By Sam Rappaport
Cyrus Dowlatshahi cast aside all expectations, four years ago, when he began trekking around Englewood with a camera and aspirations for a feature length film.
“Interesting stuff happens all the time,” Dowlatshahi said. “Something would happen, I knew that much going in. I’ve always loved the South Side. It’s a lively place. I thought it would make for a great movie. That’s the only plan I had.”
Fortunately, stuff did happen, and Dowlatshahi’s wanderings have turned into a full-length documentary, entitled “Takin’ Place,” which premiered Aug. 21 at the Black Harvest Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The festival has scheduled an additional showing of the film for Aug. 28.
Dowlatshahi, a Vassar College graduate, was born in Hyde Park to Iranian parents. In some ways, he sees Iran and South Chicago as sharing similar narratives, at least in the public’s eye.
“I know that what’s being shown is not the whole story,” Dowlatshahi said, referring to the often one-dimensional coverage of life in both Iran and South Chicago.
He recalled the first time he visited Iran.
“It’s not what you thought it was going to be like,” Dowlatshahi said. “The people are nice and curious.”
“Takin’ Place” is a refreshing illustration of South Side neighborhoods because, in part, it candidly captures scenes of intimacy, love and community that are so often absent from Chicago’s mainstream news publications. For many Americans, whose only knowledge of South Side neighborhoods comes from crime reporting that’s bereft of any critical analyses, South Chicago is simply an area to be avoided. “Takin’ Place” seems an attempt to counter that narrative through offering an honest and somewhat comprehensive picture of life within a neighborhood such an Englewood.
However, Dowlatshahi denies that he went into the project with any preconceived agenda.
“There’s no message or point,” Dowlatshahi said. “There’s no agenda. I’m not trying to get people to care about something that they didn’t already care about.”
Regardless of motive, or perhaps, because of the absence of one, Dowlatshahi’s film functions as a valuable lens into life on Chicago’s South Side.
Listen below to an in-depth interview with Dowlatshahi about the making of “Takin’ Place.”