A partnership between Place Lab and Black Cinema House, the Moving Images, Making Cities Film Series is a cinematic companion to Place Lab’s Ethical Redevelopment Public Convening + Salon Sessions. Ethical Redevelopment makes the case for mindful city-building. By utilizing cross-city networks and cross-sector innovation, Ethical Redevelopment works to shift the value system from conventional, profit-driven development practices to conscientious interventions in the urban context.


This Is the Life

Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 7pm
Stony Island Arts Bank
6760 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago, 60649  map it

Free and open to the public

Ava DuVernay’s THIS IS THE LIFE (2008) chronicles the emergence of the Good Life hip-hop scene from its humble beginnings as a youth hang-out run by a neighborhood mom in a health food store in South Central LA, to a movement that spawned some of the most artful, experimental rap music to date.

Featuring groups Jurassic 5, Freestyle Fellowship, and Blowed Collective, along with DuVernay (herself a member of the movement under her rap name Eve), the film takes a look at the conditions that transform a fairly unremarkable community space into the birthplace of a cultural scene. This “must-see hip hop documentary” reveals a time when the scene in LA was more about block parties and barbecues, and less about music videos, bling, and record deals. As Jurassic 5’s Cut Chemist puts it: “Something like that couldn’t happen in any other city, in any other part of the world, at any other time. It was perfect.”

Screening followed by discussion led by Tayyib Smith, co-founder of Philadelphia’s Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship—a program in Philadelphia that uses hip hop’s best practices to empower enterprising young people from nontraditional backgrounds with the skills necessary to take an idea and make it a reality—and Briahna Gatlin, board member of the Lupe Fiasco Foundation, CEO and Founder of Swank Publishing, and urban journalist on the cutting edge of Hip Hop, Rap, R&B, and all other forms of music. 

(Ava DuVernay, 2008, 97 min)

Las Marthas

Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 7pm
Stony Island Arts Bank
6760 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago, 60649  map it

Free and open to the public

Seventy-five years ago, the border town of Laredo, Texas became home to an unlikely annual celebration of George Washington's birthday involving re-enactments of the Boston Tea Party by local white residents dressed as Indians. Today, the tribute to the founding father continues with an elaborate debutante ball attended by teen girls, many descended from the original settlers, dressed as Martha Washington in spectacular hand-made gowns. Las Marthas is a portrait of Laredo and the complex community of land-owners, border-crossers, seamstresses and re-enacters who invest their hometown with a sense of tradition, imagination and honor, finding meaningful connection to US history on land that was once Mexico.

(Christina Ibarra, 2013, 69 min)

Lord Thing

Tuesday, October 18, 2016, 7pm
Arts Incubator
301 E Garfield Blvd, Chicago, 60637 map it

Free and open to the public

DeWitt Beall’s Lord Thing (1971) traces the evolution of the Conservative Vice Lords (CVL), a Black “gang” (or “club,” depending on one’s preferred terminology) that rose to power on Chicago’s West Side during the 1960s. Through re-enactments and documentary footage, we see how CVL members school successive generations first through hazing and turf wars, then business and community development projects aimed to foster Black unification and self-determination. CVL’s efforts to revitalize the West Side with amenities and arts activities (including mural projects led by artist Don McIlvaine) are challenged by Mayor Richard J. Daley's “war on gangs,” not to mention continuing inequalities in employment, recreation, health care, and housing for black Chicagoans. Lord Thing raises questions about the limits of Black capitalist space making, and asks what knowledge and power, if any, can be transmitted across generations subjected to ongoing spatialized oppression.

Screening will be followed by a conversation with Jacqueline Stewart (Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago); Benny Lee (former CVL, Professor, Criminal Justice, Northeastern Illinois University);  Isis Ferguson (Associate Director of City and Community Strategy, Place Lab); and Sam Darrigrand (Workforce Development Manager, Rebuild Foundation).

(DeWitt Beall, 1971, 52 min)


Wednesday, June 22, 2–5pm
Logan Center for the Arts

The inaugural Public Convening on Ethical Redevelopment was an interactive, theatrical event that explored and showcased how residents, artists, entrepreneurs, developers, and civic leaders are joining forces to explore a more equitable approach to community transformation. Practitioners were introduced to the emerging 9 Principles of Ethical Redevelopment, highlighting contradictions and challenges of city-building, and questioning what development means. Watch videos from the convening, view the speaker line-up, and learn more here. Definitely take a moment to read a personal reflection on the Public Convening in this guest blog entry by urban sustainability expert Naomi Davis.

70 Acres in Chicago

Sunday, June 19, 4–6pm
Black Cinema House

The filmmakers call it “Chicago’s most hotly contested 70 acres of land.” With its prime central location, Cabrini Green was hailed as a public housing triumph and demonized as an urban disaster. Beginning in 1995, it was demolished, bit and bit, then repackaged as a “mixed income” development, where, unsurprisingly, the former, largely black residents have been marginalized or driven away. Ronit Bezalel and Judy Hoffman, who first covered the subject in their celebrated 1999 short Voices of Cabrini, spent 15 years on this eye-opening follow-up, which uses personal stories, expert commentary, and informative history to celebrate the spirit of a unique community and to mourn its betrayal and destruction.

This screening and conversation with Ronit Bezalel about her award-winning film on the demolition and repackaging of Cabrini Green kicks off a year-long film series exploring the complexities of neighborhood transformation and revealing the poetics of place.

(Ronit Bezalel and Judy Hoffman, 2015, 70 min)