Elizabeth Abunaw, Jahmal Cole, Wayne Detmer, Reynaldo Engram, Darius D. Jones, Pascal Sabino, Robin Whaley Smith, Nathaniel Viets-Vanlear
Brett A. Schwartz
Raised Up West Side's director Brett A. Schwartz is an Indy Film Fest veteran whose 2016 doc Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story was a festival favorite. This time around, Schwartz serves up this intelligent, engaging documentary that peels back the layers of a city seen often in the media and portrayed through the lens of a violent, struggling city. Raised Up West Side explores the deep-seated segregation, food insecurity, and mass incarceration that continue to shape these predominantly Black neighborhoods. Schwartz finds charismatic, compelling figures including ex-offenders, social activists, and entrepreneurs working on the West Side and relentlessly shares we witness the fierce tenacity required to change a narrative and how changing that narrative is ultimately changing lives.
Raised Up West Side is already proving to be successful on the festival circuit with prizes at Hamilton Black Film Festival (Best Director), Julien Dubuque International Film Festival (Best Use of Music), Piermont Film Festival (Best Documentary Feature), Telly Awards (Bronze Award, Documentary - Individual), and WorldFest Houston (Gold Award - Documentary). The film's success is destined to continue as this well-informed, inspiring doc shines a positive light on the human spirit and how individuals can work together to build a better community.
The Emmy-nominated Schwartz is a native Chicagoan who clearly understands his city. Chicago's far-Westside is 80% Black with close to 30% of the residents living below the poverty line. Nearly 70% of men between the ages of 18-54 have been incarcerated.
These are riveting stats. What's even more riveting is the fact that these aren't stats - they're human beings.
The film also does, in fact, feature a top-notch soundtrack including introducing the music of native West siders Emone Quadeem, Bigg Baby, and Kid Wond3r to a hopefully wider audience. The music fits perfectly with this gritty, transparent, hopeful, and revealing documentary.
Raised Up West Side is one of the 2022 Indy Film Fest's more traditionally structured doc features, a film that takes us inside the lives of those living these truths and inside the individuals and organizations trying to do something positive here. For those familiar with these stories and these truths, Raised Up West Side is going to resonate deeply as Schwartz doesn't flinch while peeling back the layers to reveal this city that he obviously loves.
Raised Up West Side is continuing on its festival journey and will no doubt click with Indy audiences.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic