Movie Director Brings a Dark 'Chicago Heights' to Residents
Formerly titled "Chicago Heights," the movie "Last Soul on a Summer Night" takes place in a familiar town in the South Suburbs.
In case you missed it, the movie Chicago Heights was released two years ago.
It's based on Sherwood Anderson’s collection of short stories, Winesburg, Ohio, published in 1919. As is often the case, there are some differences between the book and movie, the most notable being the setting.
"What it really did was test the universality of this great American novel," Director Daniel Nearing said. "We moved it out of this kind of lily-white rural community in 1900 and moved it to contemporary black America, Chicago Heights."
Now re-titled "Last Soul on a Summer Night," Nearing showed the film in Chicago Heights for the first time Saturday, in the basement of the Chicago Heights Public Library.
The response from Chicago Heights residents was positive, with some audience members identifying with the sense of hopelessness the movie evokes. Nearing noted one particular instance in the film where a character dies in her home after years of "wanting to get out and build a better life."
"There was a woman in the back who was very moved," Nearing said. "She identified with that. She said, 'I don't want to feel trapped.'"
With Nearing was actor Benny Stewart, who portrayed the character Dr. Eli Reefy, the narrator of the movie.
"Ultimately, I would become the all-knowing voice of Chicago Heights, telling the story of the different characters as we pass through their lives," Stewart said. "It was a labor of love. It took us a while to put it together. I believe a lot of people could benefit from taking a look at this film."
Stewart said he believes the film could be compared to the 1959 Lorraine Hansberry play Raisin in the Sun. "It's something that will become a classic within the black community," Stewart said.
Nearing also explained why he chose to shoot and set the movie in Chicago Heights, saying the name of the city gives the film an ironic tone, particularly since the characters are at their lowest.
"I thought Chicago Heights had a sexy feel to it," Nearing said. "There's something ironic about the idea of 'Chicago Heights,' as to say actually the absolute opposite. That's the main reason. Also, I think there are some beautiful sections of this town and there are the worst, saddest sections. We wanted to explore that."
Last Soul on a Summer Night can be found on Netflix and at several retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Visit Nearing's website to learn more about the movie.
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