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Opened the ‘We Grown Now’ film festival about Cabrini-Green friendship

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Chicago International Film opens the US premiere of writer-director Minhal Baig’s 1992 film “We Grown Now,” a gentle, powerful coming-of-age gem that details the friendship of two boys growing up on Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project. . Festival officials announced on Wednesday that the festival will be held on October 11.

I think much more will be written about Baig’s third feature film in the coming weeks. First impressions suggest that this is a vital and beautifully rendered addition to the list of Chicago movies.

“We Grown Now” has its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September. The Rogers Park native’s previous movie 2019 “Still” is currently streaming on Apple TV+; her a popular story The story of a Muslim Pakistani teenager who maintains his traditional home life while finding his way socially and sexually among his peers.

Baig shot parts of “Still” in Rogers Park and at Northside College Prep, where he attended a few years ago. His new film is set in the now-demolished Cabrini-Green high-rises, a controversial product of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Today, only the original, lowly, mid-20th-century Cabrini Rowhouses remain; He used this location for exterior scenes like “We Grown Now” and the 2021 remake of “Candyman”.

Baig’s story centers around 10-year-old Malik (Blake Cameron James), whose mother, Delores (Jurnee Smollett) and Mississippi-born grandmother (S. Epatha Merkerson), are faced with a life-changing decision to move or not, after tensions escalate. violence, deaths and insecurity. A powerfully rendered scene shows Chicago police going door-to-door looking for drugs. “They’re treating us like we’re criminals,” Smollett’s character says in a low voice at one point. “Like cockroaches in our own house.”

Much of “We Grown Now” is about Malik and his friend Eric (Gian Knight Ramirez) making the most of an increasingly narrow and increasingly scrutinized life in Cabrini-Green. In one scene, children drop out of school, ride the “L”, visit the Art Institute, and begin to see what lies beyond their daily horizons. In this respect it reminds of “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”, but in other respects Baig’s painting is worlds away from John Hughes’ territory.

Jurnee Smollett "We've grown now."

The narrative synopsis of “We Grown Now” brings to mind one punch after another. But like cues from “Still” and his debut feature, “1 Night” (2016), Baig’s latest film runs along a more reflective line of poetic realism and is somewhat reminiscent of Barry Jenkins’ richly imaginative work (“Still”). Moonlight”, “If” Beale Street Can Speak”).

It will be a good opening for the 59th edition of Chicago’s biggest film festival. “We Grown Now” will be screened at the Music Box Theatre. Most of this year’s festival screenings are scheduled for a venue that is new to the festival: AMC NewCity 14, formerly ArcLight, at 1500 N. Clybourn Ave.

As in recent years, the festival expands its geographic reach with screenings and events elsewhere, such as the Gene Siskel Film Center in the city centre, the Chicago History Museum at the south end of Lincoln Park, the Hamilton Park Cultural Center in Englewood, and Harrison Park in Pilsen. The Logan Art Center and Museum of Contemporary Art on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, La Follette Park in Austin.

“We Grown Now” at the Music Box Theater on October 11, 3733 N. Southport Ave.; Tickets go on sale on September 5th. The full schedule of the Chicago International Film Festival will be announced on September 18; on sale now Chicagofilmfestival.com.

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

mjphillips@chicagotribune.com

excitement @phillipstribune



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