clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

‘Takin’ Place’: regular joys, struggles of uneasy Chicago streets

Cyrus Dowlatshahi is an Iranian-American from Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood who spent a long, long time wandering around Englewood, Woodlawn and Washington Park, always with his camera rolling.

There was no particular agenda. He just wanted to get to know some people and learn their stories.

The result is the richly textured, sometimes flat-out hilarious and at times sobering documentary “Takin’ Place.” (So named because one longtime resident notes, “Every time I walk out my door, always something takin’ place. And I told my kids, ‘You know what? The new name for Perry Street is Takin’ Place. … Every time you look around, from the morning until the night, there’s something takin’ place …”

One of the first scenes in “Takin’ Place” features some beautifully lit shots of kids and young men setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July — serious fireworks that light up the sky and fill the streets with clouds of smoke. The explosions are loud enough to set off car alarms up and down the street. Then the fireworks give way to the sound of nearby gunshots and it’s time for everyone to go inside. “It’s Chicago,” says one young man, in matter-of-fact fashion.

Dowlatshahi befriends a food truck driver who learns the filmmaker is Iranian and jokes about getting killed by the director. (“I ain’t got no suicide bomber. … Please don’t cut my head off! Ah, I’m just kidding.”) We get to know a young mother at a birthday party who talks about her future as well as her child’s; a transgender teen who hangs out at a beauty salon; an hilariously blunt woman who gives us the lowdown on some of her past relationships and tells the director, “You ARE quite handsome;” and a world-weary grandmother in her 60s who tells her grandson, “If you let [certain friends into this house again] … I’m going to get that Louisville Slugger upstairs, I’m going to beat your a– and their a– and I’m going straight to the penitentiary, got it?”

There’s a lot of raucous humor, some chilling moments and some insightful glimpses into the lives of special people navigating everyday life in neighborhoods where survival is always on one’s mind.

[s3r star=3/4]

A documentary directed by Cyrus Dowlatshahi. Running time: 84 minutes. No MPAA rating. Available on demand at vimeo.com and opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.