Local filmmaker’s doc take on life on the South Side

Cyrus Dowlatshahi’s “Takin’ Place”

While Spike Lee’s “Chiraq” will be in limited theatres next month, amid controversy surrounding its depiction of the South Side, there’s a locally made film that depicts ordinary life in diverse South Side neighborhoods.

“Takin’ Place” is a feature length doc by filmmaker Cyrus Dowlatshahi, an Iranian American who was born and raised in Hyde Park, whose resume includes projects for Discovery Channel, PBS, Nova, Al-Jazeera English, IFC, National Geography and others. 

A DP, editor and still photographer, Dowlatshahi, spent three years filming “Takin’ Place,” “offering a rare, intimate window into neighborhoods few outsiders every visit.  And unlike similar subjects, it has no political or social agenda.”

“I basically made the film myself,” he says. He started shooting in 2011, edited as he went along and had a finished cut on Aug. 7, 2015 in time for a premiere at the Black Harvest Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Now “Takin’ Place” is returning to the Siskel Center for a special screening Nov. 27-29.

Dowlatshahi says he had been told by people all his life to stay out of certain neighborhoods, such as “don’t go west of Cottage Grove or south of 63rd street.  Naturally as soon as I got my driver’s license that’s where I went.  

“They said it’s dangerous’ about Iran, too. I’m in Iran now and it couldn’t be more amazing.  So I’ve always been interested in places people tell you not to go to, and as those who know the South Side will tell you, the people are a real treat.”

Fernanda Rossi, known as “the documentary doctor,” served as story editor and doc producer Yvonne Welbon came in as producer during the rough-to-fine cut stage, Dowlatshahi notes.

Since his main audience are South Siders, Dowlatshahi says he will release” the film to bootleg DVD and CD sellers on the street.  “The film cost so little to make that I’m not trying to turn a profit – not that docs do,” although “Takin’ Place” did raise $27,000 on a Kickstarter campaign.

“Takin’ Place” will also play in St. Louis and New York for the next month and Dowlatshahi will place it on YouTube “so the maximum number of people will have access to it.”