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Making The Film

Halsted Street USA

Film by David Simpson
Produced by David E. Simpson
Cinematographer: Tsuyoshi Kimoto
Sound:
Editing: David E. Simpson
Copyright: 1995, Panacea Pictures
56 minutes, Color
Original format: Betacam SP, 1995
Distributor: Other
More Film Facts
Home streaming only. For other permissions apply to David Simpson or to the distributor.


Preview one minute trailer - Comment on film


Nowhere in America does a stretch of pavement slice through a more vibrant and diverse cross-section of humanity than Chicago's Halsted Street. Along its length one can view a dozen nationalities, a thousand lifestyles -- the American melting pot at full boil. But who are the people who make up the stew? This riveting, kaleidoscopic "road movie" traces this unique thoroughfare nearly 400 miles, from its origin in the cornfields of southern Illinois to its terminus in the city's boisterous heart. Along the way the film presents a fascinating and profoundly American cultural mosaic with Halsted Street as the thread that links a multitude of seemingly disparate communities.

The film journeys northward from the heartland of rural Illinois to the mostly African-American and impoverished south side of Chicago; from Bridgeport, home to five generations of an Irish family named Daley, to Pilsen, hub of Chicago's Hispanic community; from the colorful chaos of the Maxwell Street Market to the high-rise ghettos of the Cabrini Green public housing project; and from the yuppie boutiques and blues clubs of Lincoln Park to Lakeview, where Halsted is the backbone of Chicago's gay community. A varied and colorful cast of characters guides viewers along the route: kids in a rural town, a Latino street-muralist in Pilsen, a junk scavenger in Cabrini Green, revelers at the gay pride parade. Their impressions and anecdotes bring into focus vital issues that simmer up from the asphalt of main streets all across the country: tolerance and racism, immigration, class disparity, ethnic and cultural identity.

Narrated by Studs Terkel, Halsted Street, USA is a thought-provoking crash-course in American cultural geography that will enhance a variety of courses in American studies and history, popular culture, sociology, and ethnic studies and multiculturalism. It was produced by David E. Simpson.

Students really get the lowdown on Chicago's complex social life while traveling up Halsted Street. Rural and urban, red neck and blue blood, racists and radicals all find a place along the journey. The film explores even the nastiest social conflicts and still finds cause to celebrate the diversity of cities. Students will find the mix of gritty tales and urban pleasures hard to ignore. Stereotypes dissolve along the journey. Who would believe that traveling a straight ribbon of aging asphalt could provide such powerful insights about the twists and turns of real city life? But it does. Bravo!
--- Charles Hoch, Prof., College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago


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