Cabrini Green documentary shows housing project in a different light

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - When you think about Cabrini Green, for many, the images that come to mind are a violent and run down part of Chicago, plagued by shootings, gangs and drug dealers.

But there is another side of Cabrini Green you may not know about, and a new documentary about the location shows the housing project in a different light.

"First thing I heard about was Cabrini Green, and people told me to not go there," said Ronit Bezalel.

So, Bezalel did the opposite. Not only did she go to Cabrini Green, she spent decades of her life documenting a story that nobody was telling.

"This film took 20 years to make," she said.

It's called ‘70 Acres in Chicago.’ It's an honest look at the Chicago Public Housing community that was home to thousands, and, in Bezalel’s words, misunderstood by millions.

"Things get overblown. There are good things and bad things. The things about Cabrini that were striking and warm got under reported," she said.

"Mayor Daley is moving us out to get a higher class people in. That's how I see it," 15-year-old Raymond Shaq McDonald says in the documentary.

"I have a deep heritage of Cabrini Green," McDonald told FOX 32.

Now, McDonald is a talented musician who still calls 'what was Cabrini' home. He has fond memories of growing up there. 

"It was amazing, amazing. It had that feeling of togetherness," McDonald said. "They had a sense of respecting each other and welcoming others who would come in."

Deidre Brewster is also featured in the film.

"There was this belief that if housing residents moved next door to affluent neighbors, they would be better people. That was very insulting," Brewster says in the film.

Brewster hopes ‘70 Acres’ will help change the way so many Cabrini Green tenet's are perceived by those who only know Cabrini though media reports.

"Say the people didn't work and that everyone was on welfare," Brewster said.

"The people who lived in that community are still there. It's no longer called Cabrini, it's now called the Near North Area, and there are more people there."

The people remain, but aside from the row homes, the Cabrini Green project is gone. The last high-rise was torn down in 2011.

Walk through the area today, and you see a flourishing neighborhood called Near North.

"The people haven't gone anywhere. A lot of the original tenets that lived there are still there," Brewster said. "As long as their energy is there, it's going to be there."

And Brewster will be there as well, like she has for the past 20 years. She says the future is bright for the Near North neighborhood, and for those who once called Cabrini Green home.

"I see renters becoming owners, and the owners owning more. I see the renters and the owners all getting along without the labels," she said.

‘70 Acres in Chicago’ will be showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center from November 13-19.

If you want to order the 58 minute film on DVD, you can order one online at 70acresinchicago.com

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