Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

39° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement

Podculture: Student film ‘When Time Stops’ tackles Chicago gentrification

Northwestern students working on the student film “When Time Stops” aim to tell a culturally authentic story of gentrification in Pilsen.

[sound from the movie set]

ANITA LI: Eight months of planning and 14 versions of the script later, student film “When Time Stops” started filming Jan. 27.

ANITA LI: Do you feel like you’re giving birth?

ANNA CASTAGNARO: A little bit
ANITA LI: She’s in labor.
ANITA LI: That was Communication and Bienen senior Anna Castagnaro. She’s directing the film with Bienen fifth-year Sebastian Ortiz. “When Time Stops” is about a Mexican American family in Chicago navigating familial ties amid changes in their community.
Ortiz said despite Chicago having the second-largest population of Mexican immigrants in the country, there isn’t much representation of their experience in pop culture.
SEBASTIAN ORTIZ: I felt really inclined to like, put out this story because I think it’s a very universal experience, but it has moments of “if you know you know.” It’s a representation of the Chicago experience and the Mexican experience all throughout the U.S.
[music fade in]
ANITA LI: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Anita Li. This is Podculture, a podcast about arts and culture on campus and beyond. In this episode, we’re looking behind the scenes of a narrative short film about gentrification in Pilsen, a Chicago neighborhood on the west side with a predominantly Latino population. The movie tells the story of Raul, a man recently released from prison and living with his daughter and her mother. When the family faces eviction, they fight to keep their home.
[music fade out]
ANITA LI: Ortiz and Castagnaro said the plot was inspired by their work with AMPED, or the Arts and Music Programs for Education in Detention Centers. AMPED is a music mentorship program where Northwestern students work with residents of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center to create a space for creativity and give residents tools to create their own music.
Castagnaro said some of AMPED’s participants were from Pilsen, and hearing their experiences made her wonder about their life after incarceration.
ANNA CASTAGNARO: We were talking about Pilsen and the neighborhood, and we were like ‘what would this kid’s life look like in the next twenty years?’ I wonder how hard it would be, when he has to figure out a way to assimilate back into society, and the tech has changed, the culture has changed, amidst a neighborhood that’s dealing with a lot of gentrification since the 80s and 90s. What if we repositioned this story to be fictional and then take place in 2024? So that’s kind of where the idea came from.
ANITA LI: The two submitted a proposal and won the Department of Radio/Television/Film’s Media Arts Grant, which helps students create short films and other media projects. The duo spent months researching and discussing how to tell the story and decided to film the piece in Pilsen despite its distance from Evanston. Typically, student films shoot closer to campus.
ANNA CASTAGNARO: I think a lot of them, because of these kinds of hurdles, tend to avoid geographic specificity. They’re in some general location, in some general area. So I think challenging it to be in Pilsen, as it has such a vibrant community and a vibrant history, is something we wanted to, and we were able to pull off. We wanted to prioritize the authenticity first and foremost. Going to Pilsen to film it felt like the least we could do.
ANITA LI: Many crew members mentioned that authenticity and accuracy were key to the film.
Castagnaro said the team spent a lot of time going to Pilsen last summer to do research. They took photos, listened to podcasts, read books and spoke with community organizations to learn about their experiences with gentrification, community, art and resistance.
ANNA CASTAGNARO: We also interviewed different perspectives in the community just to see how we can make this story come to life, especially as people who aren’t from Pilsen specifically. Just to make sure that when it comes time to shooting, that we’re in the right place and we’re not painting a picture of someone’s experience that’s not accurate.
[nat sound of movie]
ANITA LI: The team also hired Pilsen residents to contribute to the production and help maintain cultural accuracy. Among them was 23-year-old Maru, who was born and raised in Pilsen. Hired to design the set, Maru said they were inspired by homes they’d grown up around. The set’s props include books in Spanish, sticks of Palo Santo and an empty Jarritos bottle.
MARU: I want everything to feel like it’s a part of their home. The whole premise of the movie is they might be evicted, so I want it to feel so homey and so like a haven for them that it’s that much more scary and violent that they get it ripped from them.
ANITA LI: For Maru, working on the film was about fighting the stereotypes they say can come with being from Pilsen.
MARU: When I was younger I had friends who couldn’t come here because their family thought it was the hood. It’s all about fighting that dehumanization that a lot of people have to face. I really appreciate that they ask me, and actually take my opinion as it matters, because it does. Anybody’s opinion matters when it’s a project that is based on their stories.
ANITA LI: Co-producer and Communication junior Evelyn Mazariego wants “When Time Stops” to show a holistic perspective of people society has stigmatized.
EVELYN MAZARIEGO: It’s so complex, you’re not gonna be able to show everything at once, but, if you’re gonna talk about it, I think the biggest thing is you don’t want to criminalize the characters, you want to be able to empathize with them but you also don’t want to portray them as victims. It’s so important to show that they are powerful and resilient because they are.
[more nat sound]
ANITA LI: Shooting ends Feb. 4, and the film is scheduled to premiere in late May at the Media Arts Grant premiere. Castagnaro hopes this film has an impact in Evanston, but also beyond.
ANNA CASTAGNARO: I think having validation, especially from Pilsen residents who might have gone through the same thing, I think that would be an honor. I just hope that it strikes an emotional chord, and people can understand another perspective a little bit better.
[music fade in]
ANITA LI: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Anita Li. Thanks for listening to another episode of Podculture. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Anita Li, the digital managing editors are Ashley Lee and Micah Sandy, and the editor in chief is Avani Kalra. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.
[music fade out]

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @lifeisfab02

RELATED STORIES:
Student filmmaker Leela Malladi is laughing through the pain, one film at a time
School of Communication launches new student film incubator focused on mental health
“These are very strange times:” remote learning disrupts student films, RTVF classes

More to Discover