By Khrystyna Stetsiv
Rogers Park residents attended the first special screening of the movie “Rogers Park” at the New 400 Theater on March 1.
Alderman Joe Moore partnered with the film’s director and the New 400 Theater to organize this inaugural screening. With tickets selling out within the first few hours, the theater added another screening at 9:15 p.m. A total of 240 tickets were purchased, filling both screenings entirely.
Director Kyle Henry, screenwriter Carlos Treviño, and a few of the lead actors are all Rogers Park residents. Set and filmed in Rogers Park, this comedy-drama portrays the struggling relationships of two interracial couples.
You can watch the official trailer of “Rogers Park” here.
The story shows the characters’ struggles to preserve their love, with Rogers Park murals, streets and buildings in the background – landmarks familiar to any local.
“This is not a movie about Rogers Park, yet, in a way, it is,” said Moore. “The film did an excellent job portraying the beauty, spirit and milieu of our neighborhood.”
Henry, Treviño, and lead actress Sara Sevigny discussed the film and answered the viewers’ questions after both screenings.
“Setting the story in Rogers Park felt like the right choice,” said Henry, who moved to the neighborhood with his partner Treviño in 2010. “There’s something special about this neighborhood’s diversity. It felt like the story’s interracial couples would feel comfortable living here.”
“’Rogers Park’ is poetic and lovely and muscular and unforgiving at the same time, much like the area itself and the city as a whole,” said critic Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times.
The filming process began in 2014. The creators discovered the actors through blind casting and impromptu acting. With the film’s emphasis on diversity, relationships, love, midlife crisis and human flaws and issues, the creators sought a cast who would relate to the characters and their problems.
“I loved how Grace could break my heart. She tried so desperately to make things work but they didn’t – and it’s true. It happens in real life all the time,” said Sara Sevigny about her character.
The characters’ relationships left off on an ambiguous note – a finale different from the original conclusion. With the revised ending, the writers welcomed more open-ended interpretations and opinions from the viewers. Henry wanted to show that the characters, just like real people, are a work in progress.
“The goal was to make a film as honest as possible about the subject matter and to make it seen by as many people as possible,” said Treviño.
With a small filming and advertising budget, the movie’s creators are depending on people’s word-of-mouth to further promote “Rogers Park.” Henry and Treviño announced that they will be going on a tour to show the movie in multiple U.S. cities. They hope the film to culminate on iTunes and possibly Netflix.
“I’ve lived in Rogers Park for 30 years. I kept getting distracted throughout the movie, thinking ‘Oh, I know where that is!’ and ‘I pass by this place all the time!’ I think the movie was remarkable and I feel really proud,” said local Judy Kowal.