Tod S. Lending's emotionally wrenching, quietly devastating documentary examines the social, cultural, and personal effects of poverty on a west-side Chicago family. Shot over five years, the film depicts the severe psychological and physical distress of living in the decrepit Henry Horner projects. It opens with a senseless tragedy—the murder of a promising 14-year-old boy—and goes on to explore the impact of his death and the remarkable transformation of his family. The film's conscience and narrator is Nikki, the boy's cousin—a poised, articulate young woman who becomes the catalyst of the family's rejuvenation but who's also clearly uncomfortable with how much the filmmaking imposes on her life. The process makes her reticent, but it opens up the other women—her grandmother Dorothy, her mother Alaissa, and, most unforgettably, her aunt Wanda, the most tortured member of the family. Like Hoop Dreams
, this is a sharp example of humanist filmmaking, providing a succession of haunting images and anguished pleas for decency, respect, and a shot at self-realization. 90 min.