‘We Grown Now’ to Open Chicago International FF; ‘The Bear,’ ‘Chicago Fire’ Vets Highlight Team

The 59th Chicago International Film Festival is set to open Wednesday, October 11th at the Music Box Theatre and it will do so with a highly anticipated hometown indie. The fest kicks off with the U.S. Premiere of WE GROWN NOW, the story of two young boys discovering the joys and hardships of growing up in Cabrini-Green in 1992 Chicago, starring Jurnee Smollett and Emmy Winner S. Epatha Merkerson, who is also a regular on NBC hit Chicago Fire as “Sharon Goodwin.” WE GROWN NOW is written and directed by Chicago native Minhal Baig (HALA, BOJACK HORSEMAN). Executive producers include Chicago filmmaker extraordinaire Carrie Holt De Lama, who is currently holding down the fort for the riveting restaurant drama that is The Bear, as the Production Manager for the award-winning series.

We Grown Now filmed in Chicago last Summer, in May and June of 2022. Click here for SCREEN’s coverage of the production.

The film centers on the heartfelt story follows two 10-year-olds, Malik and Eric, as they revel in the freedoms of boyhood and the joys of friendship. The projects are their playground, and every stairway, roof, and stretch of blacktop is just another place for adventure. But when violence comes to their neighborhood, their safe haven is fractured, and Malik’s mother Dolores must decide whether to stay or move away. 

Written and directed with care and affection by Minhal Baig (HALA, which bowed at ChicagoIFF in 2019), WE GROWN NOW is a lyrical coming-of-age fable deeply rooted in and based on the real-life experiences of Chicago’s Black community. With captivating performances by Smollett, Lil Rel Howery, young actors Blake Cameron James and Gian Knight Ramirez, and S. Epatha Merkerson as Malik’s wise and witty grandmother, the film is a love letter to growing up and the places we call home.

The Opening Night festivities kick off at 5 p.m. with a free-to-attend block party spanning the 3700 block of Southport Avenue, featuring live music, outdoor film screenings, retail kiosks, and food vendors, with the screening beginning at 7 p.m. 

WE GROWN NOW is produced by Joe Pirro and Minhal Baig. Executive Producers for Participant; Jeff Skoll and Anikah McLaren, for Symbolic Exchange; James Schamus, Jurnee Smollett, and the aforementioned Carrie Holt de Lama.

Are You Ready for October?

The Chicago International Film Festival runs October 11 – 22 with film screenings and programs presented at venues across the city including AMC NEWCITY 14, the Music Box Theatre, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Chicago History Museum, the Hamilton Park Cultural Center in Englewood, Harrison Park in Pilsen, La Follette Park in Austin, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The full slate of films for the 59th edition of North America’s longest-running competitive film festival will be announced September 18, 2023. Tickets for Opening Night are on sale now, with tickets to the rest of the Festival’s presentations going on sale September 22, 2023. Cinema/Chicago members’ pre-sale tickets go on sale September 19, 2023; memberships now available by clicking here.

For more information, visit the Festival’s website at chicagofilmfestival.com/

Be sure to check back here at SCREEN Magazine for news from the Chicago and Midwest film festival circuit. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.

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