming cultural territory. These encounters, between the former Cabrini residents, and the new white middle-class homeowners comprise the very real tensions of a newly constructed community in transition. The film uses personal stories, expert commentary, and informative history to celebrate the spirit of a unique community and to mourn its betrayal and destruction. (Synopsis: Gene Siskel Film Center)
We began filming in 1995, during the fiery protests to save public housing. We gained the trust of the residents and they began sharing their stories of a close-knit, complicated community. Our camera followed their struggle to remain, culminating in moving vans and wrecking balls.
In 2001, we released Voices of Cabrini to honor their struggle. That film was very successful in helping to create dialogue about issues of race, class, and housing. However the last line of that short film was… “the story continues…”
We were not done yet, nor were the residents, nor was the story that was unfolding. We continued to film.
70 Acres in Chicago is not about saving Cabrini. Instead, this film follows the redevelopment story over the following two decades, as families struggle with the impact of social engineering on their community and personal lives. By putting faces to the story of a mixed-income community, and documenting how people negotiate questionable political policy, the film provides a lens for analyzing the larger picture of economic and racial injustice. Yet it is the people of the Cabrini Green community that stay in sharp focus.
A startling case study into the making and destruction of one of Chicago’s most infamous public housing projects.”
– Tony Binns