Takin' Place

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Cyrus Dowlatshahi, an Iranian-American from Hyde Park, directed this documentary about the Englewood and Washington Park neighborhoods. Loosely structured, it interweaves profiles of different people trying to maintain their integrity amid rampant poverty and crime, including a woman in her 60s with nearly two dozen grandchildren, a middle-aged man who delivers Jamaican food for a living, and a transgender teen who likes to hang out at a beauty parlor. Everyone has sad stories to share (most of the grandmother’s family members have served time in jail), but Dowlatshahi counters the pervasive despair by showing his subjects at times of celebration. He opens with a scene of kids setting off fireworks on Independence Day and concludes with a child’s first birthday party; these images of happy children leave a sad aftertaste, though, since Dowlatshahi makes one keenly aware of the challenges they’ll face as adults.