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Kartemquin Films 50: ‘Now We Live On Clifton’

Editor’s Note

Kartemquin Films is a not-for-profit organization in Chicago, which has been producing innovative documentaries to inspire democracy and action for 50 years. To celebrate this milestone, the collaborative group is featuring a film they produced every week, from now until the end of 2016. Each film is available to watch for free until the next film in their catalog is posted every Friday.

From this point onward, I expect to highlight each film with posts aimed at calling attention to the important work Kartemquin has done and how the group has impacted the art of cinema over the past half century. I will publish posts about those films in the coming weeks. —Kevin Gosztola

In this 1974 film, Kartemquin filmmakers present a portrait of Pam and Scott Taylor, their family, their friends, and their Lincoln Park neighborhood. It is another entry in a catalog of films from the collaborative group, which document transformations in the city of Chicago over the past decades.

Lincoln Park is a multiracial neighborhood, which 10 year-old Pam Taylor likes to live because her friends are Mexican and black. However, DePaul University is buying up homes and expanding its presence in the area. This forces families, including friends of the Taylors, to move. Upper class people are buying up homes and remodeling the property so it has higher real estate value, and this drives up the cost of living.

The gentrification of the neighborhood has Pam worried that she is going to lose friends. Also, every piece of property that DePaul tears down is another place lost, where Pam, Scott, and their friends play.

As Scott comments, regular families, like lower and middle class families, cannot afford the houses, which wealthier people are transforming into higher-end pieces of real estate. It is changing the neighborhood so there are less children and more couples with Mercedes-Benzes.

The family recognizes that their home is good enough. It has everything they need. It has everything they want. That is what matters.

Unfortunately, forty years later, Kartemquin revisited the family with their short film, “Now We Work On Clifton.” The family home was demolished. A nearby Puerto Rican neighborhood no longer exists. (This short is available to watch for free, along with the longer film.)

Watch “Now We Live On Clifton” for free at Kartemquin Films’ website. [Available through March 10.]

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."