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Resident Documents Neglect in Her West Side Neighborhood

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After many nights of loud music and drug dealers lingering outside, Aleksandra Hodowany decided to capture the hardships of her neighborhood. Hodowany, a 37-year-old student at John Marshall Law School, is making a documentary covering the neglect and lack of police enforcement in her East Garfield Park neighborhood.

Hodowany has been living in East Garfield Park for four years and noticed the lack of police enforcement in the neighborhood as soon as she arrived.

“After four years of hardship, the neighborhood is turning around,” said Hodowany. “That is what the documentary is about; my journey in improving an area that has been neglected for decades.”

At last month’s public meeting of the Chicago Police Board, Hodowany complained how the police were not being active in East Garfield Park with getting drug dealers off the streets and controlling the loud music and people who linger outside late at night.

“If no one is lying dead, or if drugs aren’t in their hands, they don’t do anything,” said Hodowany.

Hodowany even gave the police board suggestions on how to resolve the situation.

“People don’t like to waste money,” said Hodowany. “Tickets will work.”

Since the meeting, Hodowany said nothing has changed.

 “The police do not arrest anybody so it is a cat and mouse game,” said Hodowany. “Until they start arresting people and enforcing the law, we will not see changes.”

It wasn’t until two weeks ago that Hodowany has noticed the decrease in loud parties and drug dealers lingering outside.  

Hodowany is working with Sharon Zurek, a film and video professor at Columbia College Chicago, and four of Zurek’s students on the documentary.

Zurek was one of Hodowany’s professors while at Columbia. After graduating in 2000, Hodowany went on to making feature films and music videos in Los Angeles while working for Warner Brothers. Hodowany returned to Chicago to shoot a spiritual film in East Garfield Park. This is Hodowany’s first time making a documentary.  According to Hodowany, one of the biggest challenges of making the documentary is staying alive.

“A year ago, I posted a video on YouTube just for the court,” said Hodowany. “A video that was just suppose to be for court ended up getting 37,000 hits and had comments from drug dealers making threats to the creators of the video. The drug dealers didn’t know that me and my neighbors made the video.”

As of now, Hodowany said she has only interviewed her neighbors. She added she has spoken to the police in Ald. Walter Burnett, Jr.’s (27th) and Ald. Robert Fioretti’s (2nd) wards, but didn’t receive much information to use for documentary. 

Hodowany and Zurek said they both are aware of the consequences and are trying to find the angle for the documentary.

“I’m keeping options open because I certainly don’t want to put her family at risk or any of her neighbors or anybody that she’s interviewed,” said Zurek. “I think that’s how were approaching it. Let’s see what we have and then let’s see what that means. I don’t think I ever go into a project that way. I just do it. I never felt like well this could be bad or someone could get hurt.”

As for capturing the drug dealers and the late activities, Zurek said they are in the process of deciding whether or not to cover people’s faces. 

 “My personal thing right now is that people are in public spaces,” said Zurek. “If they didn’t want to be noticed doing something, they would be inside. At the same time, we don’t want to glamorize anything. ”

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